How to Build a Transferable Skills Resume


The traditional resume, focused on your work history, is fine when the job you are seeking is a logical fit based on the positions you have held before. But for some job-hunters, that is not the case. Perhaps you do not have much work history, are changing careers or have had a spotty job history with positions in several different fields. And some job seekers have gaps because of unemployment or time taken off to handle family matters. The solution in these cases is a resume that focuses on transferable skills rather than your career history.

  • Identify your core skills. Think about your current job and the ones before it and write down the areas where you have excelled. Consider your personality and the things you enjoy doing. Come up with a list of skills that would transfer across various jobs, fields and careers. Examples could include analyzing information, communicating, calculating data, operating equipment and organizing events.

  • Present your skills in the best possible light for the work you seek. What you might see as a limited, job-specific skills might actually be a broader ability that would appeal to employers in a range of fields. The job you had as a receptionist, for example, might have consisted of answering calls and greeting visitors. But what it really represents could be a skill in interpersonal relations and the ability to interact with a wide range of clients, including CEOs and government officials. By emphasizing this skill on your resume, you may become more competitive for sales job.

  • Consider a functional resume. This format puts the emphasis on your skills and experience rather than work history. Near the top of the resume, you write a heading such as "skills" or "accomplishments" and then list your history in that area. For example, you could list the skill of project management and describe how you managed projects in several jobs. Another heading could be event coordination, and you could describe the work you have done that fits that category. As you describe your accomplishments, you can list the name of the company where they took place. You can also provide a list of employers and the dates you worked for them near the bottom of the resume.

  • Weave your skills into a standard chronological resume if you do not think a functional resume will pass muster where you are applying. Some managers do not like functional resumes because they do not provide the clear, chronological history of your work life that standard resumes do. Employers in conservative fields like finance, banking and law are particularly likely to disdain functional resumes. If you think the company will not like a functional resume, write a traditional one but play up your skills near the top of the resume with a meaty "summary" qualifications or "skills" section.

  • Tailor your resume to the opening you are applying for. Determine what skills the employer is looking for by carefully examining the vacancy announcement. Think carefully about your work history and see if any of the skills you have developed might fit the requirements of the job. If so, then rewrite your skills section to emphasize those abilities. Resumes are definitely a case where one size does not fit all.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you use a functional resume format, do not omit a work history section entirely, as employers may think you have something to hide.
  • Recruiters and headhunters typically dislike functional resumes, so do not use one if you are applying through this channel, advises Katharine Hansen, creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers.

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