How to Show Leadership on Your Resume (With and Without Experience)



Demonstrate Leadership Experience on Your Resume When You Have None

No matter whether you’re an entry-level or a C-level professional, there are certain traits that all leaders share and hiring managers will scour your resume looking for them.

Leadership experience is most readily evident from managerial roles, but even if you don’t have any leadership experience, there are ways to demonstrate your potential.

Selecting the most powerful words to describe your experience can make a huge impact for a potential employer.

When wanting to add leadership experience to your resume, consider the skills you used in past roles to lead projects or teams. You can also consider things such as volunteer, civic, or social engagements.

If you don’t have leadership experience in this arena, it might be a good idea to take the lead on a volunteer project or offer to chair a committee. If you’re not already a member of a professional organization or civic club, both are great ways to meet new people and contribute to your community while gaining valuable networking opportunities that can lead to leadership experience.

Below we’re going over a few of the top skills hiring managers are looking for and how to demonstrate leadership experience when you don’t have any, and how to show your leadership skills when you do have experience. These skills certainly apply to any leadership role, whether you have the experience or not. How you talk about these skills will be different, depending on your level of experience.

How to show leadership skills on your resume when you don’t have experience

Commitment

Even if you weren’t a manager or leader in any of your past roles, list any projects you spearheaded from conception to completion. Also, be sure to feature your commitment through a career history that reflects steady, long-term employment.

Communication

Being a good communicator is the most important quality of a leader. After all, if you can’t communicate your intentions and expectations to your team, they’ll never be able to achieve their goals. But because communication goes both ways, be sure to demonstrate your ability to listen as well as talk.

“Communication is a two-way street. As a leader it’s not only important to show your ability to communicate to your team verbally, but also your ability to listen and collaborate with them to meet goals and objectives. Leaders have well-rounded communications skills, and you will want to be sure that comes through on your resume,” said Toni Frana, a career coach at FlexJobs.

Competence

The more knowledge you have, the more valuable you’ll be to your team. An understanding of the processes and tools is essential, but make sure that you also know when to delegate the work. Share examples of your competence through leadership and delegation by featuring past experiences in overcoming obstacles on your resume.  

Creativity

Don’t use elaborate fonts or images on your resume. Instead, show your creativity through examples of innovative problem-solving. “Don’t be afraid to be a little creative on your resume. Think outside of the box in terms of how you approach problem-solving and challenges at work. You also may be able to show some leadership skills through any unique community involvement and volunteer work you’ve done,” shared Frana.

If appropriate, you might also include examples of your creative hobbies and interests that are somewhat related to the role, but only if you’ve run out of relevant work history.

Honesty

Demonstrate your honesty by telling the truth about your work experience on your resume. Present yourself in the most positive light but never lie on a resume. Carefully review all details for accuracy before sending your resume off.

Organization

Present a tidy, logical, and well-organized resume that’s easy to scan to show your attention to detail and organization. Doing so will be a visible example of your professionalism and leadership skills.

Teamwork

Show examples on your resume of how you’ve participated in a team environment, both as a leader and supporter. “Be sure to showcase how you collaborate with others both as a leader and a team member. Quantifying how many people you’ve led, the end results of team projects, and any information about you as a participant on a team is beneficial,” said Frana.

If you can obtain a positive quote or two about your teamwork skills from former team members, this will speak volumes about your leadership skills.

Vision

Your ability to see the scope and potential from a single project to a company’s long-term future and potential is a soft skill that’s difficult to demonstrate. However, the language you use in your executive summary and work description can convey your vision. Use meaningful, intentional language to describe your vision not only in the role for which you’re applying, but for the company as a whole.

How to show leadership on your resume when you do have experience

Highlight it in the job titles.

The most obvious examples of leadership experience on a resume will be workplace management positions. Be sure to list your actual title, as well as the number of employees managed, and any major milestones achieved. This will ensure that your resume will pass through the applicant tracking system (ATS), which might be on alert for certain keywords associated with leadership and management skills (more on this below).

Provide proof of accomplishments.

As a general resume rule of thumb, quantifiable accomplishments—those that you can attach a number figure or percentage of improvement to—will take you further than a vague (and unsubstantiated) claim. So include examples of how you led and created team goals, specific metrics related to business objectives, how you provided promotions and advancement opportunities to team members, etc.

“Illustrating concrete examples of how many people you’ve led and how big the scope of a project is in terms of budget, for example, are compelling ways to share with a hiring manager your leadership skills. It helps them see you as a leader in the role—before they even interview you!” added Frana.

Look for leadership experience in other areas.

If your leadership experience is still blossoming, look to any social, civic, or volunteer settings (such as your contributions to your community, or even your work for your child’s PTA). All of this counts as quality leadership experience, especially if you can offer some stats to support your skills. And if you’re not already a member, consider joining a professional organization or civic club. They’re both great ways to meet new people and help out your community, but also great networking opportunities that can lead to valuable leadership experience, too.

Commit to the company.

Employers aren’t looking to hire someone who will only be with the company for a short stint—they want workers who will be in it for the long haul. So show a potential employer that you’re willing to invest in their company for years to come. You can prove to employers that you are a committed leader by sharing your list of projects that you have completed from start to finish, or you can showcase your steady, long-term employment or volunteer history.

Use the right keywords.

Any of the keywords from the section above will work on your resume. But also be sure to scour the job description and add any keywords from it to your resume (if actually applicable to your skills!).

“Knowing what words to use to show leadership should start from carefully reading the job description,” said Frana. “If you can identify words alluding to leadership like: lead, pioneer, direct, that will be a good starting point. Then, be sure to use those words as well as a variety of action verbs throughout your resume so as not to be redundant with the same verbs throughout.”

Perfecting Your Resume

Whether you have specific leadership experience to show on your resume or not, incorporating these skills will improve your resume and show employers that you have what it takes to succeed at the job. If you’re still interested in polishing your resume, FlexJobs can help! We offer personalized resume review services through our team of in-house experts. Check it out today!

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Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com

A version of this article was originally published on February 6, 2018.