The top 9 skills employers look for

The top 9 skills employers look for
SEEK content teamupdated on 08 February, 2024

While it’s impossible to know exactly what employers want when they advertise a role, there are some skills that look good on your resumé, no matter the role. Aside from relevant technical knowledge for the position, most hiring managers are looking for transferable skills.

Transferable skills are some of the top worker skills employers value, that aren’t always mentioned in the job description. The good news about these skills is that you don’t need a formal education to learn them, though informal training and practice are required. 

With that in mind, here are nine good work skills worth developing and mastering, to catch the attention of potential employers, whatever your industry or role.

1. Technical skills relevant to the job

Technical skills, often known as hard skills, are specific industry-related skills. Depending on the job and industry, these are taught at university or college, or can be learned through on-the-job training. Most jobs require some type of specialised technical knowledge — even “unskilled labour” jobs. 

When it comes to developing and maintaining the technical skills you need in your chosen field, you’ll want to stay up to date with the latest industry trends and technologies. Which specific ones will depend on your line of work.

Here are a few examples of good skills to have based on different roles.

Example technical skills relevant to an accountant 

As an accountant, you have to master a number of important technical skills to be able to perform your job. Some of these skills include: 

  • Proficiency in accounting software like Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks
  • Knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
  • Financial modelling and analysis

Example technical skills relevant to a chef 

If you want to become a chef, you’ll need a different range of technical skills in the kitchen, like:

  • Knowledge of food preparation and hygiene practices
  • Culinary expertise specific to your focus area
  • Knife-handling skills

These are just two examples of the types of technical skills different jobs require and how they change depending on the role. 

2. Communication skills

Some of the top skills employers look for are to do with communication. This includes skills across the four key areas of communication: verbal, written, visual and non-verbal. Communication plays an essential role in teamwork, collaboration and client/customer service. Good communication skills can also contribute to your job satisfaction levels and help create a more positive work environment for everyone. 

As with other skills, getting better at communication takes time and continuous practice to master. Here are a few tips for improving your communication skills:

  • Practise active listening by focusing your attention on the speaker. Maintain eye contact and ask questions for clarification.
  • Focus on communicating clearly and concisely, to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Use your body language to support your intended message.
  • Tailor your verbal and written language to your audience.
  • Proofread your writing to avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

3. Problem-solving abilities

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are highly valued in the workplace, because they allow you to work independently without constant supervision. You use these skills to tackle the day-to-day challenges of your job, come up with solutions to unexpected issues and generally maintain productivity in the workplace. 

There are several strategies you can use to develop and showcase your problem-solving skills, like:

  • Identifying the main elements of a problem, to understand the issue at hand.
  • Breaking down the problem into smaller, more manageable parts.
  • Collecting information and data through thorough research.
  • Brainstorming a variety of potential solutions.
  • Evaluating your options to identify the best course of action.
  • Developing a step-by-step plan to implement your chosen solution.
  • Adjusting your approach as the situation evolves.
  • Communicating clearly and collaborating to encourage ideas-sharing.

Familiarising yourself with real-world examples of problem solving in action can help you understand how you might handle similar situations yourself if an issue arises at work. 

Example of applying problem-solving skills in a manufacturing setting

Problem: a manufacturing plant was experiencing regular delays and inefficiencies in its production line. This was ultimately affecting the business’s bottom line.

Solution: the operations team conducted a thorough analysis of the manufacturing process. They identified bottlenecks and implemented a more streamlined manufacturing approach. They also improved workflow and introduced new technologies to automate repetitive manual tasks. Not only did this improve productivity, but it also helped free up staff to focus on other tasks. This resulted in a significant reduction in production time, increased output and cost savings for the business.  

Example of applying problem-solving skills in a customer service environment 

Problem: a customer-service team was receiving a high volume of complaints about slow response times and expressing dissatisfaction with resolutions.

Solution: the team revamped its customer service processes by implementing a new ticketing system, streamlining communication channels and providing additional training to customer service representatives. They also established an FAQ page on their website for common issues, so customers were able to find solutions independently. As a result, response times improved and customer satisfaction scores increased.

4. Teamwork and collaboration

The success of an organisation hinges on a team’s ability to collaborate well with each other. Effective teamwork often leads to enhanced productivity and a positive workplace culture. It can also lead to better financial results for the business. On an individual level, teamwork skills can offer a number of benefits both in and out of the workplace, including improved problem-solving skills, enhanced efficiency and greater job satisfaction.  

Effective teamwork relies on the development of a number of interpersonal skills including:

  • active listening, 
  • communication, 
  • empathy, 
  • patience, 
  • conflict resolution, 
  • emotional intelligence, and 
  • flexibility. 

5. Adaptability and flexibility

Change is the only certainty in life – and at work. That’s why it’s important to develop traits like adaptability and flexibility. When changes come your way, you’ll be able to take them in your stride and see change as new opportunities, rather than something to fear.

Are you someone who’s excited to learn new processes, systems or technologies? Are you open to doing things a different way? The ability to take on new challenges with a positive attitude is highly regarded by all employers. 

Examples of adaptability in the workplace

There are many different examples of adaptability in the workplace. For example, you might be halfway through a project when the client makes a special request to bring the deadline forward by a week. As the project manager, you reassess the timeline, reallocate resources and move around other projects to prioritise this one. All the while, you’re maintaining a positive attitude and setting realistic expectations for the client given the new timeline. 

Another example: a teacher has to transition to online learning due to a global pandemic. In this instance, the teacher adapts their teaching methods and adjusts to online learning platforms so that students stay up to date with the curriculum while they’re not in school. 

Benefits of being adaptable at work

Being adaptable at work is essential to navigating change and overcoming challenges. By adapting a growth mindset and willingness to learn, you can set yourself up to thrive in changing work environments. You can then highlight these skills on your resumé and in job interviews by providing examples of times you’ve drawn on your ability to adapt. 

6. Leadership qualities

If you’re hoping to reach managerial level in your career, mastering and demonstrating effective leadership skills is essential. But leadership skills aren’t just for managers; they often come in handy at all organisational levels. Good leadership involves a range of important skills including:

  • communication, 
  • emotional intelligence, 
  • decision-making, 
  • time management, 
  • adaptability, 
  • conflict resolution, 
  • strategic thinking, and 
  • delegation.

The best leaders commit to continuous learning and development. Some of the best ways to develop your leadership skills include: 

  • seeking out learning opportunities, 
  • attending leadership workshops and seminars, 
  • requesting constructive feedback, and 
  • working with a mentor or coach to refine your skills.

Developing leadership skills can help enhance your performance on the job and contribute to professional growth, driving your career forward. Plus, effective leadership skills help to increase productivity and boost team morale, contributing to organisational success as a whole.

7. Time management and organisation 

Time management refers to the art of balancing multiple tasks and being able to prioritise effectively. Understandably, it’s a skill many employers look for. They want to know that you’ll be able to meet deadlines and complete your tasks without being micromanaged. These skills include planning, scheduling and prioritising tasks and resources. 

Improving time management skills

There are several techniques you can use to improve your time-management skills. Goal setting, creating daily to-do lists and scheduling breaks into your day can make you a better manager of your time. Good time management also involves the ability to stick to your schedule. 

8. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, also known as EQ, refers to your ability to understand and manage your emotions, and treat others with empathy. People with good emotional intelligence can handle pressure well, resolve or avoid conflicts and take constructive criticism. EQ may be more important than you realise, both in and out of work. 

Demonstrating empathy and having strong social skills are key facets of EQ that allow you to build rapport and collaborate in team settings. Emotional intelligence helps you to understand your own emotions as well as the feelings of those around you. 

9. Continuous learning and professional development

While it’s worth building a wide range of skills, it’s also important to focus on skills that are specifically relevant to your line of work. Some industries see more change than others, so it’s up to you to determine how to keep your skills up to date with industry demands.

Continued professional growth is one way to ensure your skills are relevant. It’s also important for advancing your career and adapting to evolving trends in the workforce at large. There are different strategies you can use to stay on top of important changes, including:

  • Embracing continuous learning: stay committed to learning and evolving throughout your career. Attend workshops, seminars and conferences that are relevant to your field. Pursue advanced education if you feel you need to, and upskill by completing courses.
  • Staying well read: keep up to date with trends, emerging technologies and best practices by reading books, articles, blogs and papers.
  • Maintaining a strong professional network: build and maintain your professional network by attending industry events and keeping in contact with friends in your field.
  • Joining professional associations: become a member of professional associations. These organisations often send out newsletters that can keep you informed, as well as providing networking opportunities and hosting social events. Some even provide professional development opportunities.
  • Staying tech-savvy: stay on top of technological advancements relevant to your field. Familiarise yourself with new tools and software that could improve your efficiency and effectiveness on the job.
  • Joining online communities: join relevant online forums, discussion groups or communities where professionals in your field share insights, ask questions and discuss industry trends.

How continuous learning can help your career

Here’s an example to demonstrate the impact continuous learning and development could have on your career progression:

Rumi, a marketing professional with five years of experience at a digital marketing agency, found herself at a career crossroads. Despite her initial success, she recognised the need for continuous learning if she wanted to stay competitive in such a fast-paced environment. Her goal was not just to keep her skills relevant but also to position herself for career advancement.

In order to upskill, Rumi embraced continuous learning by:

  • identifying skill gaps and emerging industry trends,
  • investing in education, like online courses and workshops to address the skill gaps she identified,
  • applying her newly acquired skills to projects at work,
  • attending networking events and joining online forums to stay up to date with emerging trends, and
  • creating reports that highlighted how her new skill set improved campaign performance and increased customer engagement.

By seeking out new knowledge, applying it in her work and showcasing results, Rumi was able to:

  • demonstrate tangible results that lead to a promotion,
  • take on increased responsibility,
  • enhance her job security thanks to her adaptability and relevant skill set, and
  • explore opportunities to work in different areas of the digital marketing agency.

If you want to get the most out of your career, it’s important to focus on skills employers are looking for. By mastering these skills, you’ll be better positioned to start out strong and continue to progress over the course of your career. The world, your industry and your role are constantly changing, so it’s up to you to stay up to speed and continue to master new skills when you can.

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