Jobs & Careers

Revealed: the skills that employers are really looking for

A recent survey found that four in five jobseekers may be missing out on their desired roles due to a lack of soft skills on their CVs. Read on to find out what you need to include on yours!

what do employers want on CVs

Over half of job vacancies specify soft skills as being absolutely crucial to the job role, but most jobseekers – including students – are forgetting to mention these vital attributes on their applications.

In an age when so much pressure is placed on young people to get stellar grades and lots of work experience if they want to chase their dream job, there is a danger that less importance is placed on soft skills (interpersonal skills that are common to various jobs and industries).

However, these skills are becoming increasingly more desired as they are the most difficult attributes to replicate using AI and robots.

This ‘soft skills gap’ was discovered by job search engine, Adzuna, who conducted a study analysing over one million job adverts and 50,000 CVs to compare the skills sought by employers with those listed on candidate CVs.

Fortunately, rather than just keeping the details to themselves, they've revealed the skills that employers most often ask for, as well as what we decide to include on our CVs!

Which skills do employers look for?

what skills do employers look for

Management was by far the most sought-after skill, appearing in 53% of the one million jobs ads which were analysed.

Responsibility was the second most popular skill, requested in 41% of vacancies. This was followed by expertise in training others (35%), communication (34%), and planning (24%).

Soft skills, among many other things, include personality-related attributes. The study found that 20% of employers seek workers who are flexible and 18% desire competitive employees.

Vacancies also specified they would like employees to be motivated (15%) and friendly (15%), suggesting that personality is just as important as practical skills.

Soft skillsProportion of job adverts asking for skill
Management53.0%
Responsibility41.3%
Training34.8%
Communication34.0%
Planning24.4%
Organisation22.6%
Flexibility20.4%
Competitive18.3%
Motivated15.4%
Friendly14.6%

The skills that are currently on our CVs

skills listed on CVs

Only one in five CVs feature common soft skills, with a huge 80% of jobseekers potentially missing out on roles having failed to show the employer that they're suitable people for the positions.

Although listing past work experience and impressive qualifications will be useful on your job application, you also need to prove to future employers that you as a person will be a valuable asset, and will work well with other employees. Despite this, the percentage of CVs mentioning soft skills is far lower than the percentage of job vacancies asking for them.

Time management is the most frequently mentioned skill, with 21% of CVs including it.

Communication appeared on 17% of CVs – exactly half as much as the proportion of employers who asked for the skills (34%). Coaching was the third most mentioned skill, featuring in 16% of CVs.

Of the top 10 most commonly requested soft skills, only three (communication, planning, and motivation) feature regularly on jobseekers’ CVs.

Soft skillProportion of CVs mentioning skill
Time management21.0%
Communication17.2%
Coaching15.7%
Planning14.9%
Problem solving14.7%
Scheduling12.0%
Confident11.4%
Team player10.1%
Motivated9.9%
Research9.1%

It's unclear why so few people mentioned these key skills. If you've not got many on your CV, remember that so many situations can demonstrate your strength in so many different skills.

For example, you might think that you haven’t had any experience of training others because you’ve never explicitly been asked to teach someone. But that doesn't mean that you've not done it.

Have you ever had a part-time job where you’ve taught a new worker what to do? Have you ever helped someone with uni or school work? Have you ever volunteered at a school or children’s group? Well guess what? You've got experience of training!

How to write a great CV

how to write a good cv

As the survey shows, perfecting your CV is one of the most difficult (and important!) parts of pursuing the career you want.

It might seem pretty daunting, but once you’ve nailed your CV you have it for life and can just make small tweaks as and when you need to. We recommend you grab some tasty snacks and schedule in a couple of hours to work on it.

As we explain in our guide to CV writing, you should start by planning what you want to include in your CV. Write down all your work experience and education, then decide what's most important.

Remember that you only have a maximum of two pages – any more and an employer might reject your application before they've even given it the time of day.

You can then get started producing your CV by downloading this CV template and then getting a free CV review.

Once you're happy with your ‘base' CV, tailor a copy to the job you are applying for. This means including the skills mentioned on the job application, and ensuring that you give more prominence to your experiences that are relevant to the job.

Some jobs will require a cover letter too, but don't worry – we've got a guide for that too.

How to interview well

how to interview well

Once you've aced your job application by demonstrating the right skills and presenting a strong CV and cover letter, you can start thinking about the interview stage.

All companies do it differently. Many graduate schemes run assessment centres, which are full or half days in which you gather with other potential candidates to demonstrate your skills in a variety of tasks and tests. Other companies will just run interviews, and some will do both.

Regardless of the format, the key to doing well at an interview is to prepare for it. Do your research about the company and the industry, think about what you have to offer and how you will answer typical interview questions, and write down some questions of your own to ask at the end.

We've got a whole host of tips for handling your interview day successfully. Crucially, you should leave yourself enough time to get to the interview, dress appropriately, and always eat well before arriving (but not too well – you don't want to get post-meal fatigue).

During the interview, be sure to think about your posture and the way you phrase your answers. Stay calm, and if you get a difficult question, take a moment to consider your answer. And most importantly, always answer the question you are asked rather than the question you want.

How to job search effectively

how to look for jobs

Soft skills aren't just useful when you're in a job – they're vital when trying to get one too.

Research skills, cited on 9% of CVs in the survey, will help you find the right job, make a judgement on a particular company, decide whether the salary is fair, and then effectively prepare for the interview.

Confidence and presentation skills are key to excelling during interviews and assessment centres, while negotiation skills are important for jobseekers who would like to receive a higher salary.

If the thought of a job hunt makes you want to close your computer and run away, fear not! It can actually be more fun than you think.

Google isn't the only way to find jobs. While searching jobs boards and specific companies can be useful, as a student or recent graduate it may be better to weigh up all your options.

Our list of upcoming graduate scheme deadlines is massively helpful, or if you want a different route in check out these alternatives to graduate schemes.

Social media is a fantastic job search tool, too. Twitter and LinkedIn can both be used to build contacts, network, and find jobs. You can even apply to some jobs straight from LinkedIn!

Ultimately, finding and securing your perfect job doesn’t have to be a mammoth task that you neglect for fear of a little hard work. View the work you put in as part of your journey towards your dreams. Have some fun on social media.

Most importantly, celebrate your awesome achievements. Boast about yourself. You deserve it!

Can't wait to start earning the big bucks? Find out what the average salary for graduates of your degree is.

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