Career Advice – Skills Inventory Broadens While Avoiding Generalist Branding

Mar 4 2011 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Resumes by Phil Rosenberg

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For today’s career advice, I’m introducing a concept that I use with strong success for my career coaching clients. A skills inventory is a way to expand on the candidate’s statement – “Here’s all the things I could do.”

Most candidates today make a big mistake and brand themselves with what they could do by placing it at the very top of the resume, often in a summary section.

Even though this is common advice, in practice it rarely works well today.

Here’s where I usually get pushback, because a summary section has been so ingrained in our thought process from the paper resume days that it’s hard to break from (See ”Career Advice To Improve Your Resume – The Summary Section” at Summary sections made sense when you could only have one version of a static resume, because it was printed on paper … at Kinko’s.

Today’s hiring manager rewards a heavily customized resume, and the candidate’s greatest impression is made within the top half of your first page, because the interview/non-interview decision on your resume will probably be made on a screen, not on paper.

By taking up your most valuable resume real estate with a summary, you brand yourself as a generalist. Unfortunately, hiring managers seldom make hiring decisions today based on general skills (See ”Who Needs Generalists Anymore?” at Even if your day to day function will use your general skills, hiring decisions are almost always made on specific skills, all the way to the CEO’s desk.
So instead of a summary that lists 10, 20, 30 different subject matter expertises, choose a Personal Branding statement that focuses on just one that make you unique (See ”How A Personal Branding Statement Can Help Job Seekers“ at

All of those other skills can be useful also, but put them where they will help, not hurt you. Then you can even expand them by creating a Skills Inventory … at the end of your resume.

I like to use a 3 column format, of 30-50 (more if you’re in technology) 3 word sound bytes. 3 word limitations keep you very brief and on point, so you don’t create an 8 page resume. Also, you don’t need to waste space on bullet points in a column format.

I’ll list skills in 5 sections, based on the following skill types:

  • Technology Skills
  • Functional Skills
  • Industry Skills
  • Management & Leadership skills
  • Soft Skills

A skills inventory gives you some additional advantages by its placement at the end of your resume:

  1. Timing: The hiring manager is first looking for candidates who have skills to do the job, then looking for the candidate in the short list who has the most to offer while fitting in well. That means the hiring manager rarely looks for all the things you can do until later in the decision process. At first he just wants to know that can you solve his central problem (See”3 Things Your Next Employer Will Search For On Your Resume” at
  2. Length: You don’t have to worry as much about space, since the skills inventory is similar to an appendix, and will probably be the 3rd or 4th page of your resume.
  3. Customization: You can customize your skills inventory to client needs, by emphasizing skills likely to be important to the company, department, and hiring manager.
  4. Changed Criteria: In the time between the writing of a job description, and choosing the candidate, often months can pass. Corporate and departmental needs change during that time, because the company hasn’t stood still just waiting for you to show up. A skills inventory increases your chances that you’ll meet some of the changed criteria.
  5. Nice to haves: Often, the winning candidate has something extra, that wasn’t on the job description, in the ad, or even in the hiring manager’s head … until the moment she saw it on your resume, and a light bulb went off in her head. These “nice to haves” may represent upcoming problems or projects that the hiring manager wasn’t considering when the description and ad were written, but your resume triggered something in her mind making her realize that your skills have something extra.

If you’re not getting the resume response rate (See ”2 Ways To Determine Your Resume Response Rate“ at that you want today, give this format a try for a while. I’ll bet you see a significant difference.

So can you think of 30-50 skills you have? And please leave off the playing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with one of your body parts, and burping the alphabet, ok? No one really wants to know that outside of your Facebook friends.

I make a Skills Inventory template available to clients and subscribers of my Resume Secrets Webinar subscription. It’s already laid out in a 3 column format.


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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