Two years ago, when LinkedIn introduced their “one-click endorsement” feature, I initially didn’t think much of it. Then people began endorsing me for Microsoft Office.
As more and more of my connections happily (and mindlessly) clicked, that “skill” ascended my list. I do not remember entering “Microsoft Office” as a skill on my profile, but I soon learned that you don’t get to dictate or choose every skill your connections endorse you for.
It was (okay, is) the scourge on my profile. To me, being endorsed for Microsoft Word is as embarrassing as a carpenter being endorsed for hammer skills. It should go without saying, especially for millennials who absorbed the “skill” in childhood like Vitamin D from sunshine. Besides making me look generic, the endorsement is irksome because of the assumption that Microsoft Office,
particularly Microsoft Word, is the only technical skill writers possess (or need to possess). While it’s true that I spend many of my waking hours within the margins of a Word document – I’m typing this in Word right now – writers and bloggers must know online content management systems like WordPress, languages like HTML, techniques like SEO, and programs like Photoshop in order to format, schedule, tag, categorize, promote, and beautify their posts.
But I’m not a recruiter, and I don’t read resumes every day, so I asked two professionals – Kristie Bonnell, a staffing consultant at Express Employment Professionals, and Jason Kolles, a corporate recruiter for ShopHQ – to talk about their attitude toward these omnipresent skills. Do they automatically assume the candidates are desperately under-skilled? Would they walk away from such a candidate, or do they think no skill is too small to list?
“If we are talking about LinkedIn, no, I would not walk away,” says Kolles. “You can't necessarily choose who endorses you for what.”
Bonnell is judicious about it, too. “I would dismiss those words automatically, but not the candidate,” she says, though she does admit harboring a bias toward candidates who bring four-page resumes. She calls them career resume writers. “When you have a lot of filler words, I assume you have too much time on your hands,” she explains.
Fluff can come in a lot of different forms. On LinkedIn, fluff might not be your fault, but on a resume, fluff is less defensible. “I hate seeing the classic IT resume with every single possible language, database, software, etc. known to man,” says Kolles. “We know you likely don’t know all of them really well, haven’t used many of them recently and potentially only put them on your resume as a key word for search results.” Kolles doesn’t like to see project management or public speaking included, or “basically anything very vague or general.”
Though no industry is immune to gratuitous skill-listing, office jobs may be most at risk because their skills overlap with so many other industries. “When they’re applying for a receptionist position and their resume says ‘multi-line phone,’ when they’re starting to list things that are that elementary… I just skim over it,” says Bonnell, who says standout skills should be emphasized. For office jobs, this translates more and more to graphics software.
Like I knew he would, Kolles cautions clerical candidates against emphasizing Microsoft Office, Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint. “Those are all a given for most ‘office jobs,’” he says. However, he’s learned that advanced Excel is the one skill that can never be assumed. In fact, if you can do macros and pivot tables (and consider yourself an 8 out of 10), he prefers that you list it.
For cashier positions, it’s pretty obvious which generic skills don’t belong on a resume: cash handling, balancing a drawer, generating a daily balance report. Bonnell doesn’t care to see those. If applying for a warehouse position, shipping and receiving and forklift skills don’t need to be highlighted in a separate skills section, since the work experience will already speak for itself.
Other words Kolles pays zero attention to are “subjective skills” like dedication, responsibility, thoughtfulness, etc.
What all of these skills amount to is, simply, clutter. Kolles calls it “dilution.” Obviously, no recruiter is going to be typing in “Microsoft Word” as a search term. But they aren’t going to walk away, either.
Staffing Talk readers: what are some other skills you can’t stand to see listed because they’re nauseatingly commonplace? What do you think of candidates who include them? Do you give them a break, like Kolles and Bonnell? Do you gently coach them? Or do you throw them in the “no” pile?