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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Is a Skills-Based Resume Right For You?

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The goal of your resume is to sell yourself as the perfect person for the job. But, what if outlining your work experience isn’t really the best way to do that?

What if you’re a recent grad—with no work experience? What if you’re trying to change careers—and want to talk about your stellar project management skills before your experience as an executive assistant?

Enter the skills-based resume. While most job seekers use the traditional reverse-chronological resume format, it’s not the only option—and there are times when an alternate format, one that highlights your skills first, might be a better fit.

So, find out whether this lesser-known resume style is right for you. And if you’re ready to give it a shot, follow these resume tips to craft a great one.

What Is a Skills-Based Resume?

This resume style focuses on specific skills you have and particular aspects of your experience, centering on those that are most transferable to the job you’re seeking—as opposed to a chronological or reverse-chronological resume, which emphasizes your work history.

In a skills-based resume (also sometimes called a functional resume), you still include your employment—but you’ll stick it at the bottom of the page. By eliminating the focus on your previous positions and titles, you’re able to highlight experiences and skills from all facets of your life and provide a more comprehensive view of your abilities.

Who Should Use One?

If you have a limited work history, or the history you do have isn’t directly related to the job you’re applying for, a skills-based resume may be the best way for you to showcase what you can bring to the position.

If any of the following describe you, a skills-based resume may be a great option:

  • You have several short-term positions, internships, or temporary assignments, rather than long-term work history.
  • There are significant gaps in your work history, typically a year or more.
  • You’re trying to change careers or industries and your past work job titles don’t relate.
  • You want to make your hobby or passion your full time job and all of your relative experience has come from volunteering or work on your own time (outside of a paid job).
  • You’re newly embarking on your career and you don’t have a large amount of work experience (or any!).
  • Your positions are similar in nature and listing each out individually feels redundant.

How Do You Create One?

1. Pick Your Skills

First things first: Determine the job you want to target. The key skills required for the job will  help you to decide what to include on the largest chunk of the resume: the “Summary of Skills.” Pick three to four broad skill sets that specifically relate to the job description, and that you can back up with specific accomplishments or experiences. Communication, leadership, and project management are often-used skills, but you can get more specific, too.

2. Craft Your Bullets

After you determine your skill categories, start drafting accomplishment statements (in bullet form) that describe your experience with each skill area. Don’t worry about discussing the companies you worked for or the exact positions you held—focus more on your specific achievements and results.

Also be sure to eliminate words that are too industry-specific. For example, if you worked in the healthcare industry but are trying to get in to sales, replace the word “patient” with the word “client” or “customer,” which are much more relatable to a wider range of audiences.

3. Include a (Short) Work History

After the skills section, draft a brief work history section. Skip the bullet points here altogether, and just include the company name, your job title, employment dates, and the city and state of the organization. Include volunteer positions or internships in this section, too—related work experience doesn’t just have to be paid jobs.

4. Add in the Extras

Lastly, add in any other headings that you think will sell or highlight your experience. Feel free to get creative, but remember that everything listed on your resume should have a professional value (i.e., nobody cares that you love to knit, unless you are applying for a job to make scarves). Some options you might consider:

  • Education
  • Professional affiliations
  • Testimonials from professional references
  • Projects completed
  • Professional development courses or continuing education
  • Community involvement
  • Articles published

And of course, keep in mind the basic resume rules: Be specific and concise, use a simple, professional font, and try to keep it to one page.

If you’re not the typical job seeker, then fitting your resume into the typical mold may seem tough. But, if you’re struggling to fit your non-traditional experience or new career goals into a traditional resume, don’t be afraid to mix it up!

Remember that you’re trying to sell your experience, and for many, a skills-based resume is the perfect way to do just that.