Resume Concerns: Areas of Expertise vs Areas of Competency – PART 4 (response updates from HR and recruiting professionals)

Initial questions I proposed on LinkedIn: I write a ton of resumes at MJW Careers and a more recent trend in the past few years is the area of the “Areas of Expertise” section, pun intended.

At MJW Careers, a large portion of our business is outplacement and just this week I was meeting with a client of mine at a medical device manufacturer and here’s how the conversation went when we were critiquing the resume I had developed for him.

Him – “If I don’t have much expertise in BLANK, should I have it under Areas of Expertise?”

Me – “No, but we need the buzzword under one of your job duties then”

Him – “Here’s a funny story on that”a buddy of mine had Areas of Expertise on his resume and a couple of the bullet points he wasn’t extremely versed him, but rather knowledgeable. So a hiring manager asked him to explain one of the lesser known bullets and my buddy fumbled. He lost the manager’s attention because he could tell my buddy was BS’ing his way through the answer. He lost the job too.”

Me: “Yep, let’s take it out.”

Him: “Well maybe we could think of another word for Expertise.”

Me: “Knowledgeable? Eh, I dunno if I like it.”

A few more spitballs back and forth until it hit me.

Me (after a few moments of visualizing into space along with few interjections): “Let’s change it to Areas of Competency”

Him: “Ooh, I like that.”

And so it was born (at least for me): Areas of Competency > Areas of Expertise AND you might be able to squeeze some more of those pesky buzzwords into your resume.

Any thoughts?

Some more answers from some HR pros:

– A summary section is good!

– I completely agree with Amy R. Having 25 years of hiring experience in Fortune 500 companies down to mom and pop organizations, broad based headings don’t provide valuable content. It does matter if the keywords from the job description are in the resume, but more importantly it’s about how they are utilized. Putting a laundry list of words under a heading instead of using them in bullet points with results achieved makes the difference. Employers want to know ‘what’s in it for them’. Without measurable results of past performance tied to the ‘area of competency’, ‘area of expertise’ etc., the document will quickly move to the hiring manager’s delete file.

– I think well done summary statement is by far one of the most important aspects of a resume document .. note that I said WELL DONE. I also think there is something to be said for core competencies, when formatted correctly (not to take up a ton of space, easy to glance over) for the sole purpose of highlighting relevant skills and industry buzzwords for hiring managers. In the not-so-distant past, I was a high volume sourcing expert for retained executive search – there is something to be said for a resume that is easy to read, find the important info, and not stuffed with BS. I guess in the end, it’s my opinion that rather than say any sort of blanket statement such as “core competencies are a waste of space”, it’s best to work with each client and document as an individual. The ultimate goal is to tell their story and sell the skills that are relevant to positions of interest .. there is not one set way to do that.

– My 22 years of experience in this field suggest a different view. Profit contributions, mergers & acquisitions, new territory development…all are statements of expertise and talent that executives have gained through a lot of hard work. If a client has that expertise, with specific accomplishments demonstrating those skills, they should be headlined at the top of the resume, capturing and holding the reader’s attention for a few seconds. The “proof,” the examples of those skills, are readily seen below the executive summary. Grab the reader’s attention. Tell the story. Those are the principles behind good journalism, advertising copywriting and effective resume creation. However, there is no one way to craft a resume. There is no one design that fits every background. If a resume projects the strongest expertise a client has to offer, supported by concrete accomplishments, then it becomes a matter of design. If that design is graphically pleasing to the eye, the principles of design, expertise and accomplishments have all been met. Oh, yes. All of the above assumes every statement on the resume is dead-on accurate and easily discussed by the client. How’s that for stating the obvious? 🙂 I will now start my second pot of coffee. I need it.

– The résumé is a professional self-promoting business document. It requires the successful blending of achievements, copywriting, strategy, and artistry. The résumé should always reflect truthfulness. If your client has expertise in some area, the heading and achievements should demonstrate it. Like us, there should be no two alike.

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