Job seekers are not effectively capturing key skills on their resumes sought by employers as they hire new personnel in 2021. Among the top skills not mentioned frequently enough are communication, critical thinking, flexibility, collaboration and leadership, according to an analysis of recent job ads and resumes. These are precisely the skills that could set job seekers apart in a competitive and unpredictable job market.
They must correct course — and fast. Millions of applicants with the wrong skills on their resumes risk losing out on jobs they're actually qualified to perform.
Worse yet, every missed opportunity means a longer stay on unemployment. There are 17.8 million people collecting unemployment assistance from federal, state or local programs, and the latest job losses hit women and people of color the hardest.
Resumes and cover letters are key to opening the door to a job interview. Three out of four resumes never even make it past the applicant tracking systems (ATS) used to weed out applicants, because they fail to include the precise words and phrases from the job description. This means hiring managers never see a resume because it's been cast aside by ATS.
"The first review of your resume will likely be by someone who isn't necessarily an expert in the position you're seeking," says Amy M. Gardner, career coach and team development and leadership consultant with Apochromatik. "By using the language from the position description, you make it easy for the system — or person — to recognize that you have the skills they want."
The LiveCareer study revealed a skills gap between employers and job seekers in an examination of more than 7,000 resumes and 3,500 job ads analyzed across 70 different jobs and 18 occupations. The gaps include failure to emphasize:
- Soft skills like corroboration, critical thinking, writing, public speaking, punctuality, courteousness and coaching.
- Project management tools and communication software essential to remote work.
Soft skills are particularly important for navigating a tough job market. Most soft skills are transferable between industries and give job seekers a wider range of employment options. LiveCareer broke them into five categories (analytical/problem-solving, interpersonal, communication, leadership and personal traits) and found that in each category there are at least a few skills job seekers are not mentioning often enough.
Writing, public speaking and communication are among the most mentioned skills in job ads. Employers have always valued communication skills, but they've taken on greater significance during the pandemic.
"They're even more important now that so many informal methods of communication are no longer possible," Gardner says. "No more chats waiting for the elevator or hanging out by the coffee pot."
Resume skills gaps emphasize the importance of customizing your resume for every job.
Ben Eubanks, a blogger, podcaster and HR analyst based in Huntsville, Alabama, says job seekers shouldn't take any skills for granted when writing a resume. "There's no cost in adding a handful of skills to your work experience section."
Those who don't include the right skills get blocked by the applicant tracking system. "These systems aren't there for the benefit of the job seekers, they're there for the benefit of the recruiter and the employer," Eubanks says.
For the best chance of landing a job, you must read the job posting closely and carefully and tailor your resume to match every skill the employer is seeking.
Resumes include several crucial in-demand skills less often in 2020
Job seekers mentioned several skills less frequently in their 2020 resumes compared to 2019. Some of these skills are essential to thriving in a volatile job market.
A comparison of resumes from 2019 and 2020 found job seekers began emphasizing skills like management, strategy and problem-solving less after COVID-19 hit.
Some industries, like retail and food service, have been permanently altered by the pandemic. Job seekers in these sectors, and other blue collar professions, must update their resumes with exceptional skills in customer service, communication, strategic thinking and problem-solving if they hope to return to the workplace.
Meanwhile, white-collar workers would benefit from strategic thinking as they head back into the office to understand and implement new policies. Others will need to hone their remote work strategies. Across the U.S., management skills in overseeing projects, budgeting, hiring and leadership could be game-changers in the job hunt.
The pandemic has altered the application of skills, but hasn't changed their nature. Job seekers must read job descriptions closely and include the precise wording in resumes and cover letters for the best chance of landing a job.