Resume Trends: Should I Rate My Skills on My Resume?

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A trend I’ve been seeing a lot of lately is including a “rating scale” of your skills on your resume. I’ll be honest – I am NOT a fan of this trend for a few reasons, which I’ll share below.

I’m not sure why this trend caught on, but I believe it has something to do with the perception of visual appeal and the opportunity to “be unique.” But does this actually help your resume to be successful – i.e. get responses from hiring professionals and land you interviews? I don’t think it does – and here’s why.

#1 – By rating yourself lower on some skills, you essentially communicate your lack of skills.

When you list your skills and rate them, it appears the general “rule” with these rating scales is that you can’t rate yourself “5 out of 5” or “100%” on everything. In theory, that would defeat the purpose of the rating scale, right? (Although again, I’m not 100% clear on what the purpose of the scale is, to begin with).

Let’s take a look at what one of these scales looks like, pulled from a resume template online:

In this scale, it appears we have a Marketing Professional whose strongest skillset is Microsoft Office, but who has significantly lower skills in Google & Facebook Ads, as well as SEO.

From the perspective of a hiring professional, I believe they’re likely to draw the conclusion that the candidate in question really isn’t that great at SEO or online advertising. I mean, the candidate is rating themselves and only gives themselves 3 out of 5. That doesn’t look good. A resume is a place to sell yourself – it’s generally assumed that you’re going to promote your skills to the best of your ability. If any of these digital skills – especially advertising or SEO – are listed as requirements for the roles you want, this is not good.

#2 – The rating scales are meaningless to your target audience: a hiring professional.

Remember, you’re not writing this resume for yourself. Although you may like the visual look of the scales, these ratings are essentially meaningless to the person who’s going to eventually read them: a recruiter, human resources professional, or hiring manager.

You’re rating yourself, but what criteria are you using to decide whether you get a 5/5 on Microsoft Office or a 4/5 on Content Marketing? Did you complete a test to determine where your score should be? Is this rating system recognized by anyone else? If not, why would it mean something to a stranger who doesn’t know you?

It might be based on how much experience you feel you have in relation to these skills, but that’s highly subjective. A candidate might feel they have strong skills in Microsoft Excel, for example, and rate themselves as 5 out of 5, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the advanced skills a position like Financial Analyst might require.

Also, hiring professionals tend to be quite skeptical of candidates rating their own skills. This is really just common sense. Many people tend to overestimate their proficiency in a specific area. How can a recruiter know that you’re not overestimating your skillset?

Hint: Hiring professionals would much rather see you demonstrate your skills by describing the results of your efforts in using said skills (your achievements!)

#3 – Visual rating scales aren’t compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

I’ve mentioned this before, but graphics don’t work well with ATS. These software systems are used to scan resumes to determine whether applicants have the skills and qualifications outlined in the job description. Graphics (such as a rating scale), as well as columns, are especially incompatible with ATS. Chances are that this content won’t make it through an ATS or it could end up garbled.

Resume trends that don’t do much to prove your skills and abilities aren’t exactly something hiring professionals want to see. Patience and time are not something most busy recruiters, HR pros, and hiring managers have a lot of, and this type of content could actually annoy them and deter them from reading your resume in full.

In short, keep the focus on demonstrating your skills through describing tangible achievements such as projects you’ve worked on or courses you’ve completed. This is always going to be much more appealing to anyone reading a resume!

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