Human resource practitioners have met an array of challenges during the pandemic. That makes now an ideal time for industry professionals to update their resumes.
“The pandemic turned the world of work on its head, requiring HR professionals to develop strategies, programs and procedures to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly evolving workforce,” says Alyssa Gelbard, founder and CEO of Point Road Group, a New York City-based career consulting firm. “This resulted in development of new skill sets to effectively manage, recruit and onboard distributed teams; keep employees safe; drive remote engagement; and support new ways of operating. These skills should be reflected on their resumes.”
Kim Isaacs, a professional resume writer and career strategist based in Philadelphia, agrees that savvy HR professionals can leverage their new skills to improve their employability. “The pandemic has contributed to a major transformation in the global workforce, from a dramatic increase in remote working to a focus on employee and customer safety,” she says. “While some industries have been impacted more than others, it’s prudent for HR professionals to revisit their resumes and ensure they convey an understanding of pandemic response initiatives, programs and best practices.”
Take these steps to give your resume a pandemic makeover.
Showcase the Right Skills
A great resume highlights the HR skills that are at the top of employers’ wish lists, but what companies value has changed as a result of the pandemic.
While priorities may vary by organization, experts say many employers will be seeking HR professionals with proficiencies in these areas:
- Crisis management. “The pandemic has showcased the need for agility and crisis management amid a sudden and sweeping shutdown of onsite operations,” says executive resume writer Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, who owns a Dallas-based coaching firm. “Human resource [practitioners], at the helm, needed to be quick and clearheaded, with an ability to source and deploy the right tools for employees and their managers to be successful in a home-office environment.” She believes crisis management skills will play a key role in the post-pandemic workplace. “Whether [dealing with] another health care emergency, a natural disaster or other severe challenge, employers want to know their HR team is equipped and armored to face the battle,” she says.
- Process building. When offices shut down and employees began working remotely, companies had to develop new systems for managing those workers, and that task often fell to HR. Furthermore, Barrett-Poindexter says, many companies will opt to maintain a virtual workforce post-pandemic, while others will resume operations using a hybrid scenario where employees split their time between home and brick-and-mortar offices. “Either way, processes for how employees function and interact continually are in flux, and employers [will] look for a strong skill in process construction,” she says.
- Digital collaboration. Louise Kursmark, an executive resume writer and co-author of Modernize Your Resume (Emerald Career Publishing, 2016), says employers are now looking for HR practitioners who possess expertise in running large-scale Zoom meetings, creating virtual training programs and coordinating events that build employee engagement with staff who work remotely.
- Wellness program management. “The pandemic has increased the focus on health and wellness, so familiarity with wellness tools, programs, plans and resources will also be desirable,” Isaacs says.
- Employee retention. “The numbers say people have been cautious about changing jobs during the pandemic,” says Donna Svei, an executive resume writer in Los Angeles. (According to a survey by global talent and outsourcing company Yoh, nearly 8 in 10 employed Americans said they would not consider a job change during the COVID-19 outbreak.) “If you’ve been involved in designing and implementing voice-of-the-employee systems, forecasting turnover, or developing retention programs, those activities will stand out on your resume,” Svei says.
- Diversity, equity and inclusion. The racial injustices that took place in 2020 brought attention to social injustice and discrimination issues at work. Consequently, employers are looking for HR practitioners who can develop, lead and implement diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, Kursmark says.
Explain Who You Are
Your resume’s “Summary” section, Kursmark says, should provide a concise snapshot of who you are, list your core skills and highlight the results you’ve delivered to past employers.
To account for the pandemic, Barrett-Poindexter says, a resume summary should explain how your efforts during the past year helped your company “not only survive but thrive during this economic and health care crisis. You may also want to use the summary to showcase one specific initiative you spearheaded and brought to the finish line during the pandemic.”
Isaacs’ advice: “As the pandemic required many HR professionals to work independently, the summary could also reflect that you’re a self-starter, proactively initiating, planning and executing HR initiatives.”
Tout How You Overcame Work Challenges
In the “Professional Experience” section of your resume, you’ll want to focus on your achievements during the pandemic. “I recommend a storytelling approach to accomplishments on a resume, outlining the challenges faced; the solutions implemented; and the results or benefits to the employer, staff, customers and other stakeholders,” Isaacs says.
For example, a benefits manager who implemented virtual benefits fairs during the pandemic might write, “Following shutdown of West Coast operations due to COVID-19, won buy-in for developing, building and hosting virtual benefits fair attended by 92 percent of the workforce. The transition to virtual fairs is expected to save $25,000 annually while providing employees with feature-rich benefits tools.”
Know Your Keywords
Because many employers use applicant tracking systems to screen resumes by searching for certain keywords, your resume must include terms that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, says Jane Horowitz, Chicago-based founder and principal of More Than a Resume, a career coaching service for college students.
In addition to scrutinizing the job posting for relevant keywords to include in your resume, Gelbard suggests, consider incorporating the following pandemic-related terms: virtual teams, remote teams, crisis management, crisis response, virtual hiring/onboarding, employee safety and risk management.
One silver lining of the pandemic is that you’ve expanded your abilities while helping your company navigate these unprecedented times, which makes you a more valuable professional whether you’re searching for a new job or not.
Daniel Bortz is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.
6 Resume Do’s and Don’ts
The pandemic may require you to make substantial changes to your resume, but some resume rules never change. Here are six do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
- Do keep your resume to one page. Spoiler alert: Hiring managers and recruiters have short attention spans—really short. In fact, one 2018 study by Ladders Inc. found that recruiters spend an average of just 7.4 seconds on an initial screening of a job candidate’s resume. So stick to a one-page resume that packs a punch rather than a two- or three-page resume.
- Don’t use Times New Roman. Want your resume to stand out visually when you’re competing against dozens of other job applicants? Use the Calibri or Verdana font to give it a modern look. And don’t use more than one font—multiple typefaces can be distracting.
- Do highlight accomplishments instead of duties. Your resume’s “Professional Experience” section should focus on your career accomplishments rather than your job duties.
- Do quantify your achievements. Hiring managers latch on to hard numbers when reviewing resumes, so use metrics to describe your results. For example, instead of writing that you “helped employees work remotely during the pandemic,” write that you “supervised 10 remote employees during the pandemic.”
- Do proofread your resume for spelling and grammatical errors. More than half (55 percent) of hiring managers surveyed by staffing firm Addison Group ranked typos as their biggest resume turnoff. That echoes the results of a CareerBuilder poll that found 77 percent of hiring managers said typos or bad grammar are instant deal breakers.
- Don’t use the same resume for every job application. In the Addison Group survey, 90 percent of hiring managers said they’ve noticed when a resume isn’t tailored to the job they’re hiring for. —D.B.