Top 8 Skills Employers Look For In Job Candidates (With Examples)

By Sky Ariella - Jun. 8, 2021
Skills Based Articles

Find a Job You Really Want In

There’s a lot of juggling that job candidates need to do to impress a potential employer. The application process is competitive and standing out from the crowd can be difficult, especially in the digital age. It can initially seem impossible to pack all your personality, work ethic, and background into a one-page resume.

That’s where a strong skill-set comes in. Showing that you have the key skills that hiring teams are looking for can greatly improve your resume’s chances of being remembered. An applicant with a memorable resume is one who’s going to be called in for an interview.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

An effective resume utilizes the applicant’s relevant abilities. These traits are broken up into hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills are technical, measurable expertise that is acquired through school or professional training. These are things that will usually be specific to your field or niches within it. Particular hard skills may be a requirement for certain positions.

In-demand hard skills include:

  • EX design

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Translation

  • JavaScript

  • QuickBooks

  • Data and metrics interpreting

  • Social media marketing

  • Troubleshooting

In contrast, soft skills are personality qualities and desirable traits that are displayed through your work habits, as opposed to being defined by a degree or certification. These are often immeasurable and subjective skills that ultimately make you a much employee. Some soft skills may be naturally ingrained in your personality, while others take some work to perfect.

Desirable soft skills include:

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Critical thinking

  • Communication

  • Adaptability

  • Creativity

  • Trainability

  • Time-management

  • Organization

  • Optimism

  • Problem-solving

Your resume should include a healthy balance of hard skills and soft skills. A candidate without any hard skills comes off as inexperienced. A resume that neglects to list any soft skills feels incomplete. Do some introspection and decide which qualities in both categories most accurately describe your employable skills.

Top Skills Employers Look For

The job market is constantly changing, and the skills employers need will change with it. The most marketable skills you can include on your resume that are most likely to get your application noticed include:

  1. Analytical skills. Analytical skills involve your ability to process and use information logically to secure an ideal outcome. This can be something as basic as analyzing the problem of being out of printer paper, researching where to get more, and following through with the task.

    While this is a very basic example, employers look for this type of critical thinking while hiring. They want to know you can use your analytical skills to handle larger, and more imperative, situations most productively. It’s difficult to find a position where analysis skills won’t come into play at some point.

    Unless you’re applying for a position as an analyst of any kind, analytical hard skills probably won’t be required. Other professional roles may request soft analytical skills and other kinds of hard skills. No matter what kind of position you’re applying for, listing relevant analytical skills will make you a more outstanding applicant and likely attract a hiring manager’s attention.

    Examples of analytical skills include:

  2. Communication skills. A workplace with strong communication skills will be more productive. Employers know this, and that’s why they look for these skills in potential hires. Listing your abilities to effectively communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, with coworkers and supervisors will make your resume more competitive.

    Strong communication is a collection of many good habits that make for more effective professional interactions. Highlighting the specific skills that make you an effective communicator will give a potential job better insight into what they should expect from you.

    Examples of communication skills include:

    • Active listening

    • Strong eye contact

    • Being aware of body language

    • Clarity

    • Considering tone via amail

    • Self confidence

    • Solid rapport

    • Empathy

    • Compromise and coordination

    • Follow-up

  3. Interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills refer to how well you interact with the people around you. This particular skill set is crucial to landing your next job.

    People don’t want to work with someone that they don’t like. If a hiring manager can’t get to know your sociable side, they’ll often pass on you for the next candidate. Many soft skills you’ll use in the workplace rely on strong interpersonal skills.

    A large reason for the interview process is to assess a candidate’s people skills in real-time. Many applicants get a job over other applicants because of how well they display these skills in an interview. When considering how often most positions require interaction with others, it’s clear to see why it’s such a vital quality to employers.

    Examples of interpersonal skills include:

    • Effective communication

    • Conflict management

    • Compassion

    • Team-building

    • Sensitivity

    • Cooperation

    • Networking abilities

    • Encouragement

    • Being able to give and receive constructive feedback

    • Positivity

    • Listening

  4. Leadership skills. Even if you’re not applying for a supervisor role right now, employers seek applicants with leadership skills and potential for growth at any level.

    A lot of the soft skills associated with being a successful leader can be seen while an associate is still working their way up the ladder. This is why companies will more often than not promote an already established employee into leadership roles. Be ahead of the curve and make note of your leadership abilities or potential early on.

    Leadership abilities include:

    • Clear and respectful communication

    • Active listening

    • Openness to feedback

    • Innovation

    • Persuasiveness

    • Providing resources

    • Setting Expectations

    • Conflict resolution

    • Helpfulness

    • Accountability

    • Reliability

  5. Positive attitude. You can be a good employee without a positive attitude, but you’ll never be the one people enjoy working with. Work can be stressful for everyone, but having a team full of complaints and negativity only makes the day much longer.

    Optimism is useful in the workplace for more than just creating a more enjoyable environment. Being the type of person who gets the work done, despite any challenges, with a smile on their face improves productivity. Positivity allows you to adapt in the face of change without losing your cool and can even motivate others to do the same.

    Examples of a positive attitude in the workplace include:

    • Utilizing constructive criticism instead of complaints

    • Motivation

    • Making the most of resources

    • Persistence

    • Prioritization

    • Overcoming issues with critical thinking

    • Stress management

  6. Teamwork skills. When you’re applying for a new job, you’re asking to become a part of their team. Adding to an existing team comes with the difficulty of choosing an applicant who will contribute effectively without disrupting the established organization. A team that doesn’t work well together won’t produce good work.

    That’s why companies need to hire people who already have teamwork skills. Listing specific examples of times you displayed strong teamwork skills can make your resume even more compelling. It shows that you can be a reliable member of their work team, and you have examples to back it up.

    Examples of teamwork skills include:

    • Collaboration

    • Setting and reaching established goals

    • Cooperation

    • Organization

    • Conflict resolution

    • Managing tasks

    • Flexibility

    • Emotional intelligence

    • Negotiating

    • Asking questions

    • Receiving feedback constructively

    • Commitment to the project

    • Trust

  7. Technical skills. Technical skills are the parts of your job that require knowledge to perform specific tasks correctly. These are hard skills because they require some type of training or degree. Technical skills require a level of expertise in your field.

    This is major to employers because they need to hire people who have background knowledge in industry-specific systems and don’t require training in these areas.

    Examples of technical skills include:

    • Programming languages (Java, Python, Etc.)

    • Point of Sale (POS) software

    • Adobe Photoshop

    • Blockchain

    • Data mining

    • HTML

    • Microsoft Excel, Office, and Powerpoint

    • Content Management Systems (CMS)

    • Web analytics

    The good thing about technical, hard skills is that, by definition, they’re learnable. Even if it may seem like an enormous feat to learn something like a programming language or software, it’s an attainable skill with given effort and there are many internet resources to get started. Gaining expertise in a relevant technical skill can be well worth the energy.

  8. Transferable skills. At some point in your career, you may feel stagnant in your job and need a change. Shifting from one field to another in your life is common and can be a very successful endeavor. However, applying for positions in a new field can be intimidating.

    Your resume could feel like it’s missing something without having as much experience. That’s why transferable skills can be very helpful during a career change.

    Transferable skills are usually soft skills that can be effective across different work environments and industries. You’ve probably learned lots of valuable, transferable skills in your years of work that can help you get your foot in the door of a new job.

    Examples of transferable skills include:

    • Dependability

    • Leadership responsibilities

    • Computer experience

    • Problem-solving

    • Organization

    • Punctuality

    • Confidence

    • Research background

    • Strong communication

    • Creativity

More Important Skills Employers Look For

There are many unique skills you can add to your resume to increase your chances of being hired. In addition to the skills listed above, consider including some of the following if it’s reflective of your work style or abilities.

How to Showcase Your Skills

When you’re applying for jobs, there are three main ways to highlight your skills to hiring managers:

  1. On your resume. Once you’ve done enough research to know where your strengths are, add relevant skills to your resume as soon as possible. Skills should be written in list format on your resume. Your skills should be listed clearly and concisely. It’s always good to give little details when applicable.

    There’s no need to explain the specifics of your former job in this section. That information will be available in the work experience section of your resume, and you can go into more detail during an interview. Try to incorporate about six solid abilities in total, with a healthy mix of hard and soft skills.

    Example resume skills section:

    Key Skills

    • SEO

    • Editing

    • Proofreading

    • Team Management – Supervised a team of six writers for an online magazine

    • Flexibility

    • Organization

  2. In your cover letter. While your resume should be at least partially tailored to the specific job description, your cover letter needs to be perfectly suited for the opportunity. Read the job description carefully and highlight the hard skills in one color and the soft skills in another.

    Then, determine if any of those skills are particularly important based on how they’re emphasized. Your cover letter should have one or two stories about your significant professional accomplishments. Each of those accomplishments should show off one or two major skills you leveraged to achieve that success.

    Your cover letter also gives you a chance to sell your personality and cultural fit, so don’t be afraid to mention off-the-job skills that are relevant to the company’s mission or values. For example, if you organize a volunteer group for a similar cause that the company is dedicated to, mentioning your skills in this context can be incredibly powerful.

  3. During your interview. Finally, your most marketable skills will be put to a true test during a job interview. Interviewers will ask pointed questions about your hard skills to verify that you can speak fluently about topics relevant to the job. The more stories you have that put your skills in context, the better.

    Note that some hiring managers don’t work for the same department you’d be hired for, so they might not be knowledgeable enough to ask truly challenging questions — but at later stages in the interview process, the chances of talking to a bona fide expert increase.

    Your soft skills are also on display during an interview. How confidently you present, how organized and prepared you are, and how pleasant you are to speak with are all part of the decision-making process that hiring managers and recruiters go through.

How to Improve Your Skills

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses. The first step of self-improvement is a frank self-assessment. Most people want to improve skills in areas where they’re weak, but it can be equally valuable to double down on your strengths and go from “proficiency” to “mastery.” Consider the nature of your role and what your career goals are for deciding which strategy is better.

  • Set measurable, actionable goals. Don’t make a New Year’s resolution-type goal of “learning HTML.” Instead, make your goals specific, measurable, and actionable. State something like “I will learn enough HTML to build a working personal website in the next three months.” This holds you more accountable, and you can then break this goal down into smaller, more digestible steps.

  • Find a mentor. One of the best ways to progress in your career is to find a mentor who’s followed a career path you’d like to take one day (or something similar, anyway). This person can give you insider tips and tricks that save you loads of time in improving your skills. Not to mention that they can save you a bunch of wasted time by telling you which skills aren’t all that important to pick up.

  • Take a class. E-learning has never been more prevalent, so it’s a great time to pick up a new skill. There are classes for hard and soft skills, with and without certifications, and with and without direct teacher access. Some are free and some are quite expensive, but the pricier ones usually come with some sort of certification. Whatever option you choose, the act of taking a class will help keep you on track as you develop your skills.

  • Apply what you learn. As you learn, start applying new skills to your day-to-day workload or personal projects. Education is not passive; you need to put your new knowledge to work if you really want it to stick in your memory and become a part of you.

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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