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.
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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.

[TEP_CALLOUT_TEXT_RIGHT: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.”

[ Are you getting the IT salary you deserve? Read our related article, 10 IT salary negotiation do's and don'ts. ] 

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.

[ Read our related article: How to be a better listener: 5 steps. ]

2. 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.

3. Relationship-building and collaboration

[TEP_CALLOUT_TEXT_RIGHT: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.

4. 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.”

[ Trying to build your emotional intelligence? Avoid these 10 mistakes. ]

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.

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.