Highlighting Problem-Solving Skills on a Resume or Cover Letter

 

You hear it all the time, how highlighting problem-solving skills on a resume or cover letter is more important than throwing together a shopping list of the tasks you performed at your previous job(s). But you may be wondering which way is best when it comes to highlighting these problem-solving skills.

Examples of Problem-Solving Skills

First and foremost, in order to be able to highlight problem-solving skills on your resume or cover letter, you have to be able to identify them. In fact, you may have more problem-solving skills than you give yourself credit for. Here are some examples of some of the more common problem-solving skills that candidates tend to list in their resumes and cover letters:

  • Research Skills – In order to fix a problem, you have to be able to understand it. And sometimes understanding a problem requires you to go deeper, to research and discover its root cause, before you can figure out how to fix it.
  • Communication Skills – Communication is important at every level, from informing others that a problem exists in the first place to brainstorming ways to resolve it.
  • Analytical Skills – Sharpened analytical skills can help you discover and understand a problem, as well as come up with ways to research and, ultimately, solve the problem.
  • Dependability – It may not seem like a problem-solving skill, but dependability is crucial in that employers can depend on you to solve problems in a timely fashion. This is an invaluable skill in that it can save your employer time, money, and other finite resources.

Customization is Key

It’s a lot of work, yes, but it’s important. You should tailor your resume and cover letter to each individual job you apply to. In other words, you should consider the job you’re applying to, and compare the skills they’re asking for with the skills highlighted on your resume and cover letter. Do they match?

If there are skills that you have and that the job requires, but you have not listed them on your resume, then now’s the time to do so. You want to show the company that you are the best candidate for the job because you have performed and accomplished everything they’re looking for in an employee. If this causes your resume to be longer than it should be, then you should weigh which skills you could do without in favor of highlighting the more important ones.

Be Short and Sweet

In most situations, hiring managers don’t have the time, nor the desire, to sit and read a lengthy cover letter. If you ramble on for too long, you practically guarantee your application will end up in the “outbox” (garbage can). You want to strike that delicate balance between telling the hiring manager enough about yourself to strike up interest, and keeping your cover letter short and sweet so as not to drone on and lose the person.

The best way to sum up your problem-solving skills in a cover letter is to, in one paragraph:

  • Briefly explain a work problem that either happened or could have happened, and whether it was resolved.
  • Elaborate, briefly, on your role in the situation and what you did to solve the problem.
  • Describe the positive result of your actions, and whether there were any positive, long-term effects.

You should be able to cover all these points in one paragraph. You should be able to flesh out the first bullet point in one or two sentences, and the remainder in a sentence each.

Cater to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

In today’s world, the odds of an actual human being reading your job application are less than they were ten years ago. This is largely due to the introduction of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which scan a candidate’s application, looking for certain keywords. If those keywords aren’t there, then the system rejects the application.

Therefore, the best way to ensure that your application receives a phone call back is to try as best you can to match the problem-solving skills in your resume and cover letter to the exact qualifications listed within the job posting. The more your skills match what the company is looking for, the more likely you are to receive a phone call for an interview, rather than a bot-issued rejection.

If, for example, you’re looking for a secretarial job, you may see “time management” listed among a job posting’s required skills. You should therefore include the keyword “time management” in your resume and briefly describe your experience with that skill.