Dec 012010

Highlight the most important information on your resume:

Let’s go over the basics again: Your resume is information meant to help someone with a short attention span to decide to hire you. You need to understand this, especially the short attention span part, to decide what to put in and what to leave out.

Today’s topic: Skills.

If you do something special, you want to tell potential employees about it. This can be ice carving or cake decorating or computer programming and data management. Right now charcuterie is in vogue. Butchery and candy making can bring you to your desired position. If you’ve managed a garden, your skill can get you to a restaurant with a garden. So can high volume skills and technical abilities, so you should put these where a potential employer will see and appreciate them. Just don’t write a catalogue of absolutely everything you can do. Too much information sabotages the good stuff.

Day to day activities like “kitchen management” “and menu writing” don’t belong in a skills. Instead you want to connect them to the places where you practiced them. Your skills list is a separate mention of a few things that set you apart. The standard locations for this are the bullet section at the top of the resume or at the end. I frankly prefer the end, but that’s a taste question rather than an effectiveness issue.

There is, as with everything, an art to doing this: Be selective. Present only your most important or relevant skills. Keep the list down to six bullets, preferably fewer, and adjust them to the job for which you are applying.

I just received this skill list from a chef who has been both chef and sous chef.

Special Skills:

  • Hiring and Training
  • Kitchen Management
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Advanced Cooking Techniques
  • Budget Management
  • Meat Fabrication
  • Advanced Knife Skills
  • Menu Development
  • Safety, Cleanliness, and Sanitation
  • Inventory Control and Management

I usually don’t read long lists – few people do. I did read this and thought ” Yada yada”. The resume goes on the also ran pile.

Here’s what’s wrong. First, Hiring and Training, Kitchen Management, etc are what a chef does. Second, he seems to feel that advanced knife skills and cleanliness are something unique. That’s scary. Why list these as distinct skills? They should be a given and the chef should know that. Food safety is too common to arouse interest, but HAACP or risk management is special, and that, in turn, would make him stand out.

Instead of the vanilla and expected chef abilities, this chef might have thought to list his particular familiarities with specific software or high volume familiarity.

He has one unique point, though: “Meat Fabrication” – He probably means  butchery and charcuterie or salumi production – is a distinct skill not shared by all chefs and in great demand.   

His real list might read something like.

Specific Skills and Qualities:

  • Butchery
  • Charcuterie production
  • Extensive experience in management of on call staffs up to 200
  • HAACP certification and risk management.

If he only has one specialty, he might simply mention it in a short career summary.

He should, of course, also mention these skills in connection with the positions where he practiced them, since that part of the resume is usually read before the introduction or the lists.

Depending on the position he applies for, he may highlight other skills or leave some out. The point here is “highlight”, keep it short enough to get the attention of the employer. Don’t overload..more is not more, but the basis of the “yada yada” response.

It is better to show just one special skill than a load of generic abilities in a list nobody reads. The concept is “highlight”, not overload.

A final word: If you haven’t developed specialized skills, you don’t need to list them. Most positions are interested in your general abilities to create product in an organized way, the level of the locations where you have worked and your stability record. Unless you really have something worth saying, the less clutter you put on your resume, the better.