Top 10 Job Skills You Need to Have

The Top 10 Job Skills You Need to Have. (Download this as a PDF)

Whether you are new to the Canadian job market, or a seasoned professional “in transition”, there are certain skills and attributes that are universally sought by employers. Most likely you already have several of these attributes, which is certainly good news! Even better news is that you can improve upon the attributes employers look for through training, professional development, or coaching from someone who has the skills you need.

Once you understand the skills and attributes that most employers seek, you can tailor your jobsearch messaging — your résumé, cover letter, and interview language — to highlight how well your background aligns with their requirements.

Many studies have identified these critical employability skills, sometimes referred to as “soft skills” or “effectiveness skills”. Here are some of the most frequently mentioned skills from hiring managers, along with some samples of how you can highlight these attributes in your résumé, cover letter and interview talking points.

So here are the “Top 10” skills desired by hiring managers and some ways in which you can enhance your abilities in the specific areas…

#1 - Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written).

The ability to effectively communicate is by far, the one skill mentioned most frequently by employers. The abilities to listen, write, speak effectively and facilitate communication are absolutely critical in whatever profession you choose. The bottom line: if you can communicate well (and have the ability to showcase this) you have a leg-up on the competition.

There are several ways you can demonstrate your proficiency in this area.

One might be this addition to your résumé…

“Exceptional listener and communicator who effectively conveys information verbally and in writing.”

In each area of your resume be sure to list successes and proficiencies in the areas of writing, listening, and speaking.You can also highlight how you facilitate communication between others.

As you progress in the interviewing process, it will become more important for you to be able to show your skills in this area to potential employers through non-verbal communication as well.

For example, take notes and engage in good eye-contact with those that you meet. Your body language will speak volumes about your communication style without you ever saying a word.

If you feel that this is an area that you need to improve your skills, here are a few suggestions…

  • Join Toastmasters International– There is likely a chapter of this organization near you, so check it out. You will see people like you, who are trying to perfect their public speaking abilities. The ability to speak and communicate ideas in front of a group is very valuable, and while it may be scary at first, all it takes is a little practice.
  • Read, read, read… One of the best ways to help increase your communication skills is to read about it! There are literally thousands of books and articles out there on every topic from answering the phone, to making a persuasive argument. And the great thing is…you can head to the library and check them out for free!
  • Work on it… Communication, like any skill, needs practice in order to excel at it. No one is “born” a great communicator. Ask someone you know and trust to practise with you. The more you listen, read, speak and engage in non-verbal communication, the better you will become at skill number one!

#2 - Analytical & Research Skills.

Your ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues that need to be addressed is critically important. Every potential employer, in every profession, looks for employees who can help them to solve problems. The more you can showcase your abilities in this area, the better your chances of landing the job.

Here is a suggestion of how you might communicate this on your resume…

“Demonstrated talent for identifying, scrutinizing, improving, and streamlining complex work processes through highly analytical thinking and analysis.”

As you progress in the application process it will be important for you to demonstrate your ability to devise solutions to complex problems. Make sure you have some good “story” examples of how you have done this in previous positions you have held. Your ability to effectively communicate your skills in this area can be directly related to the skill development we discussed in skill #1 above.

How to increase your analytical & research Skills:

  • Work on math problems or puzzles. It sounds elementary, but solving math problems (without a calculator) is a good way to kick-start the analytical side of your brain.
  • Read something difficult. For example, find a how-to book at the library that is focused on something you know little or nothing about. Whether the subject is horse racing, horticulture or halitosis is irrelevant; what matters is that you are using your brain to learn something new. You are researching a subject and using your analytical brain to figure out complex problems.

#3 - Computer & Technical Literacy

Regardless of your profession, just about every job requires a basic understanding of computer hardware and software, especially word processing, spreadsheets, and email. Your ability to showcase your proficiency with technology and its applications is crucial in the information age.

Sample bullet point describing this skill…

  • “Computer-literate performer with extensive software proficiency covering wide variety of applications.”

Obviously, if you are in a profession that relies on specific computer knowledge and proficiency, you will need to highlight those specifics on your resume and in your cover letter.

To increase your computer literacy:

Check out your local community college. Most will offer community learning classes at a minimal cost. If you are already fairly proficient in computers or the technology needed in your industry, take it to the next level by engaging in advanced learning of one or more of the applications needed in your industry. Become a self-taught expert!

#4 - Flexibility/Adaptability/ManagingMultiple Priorities

Or in other words…multi-tasking! Society today demands proficiency in this area. Your ability to manage multiple assignments and tasks, to set priorities, and to adapt to change is absolutely critical. This skill is difficult to articulate at times because it is so often taken for granted, but articulate it you must if you are going to secure the position you want.

Here is what this skill might look like on your résumé…

“Flexible team player who thrives in environments requiring ability to effectively prioritize and juggle multiple concurrent projects.”

Try to highlight not only that you are an effective multi-tasker, but that you also thrive in an environment of change. The 3rd certainty in life (after death and taxes) is change. Make sure that you have stories for the interview that focus on your ability to effectively adapt to a changing environment and also be able to discuss situations in which you initiated change.

In order to increase your abilities in this area:

You really need to take a hard look at yourself and how you handle yourself under the pressure of multi-tasking. Be sure that you have very detailed examples and can communicate them effectively to a potential employer. Remember to focus on the positives of the situations you discuss.

#5 - Interpersonal Abilities

Similar to your ability to communicate generally, this one is specific to how well you: relate to your co-workers; inspire others to participate; and mitigate conflict with co-workers. With the amount of time that we spend “at work” each day these are essential attributes.

Here’s a sample bullet point describing this skill…

  • “Proven relationship-builder with excellent interpersonal skills.”

This is probably one of the most difficult skills to quantify, but you should try. Make sure that you have at least a couple of bullet points about collaboration with co-workers, group participation/facilitation, taking the lead in your team, and/or successfully dealing with conflict.

If this area needs some improvement…

Here is another opportunity for you to do a little preparation. There are literally thousands of books and articles about interpersonal communication, and hundreds of organizations and social opportunities to practice relationship-building. If you do whatever you can to increase your EQ (emotional intelligence) as well as your IQ (intelligence quotient), you will only increase your employability.

#6 Leadership/Management Skills

Every employer desires someone who has the proven ability to be a leader. The primary skills in this area deal with your ability to take charge and manage your co-workers, meet goals and adhere to high standards.

One way to describe this skill…

  • “Goal-driven leader who maintains a productive climate and confidently motivates, mobilizes, and coaches employees to meet high performance standards.”

If you want to enhance your leadership abilities…

The best way to enhance your skill in this area is obviously experience. Every new challenge, whether at work or in your personal life, provides you with the opportunity to improve your leadership skills. But there are other ways to enhance your skills in this area. Reading about great leaders, be it in politics, business or another area, can help you identify their attributes and emulate them in your own life.

You also need to be able to communicate in a meaningful way the experiences you have had in the areas of leadership and management. Make sure you describe in detail your top 3 to 5 leadership/management success stories. Make sure that you are “connecting the dots” for the hiring manager so that they know you can hit the ground running as a leader in the organization.

#7 - Multicultural Sensitivity/Awareness

Our society and our workplace is more diverse than ever before. If you understand this and can demonstrate your sensitivity to other people and cultures, you will be more successful in the long-run. Remember that diversity and multiculturalism is not simply about race, creed or sexuality; it goes far beyond that and encompasses attitudes and perspectives as well. You should be able to communicate to a hiring manager your respect and appreciation for differing views, as well as a sensitivity to those who may be “different” than you.

Sample bullet point describing this skill:

  • “Personable professional whose strengths include cultural sensitivity and an ability to build rapport with a diverse workforce in multicultural settings.”

The best way to increase your skills in this area…

Spend time with those who are different from you. We all get into our comfort zone in our lives. This is a good time to branch out and go places and do things that you might not normally do: go to a museum and visit an exhibit from a culture that is different from yours; or attend cultural events happening in your area. Be creative in the ways that you seek to understand cultures and people that are different from yours.

#8 - Planning/Organizing

In today’s complex and detailed working environment, employers want people who can plan and organize themselves and others effectively. This area focuses directly on your abilities to design, plan, organize, and complete tasks within an allotted time frame. A major skill that is part of this is goal-setting.

One possible way to communicate this is to an employer…

  • “Results-driven achiever with exemplary planning and organizational skills, along with a high degree of detail orientation.”

Improving your skills in this area takes time.

It can take years to truly develop good planning and organizational skills. The best way to start is with organizing the small things in your life – shopping, laundry, family outings. However, communicating this skill to a potential employer is easy. Simply weave the concept of planning and organizing into each situation that you describe when presenting yourself to an employer. For example, if you are asked about a particular success that you have had in your career, make sure to highlight the goal-setting and planning that was required, and the attention to detail you had to achieve in order to have the success that you are describing.

#9 - Problem-Solving/Reasoning/Creativity

Our work lives are full of problems. Every day we are faced with both internal and external issues that affect business. Employers know this and want to hire people that can solve these problems. This area specifically focuses on your ability to find solutions to problems using your creativity, reasoning, and past experiences along with the available information and resources.

Here’s a sample bullet point describing this skill…

  • “Innovative problem-solver who can generate workable solutions and resolve complaints.”

How can you improve in this area?

Again, this area is one that is difficult to “practice” because it often takes years of experience to develop. However, one good way you can improve this ability is to read about leaders who have solved problems in their own businesses. For example, the Harvard Business Review has literally thousands of articles about how individuals and companies have creatively solved problems. By studying stories like these, you expand your own knowledge in this area.

#10 - Teamwork

For many years, employers hired people to do a specific job. Today, employers hire people to work with other people to do a specific job. The concept of teamwork dominates current business literature and has become a focal point in our work culture. As a potential employee, you must communicate, and demonstrate, that you have the ability to work with others in a professional manner while attempting to achieve a common goal.

Here is what this skill might look like on your résumé…

  • “Resourceful team player who excels at building trusting relationships with customers and colleagues.”

It is also important to communicate (both verbally and non-verbally) that you can assimilate into a new environment quickly and “connect” with your new co-corkers.

There are many ways to improve your “team-playing” abilities…

From seminars, to workshops, to “team-building” retreats, most companies offer their employees training to enhance team building and collaboration. Also, reading about successful–and especially unsuccessful–teams give you a better understanding of teamwork. For excellent examples of the latter, try reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick M. Lencioni, and Scott Adams’ Dilbert.

Final Thoughts

This list of skills desired by employers is not an exact science, nor is it the same for every employer. You need to do your own research to make sure you know exactly what skills your prospective employers are looking for. You can be sure of one thing: if you work at communicating your knowledge, skills and abilities in these areas, your confidence as a candidate will certainly increase.

This new confidence, plus your ability to effectively communicate your skills in your resume, cover letters and interviews, will certainly increase your chances of landing the job of your dreams. If you would like to know more about how you can improve your job skills, give us a call at 800 991 4102 or send us an email.

Adapted from an original posted by Robert Shindell on

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