Want to know what recruiters are really thinking? In our Ask a Recruiter series, we invite you to take an exclusive look inside the mind of a real recruiter — Jeni Lambertson — to see how she approaches the hiring process.
Twice a month, Jeni will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding the right job posting, emailing the right person, or landing yourself on a recruiter's desk, drop it in the comments.
Q: Do soft skills really belong on my resume? How can I include them without feeling cheesy?
Curating a resume is challenging for many reasons. First and foremost, it's difficult because we (as women) are conditioned to refrain from bragging about our accomplishments for fear of appearing egotistical and self-important. Cataloging all of our achievements on paper, while simultaneously finding a way to look both modest and apt, can feel counter-intuitive.
When women come to me asking how to do just that — demonstrate the breadth of their capability while still looking hungry to grow in a new role — I start by asking them to tell me about themselves. Often, they will give me their work history or a short list of soft skills — neither of which I want. To begin with at least.
If you are trying to find a way to articulate what makes you unique on your job application, I suggest developing a personal narrative that acts as a synopsis of your experience, your passions and your skills.
This synopsis can be proudly displayed at the top of your resume, and should be labeled something like "profile" or "summary." It is an opportunity to weave together your personal story, professional experience and those pesky soft skills that people never want to see listed word by word on your resume.
I would imagine that by the time you are interviewing for a director-level position, you possess excellent time management skills. Most soft skills become self-evident. Conversely, to HR professionals and those writing job descriptions, I don't want to see soft skills listed on any job description above "entry-level" either.
When creating your resume's profile, begin by getting everything that is or might be relevant on paper.
From there, you can refine your story. The goal is to create something that sets you apart, while also making it easy for the likely overextended hiring manager or recruiter to determine if you are deserving of next steps quickly (hint: you are).
Here's an example of what the finished product might look like:
"Account Director with eight years experience in multi-channel brand and retention advertising across categories including technology, retail, and entertainment. Extremely skilled at building teams and passionate about XXX".
In two sentences I can surmise title, experience in years, specialties, and passion/desire for the next opportunity, along with some strategically camouflaged soft skills. Also, you can naturally build upon this summary when participating in a phone or in-person interview while answering the oft-dreaded "so tell me about yourself."
In short, there is a place for soft skills on your resume. It's just not with a bullet point next to them. By being strategic about how you share the soft skills you've spent time honing, you are not only setting yourself apart, but preparing yourself to speak proudly and freely about your achievements.
Jeni Lambertson is the founder and CEO of the constellations, a female-first procurement service. She's passionate about bringing diversity to future-thinking companies while simultaneously doing her part to close the wage gap.