What does being a barista have to do with banking or public relations? On the surface, not much. But for both positions employers are looking for a candidate who is a good communicator. You have to be a team player, adaptable, you’ve got to be able to problem solve.  

Hiring managers spend their days flipping through resumes, but what are the skills they’re looking for in an employee? This partly depends on the industry or the job you’re applying for. Specific careers, such as a UX Designer, require specific skills. If you’re an entry-level job seeker you may not have a breadth of experience to showcase. However, employees will still be looking for the skills you can offer their company.

What are soft skills?

You may hear recruiters talk about soft skills and hard skills. Confused about the difference? Soft skills are the interpersonal skills — or people skills — you need to succeed in the workplace.

Examples of soft skills include:

  • adaptability
  • communication
  • conflict resolution
  • creative thinking
  • decision making
  • flexibility
  • networking
  • problem-solving
  • teamwork

While soft skills are more difficult to measure, they’re about how you show up professionally in the workplace. Soft skills are also more likely to be transferable skills, as they are relevant across a variety of careers and industries. 

What are hard skills?

Unlike soft skills, hard skills are tangible or knowledge required for a specific industry or career. Hard skills are usually acquired through education or training.

Examples of hard skills include:

  • bookkeeping
  • cloud computing
  • editing
  • languages
  • project management
  • search engine optimization (SEO)
  • statistics
  • user experience (UX) design
  • video production

Hard skills are more easily defined (either you know Javascript or you don’t!) and will be used by hiring managers to assess the right candidate for the job.

What are the most in-demand soft skills?

It’s not surprising that some of the most in-demand soft skills can also be classified as transferable skills. Why? These are the skills that can be applied to a variety of roles and the very ones most hiring managers and recruiters are looking for.

Here are five of the most in-demand soft skills:  

  1. Creativity 

    Improving your creative skills doesn’t mean signing up for piano lessons or taking up watercolour. Creativity is our ability to use our imagination and come up with new ideas or solutions to problems.

    Companies thrive on innovative ideas and solutions. Employees who can demonstrate creative thinking and bring a new perspective to the workplace are likely to grab the attention of a hiring manager. In fact, this was the number one most in-demand soft skill in 2019 according to LinkedIn.
  2. Communication

    Many careers require employees to communicate effectively with customers, colleagues and their supervisor. A hiring manager will be assessing your communication skills in an interview. Do you interact in an interview, or does it feel like the interviewer is trying to pull information out of you? Are you listening to the questions asked and responding?

    However, communication extends beyond oral skills. Employers are also seeking candidates with excellent written communication skills. After all, email is a fact of life for many jobs and being able to communicate effectively and professionally is key.
  3. Adaptability

    Some people may think being willing to change is a sign of weakness. But think about it, the ability to adapt is at the core of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Adaptability is both an attitude and a skill. It means you’re more likely to roll up your sleeves and learn that new computer system your company installed or join another team on a temporary basis. People who are adaptable are willing to learn and grow. They accept any challenges thrown at them with a positive attitude.
  4. Collaboration

    Also known as being “a team player,” collaboration embodies cooperation and mutual respect for your work colleagues. Employers want people who they’re confident will work effectively as a team and are able to balance the goals of a group with their own achievements. Collaboration can also mean stepping into a leadership role when it’s required. Effective collaboration draws on other soft skills, including communication, problem solving and accountability. It’s about doing what you need to, in order to get the job done.
  5. Time Management

    Job seekers with strong time management stills are invaluable to employers. As the saying goes, “time is money.” Time management is more than staying off social media from 9 to 5. It’s about being able to prioritize tasks and juggle deadlines simultaneously. Falling behind on tasks can impact other members of your team and slow down projects.

    Effective time requires planning, as well as organization – such as scheduling deadlines, taking notes, and organizing documents and email. Mastering time management in the workplace means you’re not scrambling to complete tasks at the last minute. Mastering your time is a skill that will serve you throughout your career. 

Industry-specific skills

Here are five different industries and the types of hard and soft skill sets recruiters are looking for in potential candidates for that field:

  1. Digital Marketing 

    Broadly, digital marketing uses digital media to connect with customers. A career in digital marketing can range from an SEO manager to a social media manager to an email marketer to an ad buyer. This industry is a great example of a career that requires a mix of hard and soft skills. Hard skills could range from Google Analytics, HTML, keyword research, MailChimp or WordPress. While soft skills include communication, time management, creativity, collaboration and adaptability – after all, this is an industry that is changing fast.
  2. Engineer

    There are different types of engineers, including mechanical, chemical, electrical or civil, and crosses multiple industries. As you’d expect, the hard skills required are going to vary, but could include structural analytics, statistics, computer science, system design, and physics.

    For such a technical job, there are a surprising number of soft skills hiring managers will look for, including communication (both technical and non-technical), problem solving, teamwork, and attention to detail.
  3. Occupational Therapist

    An occupational therapist helps people with illness, injury or developmental disorders regain skills, or learn new ways of doing things. As you’d expect, an industry where you’re working closely with people requires strong soft skills, such as communication, organization, problem solving, adaptability and creativity. While specific hard skills can include formulating intervention plans, evaluating acute care patients, preparing reports to insurance companies, and proficiency using online documentation systems.
  4. Business Analyst

    More and more companies rely on business analysts to help their organization’s productivity and profitability. A successful analysis will need hard skills such as experience using risk management software, develop optimization strategies, and stakeholder management. Soft skills are just as important in this role and include communication, problem solving, negotiation and critical thinking.
  5. Sales Manager

    There will always be a demand for good sales managers. This is a role that lends itself to soft skills: communication, negotiation, networking, and problem solving. However, there’s still hard skills you’ll need to be a sales manager. Depending on the position, they could include marketing knowledge of your specific industry, develop budgets, create and execute a sales plan, and tracking business trends.

Need help identifying what skills you have? 

Knowing what skills employers look for and what skills you have that match is a part of the career path planning process. Prepped can help with that as a part of your career planning process. Sign-up to learn how.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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