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Top 9 Skills Employers Look For in Employees

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Competition is fierce! A Glassdoor study found that the average corporate job position receives roughly 250 online applications. Of those, only five to six will result in a job interview.

If you are looking for a job in 2021, the best way to land an interview is to display the skills and traits top companies are looking for. In this guide, we’ll go over:

  • The difference between hard skills and soft skills
  • How they differ on your resume and cover letter
  • The top nine skills employers look for on your resume and cover letter
  • Tips to make these skills stand out

Let’s start with a quick overview of hard and soft skills.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Hard Skills are the things you can do that require training or familiarity with a specific program. They are measurable, trainable skills that an employer can measure, test, or validate somehow. For example:

  • Typing speed
  • Programming and coding (HTML, Java, Python)
  • Bookkeeping
  • Familiarity with Quickbooks
  • Familiarity with Google Drive programs
  • SEO Certification

Strategically, hard skills are conveyed with skill lists and keywords in the core skills section, employment history, and cover letter.

Soft Skills are a mix of social and problem-solving skills. These things do not follow a set training or formula, so they are a lot harder to measure. What might be fantastic to one employer might be undesirable to another. They are also much harder to convey with just a keyword. 

A few examples of marketable soft skills include:

  • Communication skills
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Public speaking

Words like dedicated, motivated, or best frustrate hiring managers because they are easy to say but hard to measure before hiring you. Instead, show your soft skills indirectly via your portfolio, and your work experience, and by providing results-based examples.

The Top Skills Employers Are Looking For

Adding one or more of the following skills to your skill set will dramatically increase your chances of landing a job interview.

1. Management

From Amazon warehouse managers to compliance managers for Goldman Sachs, many leading companies are looking for people who can manage teams, time, projects, or company protocols.

Excellent management skills are soft skills. While a degree or position title will help draw attention to your skill set, it will not demonstrate your work quality. Make sure to add concrete examples of how your management skills benefitted the places you worked for.

After I was assigned this project, we completed the job two weeks ahead of schedule and saw a 36% increase in customer satisfaction ratings.

Pro tip: If you are not given management opportunities at your current job, you can still gain and list management skills through clubs, associations, and volunteering. Examples of your management skills will go into your cover letter and the appropriate sections of your resume.

2. Mobile Development

Consumers are spending more time and money on their mobile devices than ever before. A GSMA study found that the mobile industry contributed $3.9 trillion to the global GDP, and over two billion subscribers use their mobile phones to order goods and services. This has had such an enormous impact that Google indexes your site based on its mobile-friendliness first before indexing the desktop version.

This means any skill that can help improve a mobile website experience will be in high demand for 2021. It is not limited to coding, either! Companies like Apple also need writers, web designers, and Quality Assurance Engineers (Testers).

Make sure you mention any mobile-based skills in your core skill list, work position responsibilities, and cover letter.

Need mobile skills on your resume? You can do things like:

  • Earn a Google Developer’s Certification to put on your resume
  • Create a portfolio of writing samples for ads, mobile website content, and promotional emails. If you do not have examples to share, make some!
  • If you create an example piece strictly for your portfolio, make sure it is clearly labeled as a “spec piece” at the top.
  • Take up a coding test or development certification class
  • Train in QA Testing

3. Cloud and Online Group Project Programs

The past year saw a sharp spike in remote and online collaboration. Proficiency with online platforms like Google Drive, Asana, and Trello can be a vital hard skill in your job search, especially if the company asks for it in the job description.

In most cases, you only need to gain familiarity with the program. The company wants to know if you can navigate, use, and troubleshoot projects and tasks on that platform with minimal supervision. However, if they ask for an expert in the program, they plan to come to you for answers.

Add any significant collaboration and Cloud-based programs that you are proficient with to your core skills list. If you managed or supervised any projects with measurable results, make sure to mention this!

I kept our remote team updated and on-task with the Trello program. We almost doubled our productivity thanks to my project strategies.

4. Data Presentation

We live in a very data-driven era. If you can take data and translate it into a chart, report, or presentation that resonates with consumers and investors, you have a valuable skill.

You can demonstrate this in various ways, depending on your strengths. You could:

  • Provide a link to a sample portfolio
  • Label graphic design programs like Adobe and Canva in your hard-skills list.
  • Use the keywords and phrases your dream companies do if they match your skill set. For example, The Marketing Alliance Group uses phrases like “Ability to read and interpret complex mechanical drawings” in their job qualifications list.
  • If you need to add Data Presentation skills to your skill set, you can find certification classes for Adobe, Outlook, Powerpoint, and other presentation software.

5. SEO

A company is only as strong as its online presence. If you have the hard skills needed to help them rank on mobile, desktop, and local search engines, state it on your resume and cover letter.

SEO is a hard skill. You can gain it through certification training or a marketing degree, or you can measure and demonstrate an exact scenario where your SEO won the day.

When I adjusted the company website for local SEO, our in-store purchases increased by 23% by the end of the quarter.

6. Communication

We scanned over fifty job applications by companies like Amerisleep, Kroger, and General Electric. Good communication skills were by far the most sought-after soft skills. It’s no surprise! In this era, one poorly worded post or email can backlash against a company in minutes.

Demonstrating communication skills start with the resume and cover letter! Make sure they are professional, easy to understand, and relevant to the job post. It will be the first sample of your skills they see.

You can also demonstrate your communication skills with phrases like:

  • My email copy improved our drip campaign clickthrough by 17%
  • My responsibilities included communicating and nurturing company relationships with our key investors.
  • I was responsible for making sure the project details were communicated clearly to the team and supervisors.
  • According to a  quarterly survey, my interactions with our customers brought up our location’s customer satisfaction rating by 53% in 90 days.


7. Network Security

Companies need to continually upgrade their security measures to protect company and customer data. Cybersecurity experts will be in high demand as technology continues to grow and evolve. This field is so vital, the average salary for a cybersecurity specialist averaged $92,724.

Adding a degree or certification in cybersecurity can open a whole realm of job opportunities with large businesses.

8. Problem-Solving

Every company needs a problem solver! If you can think outside the box, adapt on your feet, and overcome project challenges, a hiring manager is going to want to speak to you.

As a soft skill, you will want to weave in work responsibilities and stories with your work history.

When our POS program crashed at our premier event, I found an alternative solution to keep serving our customers until the technical team could restore it.

9. Determination and Adaptability

Most large companies list themselves as fast-paced environments. Learning fast, adapting, and meeting deadlines is a valuable skill in a constantly changing work scape. If you ever overcome a tight deadline with remarkable success, pointing it out in your work history can be powerful leverage.

My responsibilities included learning and testing new software daily. I had to make detailed reports in as little as 24 hours to keep up with our project team.


Some Additional Best Practice Tips:

  • DO use specific keywords to match your skills for online applications. Pre-screening filters will reject your application if it can not find enough relevant matches.
  • DO NOT replace a strong work history with keywords. Even if you get past the filters, the hiring manager will not contact you on keywords alone.
  • DO research the company and customize your resume skills and cover letter accordingly.
  • DO NOT fill your resume with irrelevant information. Overstuffing your resume will make it harder for the hiring manager to find what the company is looking for. Keep it super specific to the company and job position.
  • DO NOT use words like “dependable” or “team player.” They do not demonstrate your abilities.
  • DO Give a 1-2 sentence statement about how you used your skills and their benefits at the time.
  • Do think outside your current job. If you use relevant and desirable skills in a club or volunteer group, add keywords and examples to the appropriate areas of your resume.
  • DO prepare to tell how you used traits and skills on your resume during the interview.

Ready to take your job search and updated resume to our top employers? Discover leading businesses that need your skills NOW. Click here to see the latest job postings on Lensa.

Team Lensa
Team Lensa
Team Lensa is a group of HR specialists, career counselors, and tech enthusiasts dedicated to helping job seekers navigate the employment landscape through actionable tips and insights.

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