Spotlight hot skills on your resume

Soft skills are key to career advancement, but they're difficult to quantify. Here's how to revamp your resume to make your talents shine.

One of the most daunting tasks in a job search is devising a resume that's going to get you past that first cut. To do that, though, you have to know what the hiring manager really wants.

Sure, that's easy when it comes to the required technical skills: Degree in computer science. Five years' experience. Java expertise. Check. Check. Check.

But how do you recognize -- and then convey on your resume -- the fact that you have, for example, team-building skills, the ability to work with minimal supervision, excellent analytical and problem-solving skills, and the ability to develop solutions using enterprise-level best practices? Those were actual requirements listed for a senior .Net engineer in a recent posting.

IT professionals often skim past lists of desired soft skills when they're reading help-wanted ads and don't bother to highlight them on their resumes, perhaps assuming they don't have them. That's a big mistake that can land your resume in the wrong pile.

"I'm stunned at how otherwise qualified people disqualify themselves unintentionally," says Rick Endres, president of The Washington Network, an IT services company in Alexandria, Va.

Before you make that mistake, carefully consider your own experience, then think of all the skills that experience actually showcases and highlight those skills on your resume.

Here's a look at how you can do that with five sets of nontechnical skills culled from numerous job postings.

Ability to Translate Complex Business Goals

The task of translating business goals might not be a big challenge for a business analyst, but how does a software developer or a database administrator demonstrate that he has such skills?

The best approach is to think of ways that your technical accomplishments contributed to your company's ability to reach its goals, says Michael P. Brooks Sr., regional account executive at Kforce Professional Staffing in Tampa, Fla., and president of the Boston chapter of the Society for Information Management.

Then spell that out on your resume by using phrases like "contributed to such-and-such project, which improved customer service/saved money/generated new revenue," says Chad Lilly, director of recruiting at Lextech Global Services, a mobile application design, strategy and development firm in Lisle, Ill.

Some IT people "have a harder time doing that because they may only work on one component of a larger system, and that's one of the challenges that tech people face," says Lilly. "It's an unconscious thing, but you have to start to incorporate the understanding of why you're building what you're building."

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