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With unemployment at record levels and more professionals seeking to work from home, competition is high for remote positions. To improve your odds of making an impression with recruiters, it’s vital as a jobseeker to make the most of the primary tool in your job-hunting toolbox: your resume.
Recruitment experts advise that job seekers ensure their resumes are keyword optimized and include relevant quantifiable accomplishments. But it’s also important not to overlook the value of what is known as “soft skills.” These skills enable employees to navigate their environments, collaborate well with others, and achieve their goals at work. Because they are more subjective, however, and can be difficult to measure, soft skills are frequently overlooked—especially on resumes.
Instead, skills like relationship maintenance, conflict management, and technical savvy are often evaluated informally during interviews, training, and orientation sessions. But employers shouldn’t wait until the onboarding process to start thinking about soft skills, which play a big role in the business’s bottom line, research shows.
A recent joint project undertaken by researchers at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Boston College investigated the effects of soft skills training in five large factories in southern India, and the results were startling. Nine months after the program ended, they calculated an amazing 256% net return on investment based on productivity gains and improved employee retention.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should include fewer facts on your resume. But it does mean that your soft skills are now very marketable—and it’s time to find space for them in your application documents. Here are the top seven soft skills that will help you get your next remote position, and how (and where) to include them in your resume:
Communication skills are an important part of any job, but they are even more critical in a remote work environment, where trust and camaraderie between co-workers can be harder to develop and maintain. Employers want to know they’re hiring someone who can work well with others and who is comfortable communicating in a variety of formats. As a remote professional, you may be tasked with leading a team meeting over a video call, drafting an email to a major client, and making a phone call to your supervisor all in the same day—and recruiters want to be confident that if hired, you can fit the bill.
Should you include communication skills on your resume?
Check the job description for indicators that the hiring manager is on the lookout for a good communicator. Phrasing that suggests the new employee will be expected to collaborate with other businesses or departments or give regular briefs to management or other members of the team can signal that the recruiter wants you to show off your communication skills in your application documents.
How do you add communication skills to your resume?
You probably don’t want to list “good communication skills” on your resume outright, as it’s not very descriptive—nor does it set you apart from the competition. You can, however, weave your talents as a communicator into other parts of your resume and cover letter. Here are three ways to do that:
- Include a mention of your communication style in your personal summary or cover letter. Use terminology like “collaborative” and “consensus-building,” or even “clear and concise,” depending on what the description of the position calls for.
- When outlining your previous work experience, highlight areas where you excelled in communication. Did you create group agendas? Take meeting notes? Prepare quarterly reports? Make a note of who you reported to and what people or groups you were responsible for developing relationships with—both internal and external to the company. Even if you don’t delve into all the details in your resume, these points can serve as great conversation starters during your interview.
- Highlight accomplishments that show off your expertise. Have you been recognized for leading your team to success? Do you have special training in the realm of communications that paid off, perhaps in the form of mentorship or valuable contract for your prior employer?
Another universally valued skill is quick problem-solving—and like communication, this skill takes on a new meaning when you work remotely. When you’re working from home, help isn’t always right around the corner, and there’s no IT department down the hall to lend a hand. The ability to find a solution on your own, or at least come up with possible plans of approach, won’t just be prized by employers, but in many cases, it will be required.
Should you include problem-solving skills on your resume?
The key to deciding if and how to include your problem-solving abilities on your resume is to identify the types of problems you’re likely to encounter in the position you’re targeting. For example, if you are applying for a software development position, you’ll likely want to mention hurdles you’ve run into and solutions you’ve found while coding. In an account management role, however, you’ll likely want to feature cases where you resolved client complaints.
How do you add problem-solving skills to your resume?
These skills are best illustrated through example, meaning they’ll shine through best in your accomplishments and experience sections. Here are some ideas and tips on how to include problem-solving on your resume:
- Unlike communication, problem-solving is often included in lists of core competencies, especially if the skill is asked for by name in the job ad.
- If problem-solving is or was a major part of your job responsibilities, mention that in your experience section. Perhaps you’ve seen quantifiable successes in technical support or customer service, for example.
- You’re probably already listing successful projects, record-breaking sales, and other awards you’ve earned in your accomplishments section, but go a step further by delving into a roadblock you hit in the process and how you overcame it.
If you have hopes of advancing in your career, it’s vital to show off your successes as a leader on your resume. Employers value leadership experience, and since managing geographically distributed workers can be vastly different from managing in-person teams, those who demonstrate remote leadership experience are likely to catch recruiters’ eyes.
Sometimes job seekers leave leadership skills off their resumes because they don’t think they have any experience in this area or believe the job at hand doesn’t require any leadership ability. But jobs from customer service to content writing require go-getters who are willing to take action and lead their colleagues to success, and when drafting your resume, you should strive to show hiring managers that you can do just that—even if you’ve only led a single project or piece of a project in your previous roles.
In addition to taking charge, being a leader also means being able to motivate and influence others and build morale. Actions you may be able to highlight on your resume that demonstrate these qualities include offering new ideas, taking responsibility to get something done, and supporting your co-workers in their own work endeavors.
Should you include leadership skills on your resume?
Don’t make recruiters wait until the interview phase to learn about what you’ve done as a leader at work. If you’re having trouble identifying instances where you showed leadership ability, try taking a different approach: how have you set a good example for your co-workers in the past? The answer may help you discover which skills you exemplify that are valued in your target industry or role.
You can also take a look at the job listing itself to scope out what specific leadership qualities employers are looking for in your field.
How do you add leadership skills to your resume?
Where you add this category of skills in your resume depends on whether you will be directly supervising others in the positions, you are targeting in your job search. If yes, then your leadership and management experience need to be front-and-center in all areas. If not, then more subtle references will work best. Here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t include the vague term “leader” on its own in your resume—it’s not concrete enough and brings up too many questions. Instead, include specific references to what you led: Were you a team leader? A project manager? A shift supervisor?
- In your accomplishments section, be careful not to confuse an outcome (i.e., an accomplishment) with an action (i.e., a responsibility). Accomplishments are the result of good leadership; for example, you “delivered products on time as leader of the development team,” rather than “led the development team to deliver products on time.”
- A last place to highlight your leadership skills is under a section on additional training or certifications. Add reputable leadership courses you’ve completed to your resume to ensure you get noticed for your commitment to advancing in your career.
Related: Best Leadership Books of All Time
Almost as important as being a good leader is being a good teammate—especially in a remote work environment. When working from home, business leaders and their team members have to rely on one another to do their work according to company standards, and checking in isn’t as easy as popping your head into your co-worker’s office.
Related: How to Be a Great Remote Employee
When evaluating a potential new hire, recruiters will want to know about your relationships with others. Do you get along with your teammates? How do your supervisors feel about you? While the hiring manager may ask your references directly, the answers to these questions can also shine through on your resume.
Should you include teamwork skills on your resume?
While remote workers often perform their jobs independently, the chances are that your work will impact the work of others around you. When examining job descriptions for the position you’re targeting, ask yourself: What team skills are valued in this role? What keywords are consistently coming up among employers?
You can also go beyond job ads and ask these questions to people who work in your target role or for your target company directly. Networking skills go hand-in-hand with teamwork, so don’t be afraid to peruse your LinkedIn connections and college alumni associations for professionals who may be willing to share their experiences and expertise.
How do you add teamwork skills to your resume?
Similar to the other soft skills mentioned, teamwork isn’t a skill you want to list outright on your resume as a strength. Instead, teamwork is best illuminated by example. Here are some ideas for how to draw attention to your strengths in this area:
- Team skills are most easily highlighted in your work experience section. Perhaps you “completed accounts receivable as a key member of the accounting team” or “created and managed a team for organizing corporate events.”
- Instead of “teamwork,” try using terms like “team-building” or “team training,” depending on what employers are looking for in your field.
- Include the positive, quantifiable results of your teamwork whenever possible. Remember, potential employers want to see the results of your teamwork abilities, not merely that you have them.
5. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence has been getting a lot of attention in recent months as public health crises have forced employers to put an increased emphasis on employee wellness. COVID-19 has affected our workplaces from top to bottom, and the emotional effects of the pandemic have had an impact on our productivity. This means it’s more important than ever for individuals in the workplace settings to tune into their colleagues’ feelings, needs, and specific circumstances.
The skill required to meet this new workplace demand is called emotional intelligence, a blanket term that encompasses not only good communication, leadership, and teamwork, but goes beyond that to involve traits like self-awareness, self-management, social skills, empathy, and personal motivation.
The importance of these skills in remote workers cannot be overemphasized. Seemingly menial workplace issues are magnified in a remote environment, and strong emotional intelligence is needed to navigate these situations successfully.
Should you include emotional intelligence on your resume?
Emotional intelligence is easiest displayed on the job, but in some cases, recruiters may want to see from the start that you have this skill. Highlighting empathy in your application documents would make more sense for a nurse than an engineer, for example.
How do you add emotional intelligence to your resume?
Emotional intelligence skills will be inferred rather than stated head-on in most cases. However, here are a few ways to get the message across in your resume:
- In your summary, try including adjectives that encompass your unique emotional intelligence skills, such as “self-motivated,” “driven, or “inspired.” What fits your situation best?
- Your communication style will also say a lot about your emotional intelligence. Are you a collaborative communicator? Are you more independent? If not in your resume, try mentioning this in your cover letter.
- You may also want to highlight your emotional intelligence within your accomplishments section. Examples of achievements that illustrate emotional intelligence could include success resolving a team dispute, securing an agreement on a large purchase, or rebuilding a client’s confidence in the company.
Related: Best Books on Emotional Intelligence
6. Technical Savvy
Another area that remote jobseekers tend to overlook is technical savvy. This doesn’t just refer to the list of software programs you’re proficient in, however; rather, technical savvy refers to your skill level with those programs and how quickly you can pick up new technologies. Both of these abilities are vital for remote workers, as your supervisor can’t personally walk you through each step when they’re located halfway around the world.
Different positions and industries will have different requirements for technical ability. In general, however, remote workers should strive to be comfortable using collaborative communication programs such as Slack, as well as project management or content management systems and video conferencing software.
Should you include technical savvy on your resume?
Employers looking to add to their remote teams want to know that whoever they choose is up to the task of working from home via computer. What’s more, recruiters are always keeping their eyes out for candidates who will be easy to train and who can get up to speed quickly with the software and systems used by the company. By showing that you fit that bill, you may be able to set yourself apart from other applicants.
How do you add technical savvy to your resume?
As with all skills, check the job ad to see exactly what employers in your target field are looking for. Here are just a few ideas for how to feature technical savvy on your resume:
- As almost any software developer can tell you, industry-recognized certifications can be more valuable than a degree in many fields. Your commitment to staying up-to-date on the latest technology will be evident if you partake in additional training.
- Particularly in a tech-heavy field, you may consider adding to your resume a technical skills section that lists your specific software proficiencies. This is a particularly good idea if the description of the job you’re targeting lists specific software or programs that candidates should be proficient in. If you have several years of experience in a certain area, indicating this in your technical skills section can also help you demonstrate expertise.
- Include the use of software tools when describing your prior job responsibilities or accomplishments. For example, you may have organized weekly video conference meetings or managed projects using a collaborative software tool. If the program or web tool isn’t widely known or isn’t mentioned in the job ad, you may opt to describe it rather than list it by name.
7. Your Unique Value
A final point to highlight in your resume is the skill—or combination of skills—that makes you unique as a professional and an individual. To identify your unique value, think about areas where you truly excel or things you are passionate about, in and out of your field. Many of these skills may be transferable, meaning they can be particularly useful to feature if you’re switching roles or industries.
Should your unique value be on your resume?
Of course! Your unique value is what will hopefully capture the attention of a recruiter and land you an interview. In addition to featuring it on your resume, ensure that your cover letter explains what sets you apart from the crowd. A good rule of thumb is to use your cover letter to begin the discussion, then back your argument up with examples from your resume.
How do you add your unique value to your resume?
By its nature, your unique value is probably more of an overarching statement than a discrete skill. To accurately capture your unique value in all its complexity, you will probably want to add in multiple areas of your resume. Here are some suggestions:
- In some cases, you may be able to state your unique value explicitly in your career summary. Bring together your top skills and experience, combine it with your unique twist, and you’ll have a compelling first sentence to your resume.
- Using that statement as a topic sentence, back up your claims by breaking down the results you’ve delivered in your experience or accomplishments sections.
- If you’ve completed any training or have a degree or certification that proves your unique value, add that in the appropriate section, as well.
8. Final Thoughts
It’s clear that soft skills are earning a place in the traditional resume in ways they never have before.
While it may take some self-reflection to determine which of these skills are most important for you to highlight in your job search, bringing these traits to the forefront will help you stand out in a crowded field of applicants.
And if you aren’t yet confident in your abilities, the good news is that nearly all of these skills can be learned—just don’t forget to add any new certifications you earn along the way to your resume.