Keep it in context

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We’ve all read plenty of resumes or profiles that state that the person in question is “results-oriented”  or “driven”. Various popular buzzwords come up from time to time and many people litter them throughout their resumes in the hope that this will help them get picked up by automated systems scanning for the ideal candidate. The reality is that the next step in the process is a human being checking through the recommended profiles, and when they see the same thing on every resume they read, they desperately hope to come across something more insightful and interesting.

Whilst it’s important to tailor cover letters to make sure that you understand what it is about the role you’re applying for that you’re interested in, I’ve always found it interesting that people are advised to have different versions of their resume for different types of job they’re applying for. After all, isn’t my experience the same? Sure there are parts of my experience that might be more relevant for a particular role, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that my other experiences might be useful in the role.

The same is true with skills. HR and hiring managers might be clear on the key skills they consider to be important for a role, but perhaps an employee with a skill set over and above those defined skills might end up being a stronger performer in that role. Therefore, having a clearer picture of all the skills your workforce possesses can play a valuable role in helping to refine job requirements and succession plans.

But having a skill detailed in your resume is not enough to give a clear context of how you developed and applied that skill and your proficiency level in that skill. Being in sales for ten years does not necessarily mean you’re better at sales than someone who has been doing it for five years. There are certainly skills, often technical, that you’d expect someone would be better at with longer experience, but that isn’t always the case. Also, I could have considerable experience in a skill from earlier in my career that is no longer applied or relevant for my current role.

Providing a context for your experience and getting other people to recommend or assess your performance or use of particular skills can provide valuable insights and credibility for people looking for a particular skill set. This might be to fill a vacancy, or could also be someone looking to identify a mentor that might be able to help them develop their own skills.

These endorsements need to be credible to be relevant. I often think this when looking at my own and other people’s profiles on LinkedIn. Clearly it’s a very valuable tool for networking and broadcasting your experience for various reasons, but I also know I have endorsements from people I’ve never worked with, for skills that they have no idea whether I do or don’t have. Whereas recommendations give a clear example of a working relationship or experience. These skills can often the be overlooked or disregarded, as it’s not really clear whether they’re an accurate and up to date representation of the person’s skills.

People also often list their past jobs, with no information about what they actually did in that role, and it’s not clear whether that profile is fully up to date (often you’ll see several profiles for the same person, as they’ve forgotten they even created one previously!).

The most interesting and insightful profiles are those that provide show a clear context for the skills and experience that the person has learned and applied and show that they are also continually learning and developing their skills. Job definitions are rarely static, and if you’re in a job for a long time, you’d hope that you would have the opportunity for continuous development and improvement to stand you in better stead for your next promotion. Otherwise, maybe it’s time to think about moving on…

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