The Top Ten Most Valued Job Skills

career skills

If you’re either looking to land your dream job or a promotion with your current employer, it is important for you to know the unique combination of job skills and competencies that will make you appear more valuable to a prospective employer.

Every job requires different skills and competencies. However, numerous surveys of employers, including a recent survey of over 1,000 employers conducted by  The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) have revealed a specific set of skills that are universally valued by employers.

It is important to understand these critical employability traits and attributes (also known as soft skills) valued by employers and incorporate them in your cover letter, resume or CV and interview talking points. Emphasizing these skills will significantly enhance the quality of your job application.

Here are the Top Ten Most Universally Valued Career Skills:

Leadership

When employers were asked which attributes they look for on a candidate’s resume, the biggest group of respondents (77.8 percent) chose both “leadership” and “the ability to work in a team structure” , even when hiring for non-management positions. It is a common misconception to think that leadership skills are only relevant for management positions.

The fact that you’re applying for a role that has nothing to do with leadership or management is irrelevant. Companies simply want to hire people with leadership qualities because they believe that such individuals make the best employees. So, no matter what role you’re applying for, it is important to showcase strong leadership qualities.

Examples of strong leadership attributes:

  • Ability to persevere in the face of unforeseen challenges;
  • Ability to confidently influence, inspire or motivate others to increase performance.

Communication Skills (Oral and written)

In today’s competitive business world, effective communication skills are one of the most important strengths that you need in order to succeed and excel in the workplace. This is why more than 73 percent of employers surveyed ranked written communication skills high on the list of must-have abilities for 2015.

Communication skills are, essentially, being able to broadcast your ideas and thoughts from yourself to those around you both in-person and virtual. These skills are important to employers in today’s marketplace because employees need to be able to communicate with a diverse audience including work colleagues, clients, suppliers, supervisors, management and others.

You must also be comfortable with the different channels of communication such as email, which has become such a staple in the workplace.

Communication skills are key to getting hired in the first place. No matter how well-qualified you are for a particular role, you will get passed over if you are unable to demonstrate good communication skills. On your resume, you can showcase your high-level ability to communicate with others by highlighting examples of situations where you displayed effective communications skills.

These might include:

  • Facilitated monthly brainstorming sessions with colleagues.
  • Regularly liaised with clients to construct marketing plans.
  • Successfully resolved conflicts in the workplace or handled difficult customers with ease.
  • Met and exceeded sales targets.
  • Write and distribute post-meeting reports.

If you lack effective communications skills, this may seriously hold you back in your career and cause you to get passed over for roles that you’re qualified for. Strong business communication skills will help you climb up the career ladder with ease. The good news is that there are several options you can use to improve your communication skills. These include:

  • Join Your Local Toastmasters Group: Toastmasters is a non-profit global educational organizations with a mission to help its members improve their communication, leadership and public speaking skills.
  • Take A Communication Skills Training Class: You can sharpen your oral and written communication skills by taking online business writing and presentation skills training courses and seminars.
  • Increase Your Business Vocabulary: You can easily improve your business vocabulary by identifying the terminology used in the specific field that you are currently employed in. Use a business dictionary to seek out the meaning of any business words that you are currently unfamiliar with.
  • Read Business-Related Material: Reading business-related material is an excellent way to improve your business language skills, and will enable you to keep up with the terminology. This knowledge can prove essential when you are communicating with other business people.

Strong Work Ethic

In today’s ultra-competitive and fast moving business environment, a strong work ethic is vital to a company achieving its business goals. Having a strong work ethic means that when you go to work, you work. It refers to a commitment to put in the hours, to go the extra mile, and a determination to meet targets and deadlines with high quality work.

An employee with a strong work ethic would be one that comes in on time every day and stays on task during the working day. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, the employee is in the workplace during working hours.

This is important for all kinds of employers, because they want to hire people who care about what they do and who want to see themselves and the company succeed. Employers are not looking to hire people who must be coddled, who are only willing to work their standard hours, and who allow personal desires to get in the way of their performance.

You can demonstrate that you have a strong work ethic by highlighting your academic credentials or industry-relevant certifications on your resume or CV.

Team Work Skills

Team work skills are those skills that involve working as a team member. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2015 Survey “the ability to work in a team structure”, along with leadership skills were the #1 most attractive job skill for prospective employers, with 77.8% seeking both of these qualities.

Workplaces today are more dynamic and multi-faceted than ever before. Essentially, employers want to know that you can collaborate and cooperate with people from diverse backgrounds, all working towards a common goal. This generally requires a combination of communication skills, an ability to take constructive criticism without throwing a strop and a friendly, positive attitude.

Teamwork skills is a crucial skill in terms of employers because there are very few careers that are purely individual work.  Every workplace requires teamwork in some shape or form, so having that skill is very important to them.

Employers like to see evidence of your ability to work as part of a team on your resume, and you can do this by providing examples of projects you have collaborated on with others. If you are a graduate or don’t have much actual work experience, you can provide examples of academic group projects or extracurricular team experiences.

Sample bullet point showcasing teamwork skills:

Spirited and virtuous team player who excels at building strategic relationships with industry influencers.

Initiative

Initiative is defined as the power or opportunity to take charge before others do. It is highly valued by employers because it demonstrates strong leadership qualities in an employee. Employers want proactive self-starters who constantly seek out ways to move the business forward. They prefer to hire employees that will take any opportunity to contribute to the common good rather than sitting around waiting for instructions on what to do.

Why Employers Value Initiative

Employers value initiative because it shows that an employee is looking to do better both for himself and to better help the company he’s working for.  It shows passion for the job at hand, and this is a much-desired trait for employers to have in their employees.

Sample bullet point showcasing initiative:

Able to make decisions independently and quickly with minimal escalations. Resolved 97% of customer issues within the first 6 months of employment to maximize customer satisfaction.

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills, also known as people skills, relate to the way you interact with other individuals. No matter what profession you are searching for, it is important to demonstrate that you possess the ability to relate to your coworkers, inspire others and mitigate conflict with colleagues.

Given the increasingly dynamic outlook of workplace environments today, all employers emphasize interpersonal skills as an essential skill to have, even if the job does happen to be a solitary one.

Sample bullet point showcasing strong interpersonal skills:

Facilitated group discussions and made sure the perspective of quieter collaborators was heard.

Problem-Solving Skills

Out of those surveyed, more than 70 percent of employers admitted to seeking out candidates with strong problem-solving skills. Being able to problem-solve is a valuable trait, and organizations in every sector value employees that are able to address different challenges on their own.

Having strong problem solving skills means that you can look at a problematic situation objectively and come up with a meaningful solution. This comes in handy in meetings, customer difficulties, and brainstorming ideas with coworkers.

It is one that can turn out to be important for all levels of the workplace. It is very difficult to find a professional, managerial or administrative position that doesn’t require problem solving skills.

How to Describe Your Problem Solving Skills:

  • Increased staff morale by devising a classroom management plan to address student misbehavior.
  • Known for thinking “out of the box” and managing difficult problems and challenges with tact and appropriateness.

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills involve the ability to collect and analyze information, seek different viewpoints, identify problems and make decisions. Essentially, analytical skills require you to dissect a problem and then find a meaningful solution to that problem. There are many skills required within a company and its workforce, but analytical skills are essential in every organization to ensure necessary problem solving occurs to keep productivity and other areas of the workforce functioning smoothly.

How to describe your analytical skills:

  • Able to identify efficient ways to address a variety of tasks and complete them in a time-efficient manner.
  • Demonstrated ability to work with large quantities of statistical data and convert it into understandable results.

Flexibility/Adaptability

Employers are looking for people who can easily go with the flow and adapt successfully to changing situations and environments. It involves having the ability to effectively prioritize your workload, manage multiple tasks and assignments and thrive in fast-paced and changing environments.

People who are flexible and adaptable also react well to changes in their jobs and work environments. It means being able to go from organizing a business plan in one week, to one day.  It’s about adapting as the situation changes.

This skill can show the employer that you understand how the world works and that you are willing to change as you need to in order to fit into it.  This is valuable.

How to describe your flexible/analytical skills:

Flexible team player with the ability to thrive and adapt to changing environments requiring ability to prioritize multiple concurrent projects.

Technical skills

Technical skills can be one of the most important requirements for any new job, which is why 67.5 percent of employers surveyed put them near the top of the list. No matter the industry, and you need to prove that you have the practical on-the-job experience as well as the technical skills required to get the job done.

The actual skills will vary based upon the job for which you’re applying, which is why it is important to be specific when listing hardware, software, applications, etc.

Summary

It is critically important to showcase these skills through your cover letter, résumé and interview. If you are a graduate without much work experience, you can draw on the experience you got from class projects and other life experiences. The important thing is to illustrate examples of leveraging those skills specifically in your résumé and cover letter and in your job interview.

Even a job as a counselor in a summer camp can involve leadership, team work, communication, problem solving, interpersonal and flexible skills. In this situation, you’ll need to spell out those responsibilities briefly but specifically. For example, you could say you worked on a staff of 10 counselors, supervised the daily activities of 40 campers and coordinated group activities for 120 young people.

The survey clarifies that employers want soft skills you can learn across academic disciplines and in any job that involves working with others. The trick is to communicate clearly that you have those skills.