Some careers professionals have said a lot over the years about so-called “soft” skills being fluff and unnecessary to feature in your executive resume. Your “hard” skills (e.g., project management, P&L management, sales force management, logistics and supply chain, sales and marketing–whatever is relevant for your functional role) are certainly paramount. However, if you neglect to let your readers know you also possess great “soft” skills (and back the assertion up with examples of how you’ve demonstrated them), you will be reducing the impact of your resume and possibly adversely affecting its fate in selection through a recruiter or company’s ATS (Applicant Tracking System).
This is why one could hear me saying “Yes!” as I read Dawn Rosenberg McKay’s post, “How Soft Skills Help Boost Your Career” on TheBalance.com today.
She correctly points out:
“Just look at any job announcement and you will see a laundry list of qualifications that includes not only the technical skills you need to do the job, but qualities like “excellent communication skills,” “strong organizational skill,” “team player,” and “strong listening ability” listed there as well.”
The words and phrases used in a job announcement to describe these and other such qualities are not boilerplate to be ignored. They are in fact likely to be part of the search algorithm when screening resumes for a position, and reviewers are also likely to look for them in the content of executive resumes that result from those searches. Studies of search results from ATS systems have verified this.
Ironically, one of the first things I often notice in executive resumes of prospective clients is that they have featured soft skills in their summary or work experiences, to the near or total exclusion of hard skills associated with a function or role. Perhaps this is why some experts have come down so hard on soft skills in resume content.
You can definitely have too much of a good thing on either end of the soft skills/hard skills continuum. An executive resume with nearly exclusively soft skills is just as bad as one with exclusively hard skills. To put your best foot forward, I advise emphasizing your hard skills and then sprinkling important soft skills into the mix. It will not only give the potential employer what they’re looking for, but also put forth a vivid picture of the well-rounded, highly capable, and personable individual you are.
I heartily concur with Dawn’s parting advice: “Make sure your resume lists accomplishments that demonstrate the desired soft skills and that you also find ways to discuss them during your job interview.” See Sample Executive Resumes to get an idea of how you can effectively portray your powerful blend of soft and hard skills.