The Best Skills to Have for Your Job Search
BY ALISON DOYLE | Updated on July 16, 2021
Getting a new job is about more than just your past experience. Most employers are looking for people with the right types of skills to make them a fit for the job.
Learn more about the types of skills employers are looking for.
Soft Skills and Hard Skills
When applying for a new job, there are some skills and qualities employers seek in all their employees, regardless of the position.
These are called “soft skills,” and they include the interpersonal skills and attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. They are also commonly referred to as professional skills, those that maintain a healthy workplace environment. Examples of soft skills include flexibility, determination, and critical thinking.1
In addition to soft skills, there are other, more tangible skills that most projects require. These are called hard skills or technical skills. They are the specific knowledge and abilities required to do the job. Examples of hard skills include computer coding, equipment operation, and painting.
You’ll need both soft and hard skills for any job. It’s important to show employers that you have the combination of hybrid skills they need when you’re applying and interviewing for jobs.
Top Skills Employers Look For
In order to get your application noticed, be sure to incorporate in your resume and cover letter the skills you have that are required for the position. Highlight your most relevant skills during job interviews by being able to provide real-life examples.
If you’re switching jobs or industries, you’ll need to focus on the skills that are transferable from your old position to the new one.
While this list is not exhaustive, these are some of the top skills employers say are most important when recruiting and hiring employees.
Employees need to be able to confront a problem, think it through, and decisively apply solutions. These are known as “analytical skills.” The level of analytical skills required will vary, depending on the job and the industry. Closely aligned with analytical skills, employees are expected to organize, plan, and prioritize effectively.
The ability to communicate effectively—both verbally and in writing—is both essential and rare. Those with strong communication skills are in high demand, regardless of the job or industry. You need to be able to communicate successfully with employees, managers, and customers in-person, online, in writing, and/or over the phone.
- Top 10 communication skills
- List of communication skills
- Verbal communication skills
- Nonverbal communication skills
- Information and communications technology (ICT) skills
Interpersonal skills, also known as “people skills,” are the skills you use to interact and engage with others. Many are hired quickly based purely on their ability to connect with people. Interpersonal skills can sometimes trump the other skills employers are seeking, so be sure yours are up to par.
Your interpersonal skills will be evaluated during job interviews, so be sure you prepare for the interview. You can develop the emotional intelligence and self-awareness you need to connect with a hiring team.
When companies hire for leadership roles, they seek employees that can successfully interact with employees, colleagues, and customers. Even if you’re not applying for management jobs, leadership is a valuable skill to bring to the employer. Many companies prefer to promote from within, so they’re often looking for strong leadership qualities, even when hiring for entry-level positions.
Attitude may not be everything, but it’s extremely valuable. Employers want employees who are positive even in stressful and challenging circumstances. Positivity shows your level of resilience. Employers want to hire applicants with a “can-do” attitude who are flexible, dedicated, and willing to contribute extra effort to get the job done in the face of challenges.
Regardless of the job, employers want to hire people who are team players—people who are cooperative and work well with others. They don’t want employees who are difficult to work with. When you are interviewing, be sure to share examples of how you worked well on a team. Your level of teamwork indicates your ability to collaborate effectively with a wide variety of people.
The technical skills you need will vary, of course, depending on the job. However, most positions require at least some technical skills, including experience using industry software, completing higher-level education (such as college degrees or vocational certifications), or being experienced at highly specific tasks.
Other Important Job Skills Today
Scan any of the job postings online, and you’ll probably notice a trend: Technological skills are vitally important.
These days, technology shapes the world we live in. That’s why many employers want the people they hire to come already equipped with certain technological skills.
If you lack technological skills within your industry, it’s a good time to brush up on the following:
Social Media Skills
If you’re working in a specific field that involves communication, you’ll likely need to sharpen your social media skills. That doesn’t just mean learning how to use the platforms, though. You should also know how to use social media sites effectively, and employers may ask you to demonstrate that you are a “power user” of a particular social media channel. Learning how to get your message across on social media can help make you an attractive candidate.
Having at least some computer skills is a given in almost any job out there. Most jobs now require some computer literacy, whether using Word, Excel, or even more advanced software. If there’s specific software that a company is using, you’ll probably get trained on it, such as content management systems (CMSs) or specific data entry tools. If you are not experienced in all the software programs highlighted in the job posting, it would be helpful to demonstrate to the employer your ability to learn new software quickly.
Skill-sharing has become increasingly popular, allowing people to connect online or in their communities, and to exchange useful tips, valuable information, and invaluable skills. Find out how skill-sharing can help you upgrade your skills.
These may seem a little like analytical or interpersonal skills, but problem-solving is often considered a separate skill. You may have to deal with problems that require a quick response and resolution. Being able to think on your feet and solve problems at a moment’s notice is an important quality many employers are looking for.
Showcase Your Skills
To be sure you are showing your top skills during your job search, make a list of the skills and qualities that best reflect your background. Incorporate them into your resume and cover letters.
Think of real-life examples where you applied these skills to achieve success on the job, in the classroom, or in volunteer work. Share these examples with your interviewer so they know exactly how much of an asset you will be when you’re hired.
Identifying your best skills, finding jobs that need people with these skills, and highlighting your experience in those areas can help match you to the right career.
- Career One Stop. “Skills Assessment.” Accessed July 16, 2021.