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One of my strengths at work lately has been quickly getting up-to-speed on technologies, techniques, tools, or skills that I've never encountered before.

I've been able to adapt because I know how to use search engines and sites like StackOverflow effectively. I can break down my problems into small, digestible chunks that make it easy to search for answers (even if that answer is not directly related to my actual issues), and I can filter out signal from noise pretty well when furiously Googling my problems. I research my problems and think about the small pieces before asking questions, and I can find the proper venue to ask questions (whether it's SO, vendor forums, etc). In short, I think I'm effective at asking the right questions, the right way, and I'm a fast learner because of it.

I think this is a valuable yet basic skill, but I see quite a few people at work that can't do this. Is this a marketable skill, and if so how should it be listed on the resume/cover letter?

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    I think the term is just "fast learner". I doubt anyone is going to take you serious if you try to put "good at google" on your resume. – Erik Nov 20 '16 at 22:36
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    @Erik that's kind of my point. "Fast learner" seems like such a stereotypical thing to put on a resume, kind of like "good communicator" or "detail-oriented": buzzwords that don't really say anything about your actual skills. – Dang Khoa Nov 20 '16 at 22:45
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    You're adaptable and flexible, you don't get easily frustrated, and you grasp new concepts and assignments quickly without needing hand-holding. But it's easier to explain the no-hand-holding thing in person rather than on paper. – John Feltz Nov 20 '16 at 22:55
  • @DangKhoa I'd suggest shortening the title and rephrasing it to something like "fast learner" and I'd also recommend shortening the body of the post or at least identifying the core questions/phrases in bold. – Lilienthal Nov 21 '16 at 0:32
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    How about 'Broad experience in several fields, with the ability to upskill rapidly due to a solid grounding.'? – Kilisi Nov 21 '16 at 7:30
55

When it comes to listing secondary skills on a resume, the key point to keep in mind is that hiring managers aren't looking for people who have a particular trait, they're looking for employees who can apply those in their work.

  • If you're a natural leader or facilitator, don't tell me that. Instead tell me about the time where that helped you to get three independent teams to work together on a project and deliver an exceptional result.
  • If you're great at Word or Excel, don't name-drop those programs but instead talk about how the forms and spreadsheets that you created allowed you or your team to process invoices X% faster.
  • You may consider yourself driven and goal-oriented, but listing that on a resume is meaningless self-aggrandizement. Instead describe how you consistently delivered projects ahead of time and never missed a core requirement.
  • "Attention to detail" is another big offender. Instead give me hard numbers: X% more time sheets processed which were 98%+ correct, reduced number of shipments with missing items by Y%, ...

So now about your specific skill, which Erik correctly summed up as being a "fast learner". You've correctly identified that this, and some of the previous stuff I mentioned, has no value on a resume by itself. So the point is to focus on how that makes you a better employee. How you word this will depend on the kind of work you've done and the type of job that you're applying for, but in general you'd say things like:

  • Reduced issue backlog by X% within Y weeks of starting the job
    • indicating that you're good at understanding a new system/environment and at picking up new tasks
  • Go-to person for keeping track of new developments in X, Y and Z and determining the possible value for the business
    • having a mentor / domain expert role, even in just a minor capacity, is a good quality even if it's unrelated to the job
  • Self-taught technology X to create Y in project Z
    • self-development is by itself already an attractive quality as it shows interest in your work/field and that's especially true when you can use what you've learned to improve your work

If you're a fan of buzzwords, this is where you'd drop the phrase "hit the ground running".

4

In a recommendation letter by a third party. Putting self evaluated traits (fast learner, honest, pretty, smells good) directly on the CV is of little value and merely shows inexperience with writing CVs.

0

Never write "fast learner" on a resume - you'll be ignored if you're lucky and laughed at if you're not. You won't be paid for learning fast but for doing things for your employer. Employers want to know what you can do for them. They couldn't care less about any mention of yours that you are a fast learner. At the end of the day, as far as your prospective employer is concerned, It's all about what you know and what you can do for them that matters to them and you have to make THAT clear in both your resume and your cover letter.

  • Could not disagree more. Especially in tech, you have to prove that you can learn new stuff, because everything changes all the time, the current knowledge is not what you need to know 5 years from now, learning and adapting is an important skill. – Or Duan May 23 at 9:09

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