Why Job Seekers Should Focus More on Their Skills Than Their Experiences

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When you’re creating a resume or professional profile to showcase your value to potential employers, you have a choice to make: Should you emphasize your skill set or your previous job experiences?

Hiring managers certainly want to see relevant professional experience, but the fact is they often value skills over work history. To understand why, we should talk about how these two components of your professional persona are related.

The Relationship Between Skills and Experience

At a basic level, it works like this: First, you gain experience; from the experience, you develop skills.

Skills are for the long haul. You develop and refine them over time. Experiences are more limited — they’re moments in your career journey.

Each experience you have is unique. By having experiences, you learn more about your professional field — including how to solve new problems and overcome new obstacles. In solving those new problems, you develop the skills that you will carry with you for the rest of your career.

Through consistent and frequent repetitive actions, you can develop the skills you need to get the job you want. So, for example, if you want to improve your coding skills, you would seek out frequent coding experiences. The more coding you do, the better you’ll get at it.

Clarify Your Skills

Most job seekers make the mistake of failing to clearly convey their skills on their resumes or professional profiles. Instead, they often elaborate on the experiences they’ve had. For example, they’ll discuss in depth past projects they’ve completed or other tasks they’ve carried out successfully.

However, the easiest way to stand out in a crowded pool of candidates is to communicate your skills effectively.

Aim to make your skills clear on your resume. Start by clearly identifying your hard skills, such as your “proficiency with Python” or “UI/UX design.” You should also highlight your soft skills that are transferable to any position, including your process-management, emotional intelligence, and critical-thinking skills.

Differentiate Yourself With Strong Personal Branding

The other key to outshining your competitors is to craft a strong, distinctive personal brand. As part of this personal brand, your career goals and professional story are important. However, once again, skills are critical.

Don’t make the mistake of primarily highlighting your experiences in your personal branding efforts. Instead, focus most of that content on the relevant skills you have presently, rather than elaborating on the experiences of your past. Your personal brand should be about the skills you can use to create value for new employers — not about the things you’ve done for previous employers.

Experiences are important, but when you highlight them over your skills, you fail to make a convincing communication about your worth as a job candidate. You stand out during the hiring process when you communicate your skills clearly. Point out your skills on your resume and feel comfortable bragging about them. Remember, it’s your resume’s job — and your own — to make you shine. By emphasizing your skills, you help companies see why you’re the right candidate for their positions.

Nader Mowlaee is an engineering career coach and recruiter who is motivated by building confidence in engineers.

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