7 skills every professional IT resume needs

Communication. Political savvy. Emotional intelligence. Here’s how to show these skills and 4 other must-haves in your IT resume.

When it comes to creating an effective IT resume today, forget about tasks: Think accomplishments and so-called soft skills. As organizations look for candidates to help lead their transformational efforts, with life-or-death consequences for the business, they’re looking for not only knowledge of technologies themselves, but also the suite of personal and professional skills required to translate that technology into positive business outcomes.

Can you handle difficult conversations? Deal with confrontation?

“Things that were nice to have in the past have now become absolutely essential for CIOs,” Suzanne Adams, research vice president on Gartner’s Leadership, Culture and People team said during a recent podcast. “Developing advanced communication skills, being able to handle those difficult conversations both on the business side and within IT, learning how to deal with confrontation, and learning how to navigate the politics of an organization.”

Even if you’re on an aspirational path to becoming a CIO, these skills matter.

You may find such capabilities difficult to illustrate in a bulleted list, but there are ways to ensure these key competencies are part of the CV narrative.

“Within your employment history, highlight three or four key accomplishments,” says Jim Johnson, senior vice president for Robert Half Technology. “Highlight your soft skills within the information about accomplishments. Talk about your leadership ability and [show] that you’re a good communicator, whether leading a team through a project or your ability to vet and coordinate with vendors. Bring these items to the forefront of your resume.”

If you’re beginning the hunt for your next IT or IT leadership role, make sure to highlight these skills:

  1. Outstanding communication skills This may seem like a no-brainer, but top-notch communication skills – involving a variety of media – have never been more important for IT leadership roles. “Effective leaders know how to gauge the situation they’re in and determine what and how they need to communicate. They master their presentation style, their email, their negotiation skills, and even their water-cooler conversation because they realize that communication is a part of their brand and [it] sends a message about their ability,” says David Foote, co-founder and CEO of Foote Partners.

Just as importantly, these leaders see communication as a two-way street and excel at listening. Wherever possible, IT leaders and aspirants should highlight their communication talents: their ability to talk tech with peers and also serve as skilled translators to non-tech audiences, to intelligently articulate a strategy, and to negotiate, persuade, or resolve conflict.

  1. Political savvy “This is particularly valuable when the leader is faced with the task of transforming the IT function to help the business compete more effectively in an increasingly tech-dominated market,” says Kanak Rajan, partner in Mercer’s human capital practice. “Large-scale transformation is a potential minefield.”

Rajan shared some ways that IT leaders can highlight their ability to build and leverage political capital: Show how you secured investment in systems and technology that wasn’t a lock to have an immediate or apparent impact on profits. Explain how you were able to retire legacy systems, or how you earned a seat at the business strategy table.

  1. Relationship-building and collaboration Demonstrate these skills with not only internal stakeholders, but also customers, suppliers, and partners.

Gone forever are the days of the cloistered IT organizations. “Outstanding tech leaders are highly social business executives and are measured by their ability to create a culture of connectivity, productivity, and seamless collaboration,” says Foote.

This is both a skill and a mindset, but it is still possible to demonstrate on a CV by explaining relationship building and collaboration – with not only internal stakeholders, but also customers, suppliers, and partners.

  1. Emotional intelligence “CIOs need to be more emotionally intelligent,” said Bruce Robertson, research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner’s CIO Research group, in a recent podcast. Emotional intelligence accounts for the vast majority of the difference between good and great leaders, adds Foote, who estimates that it’s twice as important as IQ.

One way to highlight that on a resume is to talk about efforts to create a more inclusive IT environment. “CIOs must acknowledge and yet harness the diversity that is in their workforce that they control and also around the enterprise,” Robertson said. “That means they need to understand the visible kinds of diversity, like gender and age, and also some of the less visible ones, like cognitive diversity.”

Empathy is another valuable aspect of EQ to point to when job seeking. Leaders can display their empathy by highlighting how they used it to get buy-in, or created messages and strategies in ways that enabled others to believe in them.

  1. Transformational leadership Beyond change management, the skill to highlight is change leadership.Note efforts to create change in operating and business processes, the creation of continuous improvement organizations, and the ability to execute on a vision through challenges.

IT leaders can also make it clear how they have fostered a growth mindset in their organizations or the enterprise, or otherwise engaged and inspired others to get on board with transformation efforts.

  1. Business and financial acumen “A great IT leader is one who knows how to turn a cost center into a successful profit center or subsidiary business.”

The most sought-after IT pros and leaders are able not simply to stay on top of the latest technology trends and digital development, but to “translate those into business impact or advantages for the enterprise,” Adams said. As the mentality has shifted from leading IT projects to leading business products, understanding a company’s financial and business strategy has become table stakes for IT leaders – and is important to note on a resume.

“A great IT leader is one who knows how to turn a cost center into a successful profit center or subsidiary business,” says Foote. “This requires in-depth knowledge of the industry served and the company’s business strategy, the competitive landscape, and a foundation in the principles of accounting, finance, supply chain management, marketing, sales, and distribution channels.”

  1. Delegation and empowerment

IT leadership roles have expanded so dramatically that no one individual can possibly know everything required to succeed. That’s why one of the more important competencies to highlight is the ability to create a highly competent team – as well as the willingness to let them do what they do best.

By Stephanie Overby, first published on October 9, 2018