Alright, so we’re finally starting to get going with this resume. ALL the research I’m recommending to get through these initial sections is going to pay dividends as you continue to write your resume. Put in the hard work upfront, you’ll be glad you did as you work through this writing process!
The key skills section is a unique section as it’s just as important for the reader as it is for the online application process. In 2019, it’s just as important that you write a resume that can get through the online HR application filters, as it is you write a resume that catches the readers attention. The key skills section is perhaps the most important section you implement this thought process.
Whenever you apply for a job online, your resume goes through a filter. In the Navy, I couldn’t just go see my CO whenever I wanted (to his credit, he had an “open door” policy, but we all know how that works). I had to go through my XO before I saw my CO. Think of this filter as the XO. You gotta get through the filter, before anyone actually reads your resume.
How do you get past the XO? You tell him/her what they want to hear so they know you are prepared to meet with the CO. With your resume, this means having the right types of skills listed in your resume. Now, it’s important to trickle in your skills throughout your resume; specifically, in your professional summary, professional experience, and of course key skills. But, in the key skills section, you want to specifically state what you know you are good at. The benefit of the placement of this section is it’s before your professional experience section, so the reader has an idea of what your skills are before they read the rest of your resume.
The skills you choose to display will tell a story of what you are good at. Most of us could think of hundreds of key skills, but you want to focus on 6-12 you want to highlight in the key skills section. If you pick a random smattering of skills, the reader isn’t going to be able to figure out what you’re good at. So you want to use this section to display what you are good at and what you are looking to do. Just as with the advice for the professional summary section, what you are looking to do is really what value you can bring to an organization.
There are two types of skills you’re going to want to work into this section: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are the types of skills required to do a particular job. These skills are things like “data analysis,” “graphic design,” “foreign language,” “accounting,” etc. Soft skills are harder to prove, but often times more desirable to an employer. You’ll have to justify these in your professional experience section and during an interview where you have the opportunity to display through body language that you are a leader and tell stories that backup your experiences. Examples of soft skills would be “Confidently works under pressure,” “self-starter,” “team builder,” “strong leader,” etc.
When it comes to soft skills, the top 5 universally desired are:
- Communication (written & verbal)
- Planning & Strategic Thinking
- Analytical Thinking and Research
- Teamwork or Collaborative Work
What’s great about these five is…EVERY single veteran has all five of these! Stories and examples should be popping up in your head as you read those five about how you have experience with each one. The more you read through your old performance reports, the more you’ll start to realize, you have a ton of experience with those top five. Now, don’t just go dropping those exact five in your key skills section. Add a little zip to how you implement them. For example, one I use is “people focused leader” because I want the reader to know that my leadership style is focused on the people before the process. Like in one of the examples above, you could say your a “team builder” which shows you not only can work on a team and collaborate with others, but you can actually build those teams which is even more of a desirable trait.
So ALL this begs the question…how the hell do I figure out what skills to use?! WORD CLOUD! This is a trick I picked up in one of my mentoring sessions where I spoke to someone in the industry to get their take on my resume and talk with them about working in Corporate America. I met this guy through American Corporate Partners, which I highly recommend. Just google them and get into the program, they have been immensely helpful. Their on my list to write a full article on the pro’s, the con’s, and more. Anyway, one of the things we spoke about is how to fill out the key skills section. He recommended taking the job description posted online, and dropping that into a word cloud generator online. This word cloud then shows you which words are consistently implemented into the description. You can then find clever ways to drop these key words into your resume. Now, the important thing about this pro tip to remember is, DON’T BE DISINGENUOUS ON YOUR RESUME. If you have no experience with a particular skill, don’t just go putting it on your resume. That will backfire when you’re sitting in an interview and they ask you about regulatory compliance, and you mumble through some bull shit answer. After that, you get on that company’s shit list. NOT worth it.
Having said that, most of the time you can back up these key words with experience because the experience you have gained as a veteran is extremely vast and diverse compared to your civilian counter parts. Let’s walk through an example. Let’s say your interested in working for a bank or in financial services, and you’re hometown is Charlotte, NC. Bank of America has their headquarters there, with just around 200,000 jobs in the city. Let’s say you found this role of “Compliance Manager” interesting and are considering applying since you were a stickler for the regs on active duty.
On the job description page, select and copy ALL the text. Then go over to a word cloud generator web page, for this example I used wordclouds.com. Then, paste description into the word cloud generator wizard, and voila, here’s what you get.
Here’s the top 5 words in the word cloud:
You’ll also see some key words that are probably worth some research to understand the terminology used in this profession:
Don’t worry though, you’re a vet. Acronyms are second nature to us. Just do some quick googling as their may be some key words associated with those acronyms worth using as well. And it’s also beneficial to know what these mean when you get to the interview. If you can drop these into conversation, it will show the interviewers and potentially hiring manager that you’ve done your research and are really bought in on the role.
Back to the top 5 words in the word cloud. This should give you the same reaction is the top 5 universally desired skills…tons of stories should be popping into your head of times when you exhibited these traits or skills! You could use “Regulatory Compliance” and reference all the inspections you’ve had to be a part of or even lead. Perhaps you were an exercise evaluator at one of your commands or you helped your unit get ready for an inspection from higher headquarters. You could also use “Risk Mitigation” and talk about ALL the ORM work you’ve had to do when it comes to safety documentation required for basically every evolution your unit has gone through.
This exercise in key words is huge. In order to get past the online application system, you need to match 70-80% of the key words the organization is looking for with that role. Just remember, you need to be able to speak to them should it come up in the interview.
At this point, I think you’re getting the idea. At first, these key words may seem like they don’t relate, but as you start to recall all of the work you did on active duty, you’ll start to find that you can correlate just about any key word to your time on active service.
One other tip for figuring out what key words to use is go on LinkedIn and look up other people in the role you’re looking to fill. A quick search for company and role and you should find a few profiles that are decently filled out. You can gather a lot from how the terminology is used on their profile page. We have a LinkedIn for veterans tutorial coming up in the near future so stay tuned for that! Subscribe to our newsletter below to get notified as soon as it comes out!
Okay, so you’ve got your 6-12 key words figured out, and now you want to see how well your resume matches up to a particular job description. Head over to JobScan. Once you paste in your resume and the job description, the site will analyze both for a match. JobScan recommends an 80% match or better to ensure you get past the application system. Here’s an example of what it looks like:
This is just the top of the page, there’s an entire detailed analysis below this header section. This tool is great to give you an idea of how well you worked in skills throughout your resume, not just the key skills section.
You probably won’t use this until you’re completely done with your resume, so if you’re not there yet, book mark it and come back to it when you’re done.
Well folks, that’s all for now. Hopefully, you found some actionable advice from this article. As always, email me at Pat@TransitionVetCoach.com if you have any questions or need any help. And please subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with our latest posts and free content! Thanks so much!