The Top 8 Skills Employers Are Looking For
Gone are the days when one specialized skill was enough to qualify you for a great job. Late-stage pandemic employers want people who are acquiring new skills all the time.
"Organizations are hiring for 'learnability' more than ever," said professional performance expert Dr. Raman K Attri. "Someone who can learn new skills quickly stands out as a high-potential employee in a rapidly changing career landscape."
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Fifty percent of the job-specific technical skills students learn in the first year of a four-year degree will be outdated by the time they graduate. New hires with even the freshest possible skill sets will still have to learn new skills on the job.
"That's why I always look at someone's learning journey before their employment history," said Attri. "I look at the depth and breadth of skills they have learned, how long those skills took to master, why the candidate decided to learn them, and how the candidate has gone on to apply them."
With that in mind, here are eight skills that employers, recruiters, and hiring managers say will help you dominate the job market.
(Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
8 Skills Employees Look For
Many hiring managers value personal initiative nearly as much as hard skills. Simply being invested in your own projects outside of work can give you an edge.
"I love when a candidate has launched a venture of their own. It shows dedication and initiative," said Calloway Cook, founder and president of Illuminate Labs.
"It doesn't even have to be business-related. If someone has an Instagram to feature their artwork and they are focused on growing that page, that teaches a set of skills that are hard to come by at a salaried job. This makes job candidates more adaptable and teachable."
2. Technical Literacy
When it comes to important skills for the current job market, basic technical literacy almost seems too obvious to mention.
But nearly every employer we heard from stressed that computer skills are non-negotiable now. In a world where 22% of the workforce will be fully remote by 2025, employers don't want to teach new hires the basic tools required to do a job.
Skills to master:
- Word processing
- Excel spreadsheeting
- Email management
- Video conferencing
- Powerpoint presentations
- Messaging services like Slack or GoogleChat
Recruiters noted that while you need these skills, adding them to your resume is rarely necessary. Better to emphasize the specific technical skills listed for the job.
Employers really want people with technical skills that go beyond the basics.
Many traditional careers have become 'hybrid jobs': non-technical roles that require an ever-growing set of technical skills. In fields like engineering, education, marketing, manufacturing, design, and finance, workers increasingly need to master specific technologies in order to perform their duties.
"The Department of Labor projects that job growth will slow over the next decade, with the vast majority of jobs being non-routine roles that require higher levels of technological skill, problem-solving, and creativity," said Zac Houghton, CEO and hiring manager of Loftera.
Get ahead of the curve with any of these tech-savvy skills:
- Digital marketing
- Social media
- Coding languages
- Web development
- Computer programming
- Graphic design
- Virtual reality
- Artificial intelligence
- Cloud computing
- Data analysis
- Blockchain programming
- Video Production
4. Data Skills
You don't need to be a data analyst to make the most of data in your role, noted The Annuity Expert, Shawn Plummer. "It's important for all employees to be able to analyze data, gather insights, and take actions to improve their current processes."
If you're in marketing or communications, that might mean getting a certificate in Google Analytics or other analytic platforms.
If you're a project manager, that might mean learning to use business intelligence tools.
Knowing how to visualize data is also a powerful tool to add to your toolbox, said Anthony Martin, founder of Choice Mutual. "Interpreting data in content that can be easily consumed is a much needed skill."
5. Digital Marketing
Across industries, business success requires strong online presence. It's a good idea to have some digital marketing skills up your sleeve. Start by learning these basic components:
- Content Marketing
- Search Engine Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (more on this below)
- Pay Per Click Advertising
- Social Media Marketing
Understanding these elements and how they work together to generate leads and increase customer loyalty will make you valuable to any team, said Sheqsy director Hays Bailey.
Ninety-three percent of online interactions begin with a search engine. Most people never bother to scroll past the first page of results.
That's why search engine optimization "remains on the top of the food chain in terms of importance," said querysprout.com CEO and hiring manager Marques Thomas.
"Google updates the algorithms on SERPs (search engine result pages) and SEO approximately 500-600 times a year. The demand for specialists who can 'crack the code' is high. Knowledge of keyword research, competitor analysis, and content optimization is a must."
Basic SEO skills –– knowing how it works and how to incorporate best practices –– will strengthen your resume for many roles.
7. UX Design
UX design is all about the user experience. It's a process of planning how a product looks and works in order to make sure it meets the users' needs and is enjoyable to interact with.
UX design affects almost every aspect of a business, including conversions, SEO, retention, and brand loyalty. It can make or break a company.
"Demand for UX designers has increased as companies compete to get more traffic," said Steve Anevski, co-founder of the mobile staffing platform, Upshift. "We need people who can convince customers of the reliability and usability of our products and digital services. This hard skill is highly useful in the digital age."
8. Written Communication
"The pandemic has made writing skills more valuable than ever," said Zachary Hoffman, DigitalPR entrepreneur and hiring manager. "We're doing so much digital communication over email and IM that really understanding how to convey tone is crucial."
Thomas Mercaldo, President of Aquinas Consulting, agreed. "In the IT staffing industry, the ability to write and speak effectively is critical to success."
Even if you have niche expertise that lands you a job, knowing how to make your knowledge interesting and accessible to a wider audience will come in handy.
"Everyone lends a hand in marketing these days. If you're an expert on a topic, rest assured that the marketers will want you to write something," said Hoffman. "The better a writer you are, the more useful you'll be."
Employers agree: the best candidates will have a growth mindset in addition to hard skills.
"Growth-minded people use a combination of things to keep their skills fresh," said Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens and Moguls founder and hiring manager. "I recommend reading, going to conferences, listening to podcasts, seeking out mentors, and taking advantage of online learning opportunities."
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