Soft Skills on a Techie's resume: You must be kidding

I’ve spent the last ten years building my technical skills and my resume shows it. I was just told that I should also add soft skills to my resume. Should I, and if yes, then why and how?

This is a great question, thank you for asking. As funny as it may sound, yes, adding soft skill related items to your resume can definitely be to your advantage. In this week’s blog I’ll explain why including soft skills in your resume is important. Next week I’ll explain how soft skills can be subtly incorporated into and/or specifically and strategically placed within your resume.

There are four main reasons why it is to your advantage to add soft skills related information to your resume.

To differentiate yourself from your competition Unless your skill set is extremely unique, is in short supply, and is in very high demand, then you will be directly competing with other talented professionals with similar experience and similar skills. That said, on paper you will most likely look very similar to your competition vying for the same job. If you are a good writer, a natural leader, work well with business users, make great presentations, or have other strong non-technical skills, why not use these skills to help raise your resume to the top of the pile? It can only be to your advantage to do so. After all, if you were primarily a Java developer, but were also technically competent in C## or PL/SQL, you would include them on your resume. Soft skills are also skills, you just use them on people rather than computers.

To illustrate that you can be a team player Whether you are hiring a CEO, CIO, programmer, or college intern, technical skill, in regard to being able to do the job, is certainly an important factor, but it’s not the only factor. “Fit” is also an extremely important consideration. “Fit” refers to your ability to work well with the team. The late Michael Jackson early in his career sang a song saying “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch”. Well, it was true in the context of his song, but it’s also true regarding what a bad hire can do to a team’s morale and productivity. In fact, new employee fit from a non-technical perspective is a primary reason that new employees (or contractors) leave on their own or are asked to do so. That said, providing information on your resume as to your ability to work with others can be a key factor of being selected for an interview or having your resume sadly discarded into the recycle bin next to the hiring manager’s desk.

To illustrate potential versatility Very often people are hired to do one specific job and then, over time are asked to perform other tasks related to, but different, than the task they were hired to perform. For example: • A programmer may be asked to write documentation • A tester may be asked to do training • A Data Base Administrator may be asked to present a database’s structure to a newly formed programming group • A technical leader may be asked do project management • A programmer or tester may be asked to do business analysis

All of the above examples have one thing in common, the job incumbent is being asked to do something outside of his/her primary job description. Your ability to the tasks such as those examples above makes you more versatile to the team, therefore, more valuable to the manager.

To give the resume reviewer the best possible picture of who you are A well written resume provides more than a simple list of your skills and job experience. At its best, it gives the reader a mental image of who you are and what value you can bring to the organization. That said, you want your resume to provide the reader with insights beyond just your technical ability but also who you are as a person. This, of course, includes more than just your ability to perform a specific technical task. It should also answer the following questions: • Will this person require continual supervision or can he/she be self-directed? • Will this person be easy to manage or be a difficult employee? • Do I think this person will get along with my existing staff members? • What is the risk of hiring this person and are his/her skills worth the risk? • If needed, does this person have the flexibility to perform tasks outside his/her specific job description? • Does this person have the potential to grow professionally within my department and/or the company in general?

In closing, now that you know why it is important to include soft skill related information in your resume, remember that in next week’s blog I’ll explain how.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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