Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why Entry Level Job Seekers Should Consider Using a Skills Based Resume

For years I thought the right way to write a resume was to give some kind of summary as to what you're good at, explain your experience in backwards chronological order, list your education, and add any extra skills you might have at the end. If you show you have experience and write well you should get interviews, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

A chronological resume is often the first choice for job seekers because it seems organized and is easy to write. If you know where you've worked and what you accomplished there, your resume will be great, right?

Not so fast. This approach to resume writing may be good for people who have experience focused in one area and are looking to stay in their current industry, but what about entry level job seekers whose experience consists of a multitude of part-time jobs in different industries and maybe a couple of internships?

In comes the skills based resume. Recent graduates like myself should love this type of resume because it makes use of skills headings that highlight your transferable skills rather than where you worked. By doing this, you are showing potential employers what you have learned and how you can apply that experience in new settings. Your credibility goes up, and suddenly the summers you spent working at "Blah Blah Restaurant" are getting you interviews.

Here's a great example of how to construct a skills based resume:
Click here to see the full image!

The Parts of a Skills Based Resume

Personal & Contact Information

Start by putting your personal information at the top in a way that is clear and accurate. If you have a great LinkedIn profile, consider including the link to your profile at the top of your resume. If your profile needs a little help, check out my tips to make it great. Employers and recruiters will probably try to look you up anyway, so why not save them the trouble of trying to find you?


Focus your objective so that it clearly details what kind of job you are looking for. Make sure you strike a balance between what you're looking for and what you can do for employers. Nobody wants an employee who is all about themselves and not about making the business better. For tips on how to write a great objective, check out this page.

Summary of Qualifications

This section should be a summary of all the skills you are about to detail in your skills section, and can be written in short statements or as bullet points. Use action words and be industry specific enough so that anybody reading your resume can tell how great you are at a glance. For tips on writing a summary for your resume, check out this page.

Skills & Experience

This is now the most important part of your resume, and it should be organized by skills headings. Depending on the industry you want to work in, you can find the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in that field by taking a look at the occupation summary on ONET. Use the bullet points detailing your work accomplishments to support these headings, and don't worry about mixing up specific job locations. The focus of your resume will be what you can do, not where you did it.


State clearly any degrees and training you have received, and include your GPA only if it helps you. You can also mention any organizations you belong to if they are relevant. Include enough detail to make your point, but don't go overboard by including every class you've ever taken.

Work Experience

Surprise! This section should be very easy to write. List your title, where you worked, and the dates you worked there clearly and simply. Do not include any bullet points in this section describing what you did in any position, as your experience is already clearly detailed under your skills headings.

Computer Skills/Languages/Extra Stuff

This heading is for any other skills you believe are important to list on your resume. If you are thinking about entering the software industry, list the programs you know how to use or the scripting languages you know. If media and public relations is your thing, list the social media networks you know how to use. Do you know three languages? Include them on your resume if being bilingual will help market you to employers.

Start Applying

These are the essential sections that should be included on a skills based resume. The culmination of your skills and accomplishments listed under industry specific headings will likely serve as a much better marketing tool for you than an unfocused chronological resume ever could.

Be sure to tailor your resume to include any keywords that appear on specific job descriptions, and enjoy having confidence even as an entry level job seeker! 

*This post is now available to download as a presentation on Slideshare!

What type of resume do you use? Do you have any tips for other entry level job seekers looking to get ahead? Share your tips and experiences by commenting below!

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