"Well, he can't make a resume..."
June 12, 2011 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Are skill based CVs used for entry level job applications in the US?

After posting this question, I switched my resume into a skills based CV, and I haven't gotten much response. The one place that did call me in seemed specifically baffled by the skill based CV, to the point where one interviewer said "So, uh, what's this?" and gestured at my CV. I'm pretty sure I'm doing mine right and that it's following the standard skills based CV format. I never saw one when I was interviewing people for a job at the coffeeshop where I work, and I didn't see one when I was hiring for interns.

It's nice though - I don't have to use my cover letter to justify my qualifications for a job DESPITE my resume rather than because of it. I just worry that resume readers are seeing my CV and being confused by it rather than interested.

I should note that I'm mostly applying for small nonprofit organizations in San Francisco, where they're not likely to have a solid HR department - the last interview I had was for an office assistant replacing herself. Any thoughts? Are these totally weird out here?
posted by OrangeDrink to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you listing your skills and also employment history, or just your skills? If it doesn't also include your employment history, as a non-HR person, I have to admit I'd be wondering what you'd actually done and whether you were trying to hide something.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:47 PM on June 12, 2011

I should add that in my experience, getting interviews is about the resume, so there's a good chance yours is fine. After that it's some kind of numbers game and hiring person's feeling about "fit."
posted by J. Wilson at 12:50 PM on June 12, 2011

As someone who recruits and hires, I HATE resumes like this, and typically assume that the candidate is using this format in an effort to hide something (inability tohold a job, for example) from me. I would strongly suggest you change to the more traditional format.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 1:13 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

A skills based resume is not necessarily bad UNLESS it is missing relevant work experience or any work experience at all. The question then starts on, where did you acquire these skills and how do I know that you can hold a job?

There is a lot of good information in that thread including the temping option and organizations that match your skills to openings. You are applying for assistant positions so what skills are you placing on the resume? Did you include a software section? Operating systems? Specific things that the non-profit does and needs help with such as, laying out simple brochures or doing simple database entry?
posted by jadepearl at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2011

I'm in the U.S. and have a skills based CV that I've gotten an extremely good response to.

But I also have a PhD, and am highlighting some very specialized technical and analytic skills. Skills-based worked for me because I've worked in a variety of fields, and people reading it may have a hard time connecting the dots. Also, as a specialized PhD, I'm given more leeway in terms of length, while you'll be confined to a single page.

I would have to see your C.V. to see if a skills-based format would work for your background - it may not. Feel free to mail it to me if you want feedback.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 1:37 PM on June 12, 2011

I have a skills-based resume. I also have more of a scientific background, so it's a convenient way to list all of the analytical techniques and equipment I know. (I also have my employment history on it, with just a couple of bullet points under each position explaining what the duties were.) It is probably not as common in non-technical fields.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:07 PM on June 12, 2011

I think a "skills-based resume" is only beneficial if the recruiter / HR person considers skills as an important part of the position. If the position is entry level: the company may be more concerned about someone who will come in regularly and not flake off than whether the person is an expert at formatting Word documents, for example. In that case showing a strong employment history would be the most important and skills would be the least important.

If you're applying for an office assistant, the company may simply want someone who can follow instructions well, and the specifics can be taught later. Showing initiative may or may not be a good thing and being an assistant manager may actually count against you. If it's a nonprofit, then enthusiasm for the nonprofit's goal may eclipse any significant skills you can offer.

In short: what does the company actually want? What do the resumes look like from the people who are actually hired?
posted by meowzilla at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

For entry level jobs like admin/library assistants or support or what-have-you, a skills-based resume (it's a resume at that level, not a CV, in the US) is fine, but you really must list your employment history as well. When I'm applying to jobs that like that, I tend to gear my resume to the job. If it's related to my employment history, I list my employment history first. If my employment history is only in the vaguest way related, but my skills are spot on, I list my skills first. Looking at your previous question, I'd do a skills-first and then employment resume for admin assistant jobs.

For jobs like this, your resume should be one page. It should contain your contact information, your job history, a skills list, and your education level. Anything less than this will make you look like you're hiding something. If there is a gap in your employment, well, there is, and they will likely ask you about it in the interview.

I work as a customer support rep, and I worked in libraries for years as a library assistant, so I know what I'm talking about (some of the advice you're getting here is more geared towards folks applying to higher level jobs, fwiw). I'm really good at landing good entry level jobs like this. Please feel free to memail me if you want to send me your resume, or use mine as an example off which to base your own (which is really the way to do this sort of thing). Your resume may have issues other than it being "skills based." It is really important to have other people look at it, especially if you haven't applied to jobs like this in the past.
posted by hought20 at 2:30 PM on June 12, 2011

Oh, and if you quit or cut back hours in order to do volunteer work, list volunteer work as an employment history item on your resume. You basically want a kind of timeline of employment/what you're doing going about five years back.
posted by hought20 at 2:35 PM on June 12, 2011

I'm a recruiter and I will not look at a skills based resume. I will, however, look at a chronological resume that has gaps which are explained. ("Took time off to take care of family"; "took time off to travel"; etc.) Just be concise and honest and don't make the reader feel like they have to work to figure out what you've been doing.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:13 PM on June 12, 2011

Ok, I looked at your previous question and I see you've been working retail. This is not a bad thing! It means you are customer service oriented and can work cheerfully under difficult conditions; and show up on time even for inconvenient shifts; and will appreciate the regularity of office work.

Your resume should list skills at the top: all the software you know, etc. If you are confident in your typing ability, take a typing test (find one online or sign up at a temp agency and take theirs) and if the score is good go ahead and include it. Include a couple of bullet points like "consistently provided cheerful customer service even under challenging conditions" and "punctual and reliable."

Then, under that, provide the chronology of your work experience, using bullet points (not paragraphs!) to set out the elements of the experience. Don't sell yourself short. If you were a barista, include bullet points about reliably handling cash transactions or handling inventory paperwork, whatever you can think of that is transferable to office jobs.

Make your formatting simple - nothing distracting or unprofessional looking or that is going to get lost if their computer is a different platform from yours.

A decent temp agency can help you here. They love to send out clean cut young people in their 20s, and they can administer office software tests that will substantiate your claim that you know how to do the work. Plenty of them have temp-to-hire positions that aren't really advertised that way, but are available to nice looking hard working people. Pick a couple reputable ones (national or internationally known -- Kelly, Robert Half, Adecco -- and sign up.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:24 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I hired for a lower-level (although not technically entry-level) position last year and got a few skills-based resumes. As a few people said above, they drove me nuts because I had to try to piece together the employment history, so I agree that you should be sure that your job history is clear. I think the skills-based format is fine as long as you do this.
posted by solipsism at 5:23 PM on June 12, 2011

Thanks all. I think I swung too far the wrong way and was so worried about not having recent relevant experience that I tried to sell my skills in a confusing way.

I appreciate your help!

Whelp, time to get to work and try not to be disappointed about the opportunities I may have missed in the past.
posted by OrangeDrink at 1:05 PM on June 13, 2011

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