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While working on the skill list in my resume I realized I haven't used some of the specific tools or languages in many years. I still know them and I could get back up to speed quickly, but I don't want to pass myself off as an expert either.

For example, the C programming language. It was the first language I learned to program in, but I have hardly used it since I got out of school over 10 years ago. I could get back into it quickly if needed, but if an interviewer asked me a specific question I could look like I don't know what I'm talking about.

Is there a positive way to say that "I was good at this, but now I'm rusty"?

  • 5
    Most resumes I've seen have listed skills as part of the jobs so that employers can see that you've not used C in 8 years. Most times, just saying "I'm rusty" is fine. Technical interviewers can easily sympathize with old rusty skills lost over time doing things like interviewing people. – Telastyn Jun 21 '13 at 20:48
  • I like that. It makes a lot more sense for technical skills to be grouped by job too instead of in one big block together. – David Hogue Jun 21 '13 at 22:06
  • You can mention in the resume that you are "familiar" with the technologies – Santhosh Pai Jun 22 '13 at 10:59
7

My resume could say things like this:

Z80 Assembler (1970s), Databus (1980s), QuickBasic (1980s), Borland Turbo C (1980s), FoxPro (1990s), Visual Basic 6 (1990s), LabView (1990s).

Within the last few years I've been asked to migrate a number of 'legacy' applications, including one written in Microsoft PDS (Professional Development System) AKA QuickBasic. Strictly speaking, all I had to migrate was the data files, I never did anything with the code. Having a background in 'old' programming languages first shows you've been around for awhile, and second you might have a running start on maintaining or upgrading some creaky rust bucket.

3

There are two basic reasons why you might have a separate "Skills" section of your resume. One is to provide a bunch of keywords for HR systems to be able to find your resume if the term in question doesn't appear elsewhere in your resume. This is particularly true where there are tons of acronyms that have changed over time and you can't be sure what someone is likely to search on (i.e. Java vs. J2EE vs JEE vs. Java EE). The other is to list specific skills and technologies that you want to emphasize to a human reading your resume. Languages you haven't touched in a decade are unlikely to satisfy either criteria.

If you are trying to get HR systems to match the skill list on your resume, listing languages you're not proficient in is unlikely to be helpful. It's much more likely that you'd end up popping up for jobs that you're not likely to be a good fit for (someone looking for a C developer is probably not going to have too much difficulty finding someone with much more recent experience). And it increases the odds that someone decides to quiz you about things you've long forgotten in an interview.

If you are trying to emphasize technologies to a human reader, you want to be very selective and only list those you're really comfortable with. If I'm reading a resume and I see a skills section that lists dozens of different technologies, I'll generally just skip the section entirely on the assumption that it's just a keyword dump for the search engines.

It makes perfect sense, on the other hand, to list the technologies that you worked with in the descriptions of your prior jobs. That allows you to put the experience in context both in terms of what you accomplished and in terms of when and allows interviewers to naturally infer that you're probably a bit rusty if they don't see any more recent mentions. And it solves the problem of people who list technologies on their resume because they happened to make a change to a script written in that language once at a job 5 years ago

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My approach is that if an employer picked you based on a skill and you could do it reasonably well, or could pick it up quickly, then list it. Otherwise, don't.

The rationale for this, I feel, is its not unreasonable to list all of the things you've attempted and have had to let slide for whatever reason. You might have learned 10 programming languages, but that's more than someone could hold in their head and be proficient in at any point in time. However, its unfair not to be able to list some or all of those, especially since refreshing or picking up a new programming language is generally an exercise in learning some new syntax.

For example, I learned Java at university, I hate it, where possible I never code in it (haven't since I left university), but I list it because I could pick it up quite easily.

In contrast I had to get a CCNA for an old job (programmer supporting network engineers), I've let it expire and couldn't manage much more than my home network at this stage. I don't list that because if I was picked based on that implied skill or qualification, I wouldn't be as effective and it would look quite negative for me.

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Just list your skills in order of familiarity. If people ask you can say that is the ordering. You never know when one of those older skills will get you an important interview. Don't feel like you have to be an up-to-date expert on everything you list on your resume.

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I just had the same problem. I have skills that I haven't used in a while like laserjet and tig welding. I had originally put a list as 'Secondary Skills', but just switched it to a continuation of my skills section with 'Also Familiar With'. I think it gives them the idea that that you know it but are not profound in it

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