The Top 10 Skills Employers Want to See on Your Resume

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Lorelei Yang718
Wonky consultant with a passion for words

Whether you’re writing a resume for the first time or updating an existing one, you may well find yourself wondering what skills and abilities you should highlight. The answer to this question is fairly complicated since the best skills to list on your resume really depend on the types of jobs that you’re applying for. 

However, with that said, there are some skills that many employers look for in potential employees. There are also some useful tips that anyone can use to determine the best skills and abilities to include in their resume.

What are skills and abilities for the resume?

Any discussion of the best skills and abilities to include in one’s resume needs to start with clarifying what exactly qualifies as a skill or ability. In short, a skill is a proficiency developed through training or experience. An ability, on the other hand, is a personal quality that enables someone to work effectively. Sometimes, abilities may be referred to as "soft skills."

What are the top 10 skills that employers want?

The truth is that there’s no single answer to this question. The top skills that a potential employer wants any prospective employees to have are the ones that are most applicable to the job in question. The top skills for an engineer are very different from the top skills for a journalist, for example.

However, with that said, there are a few skills — both soft and hard — that are often desirable regardless of profession. The following 10 skills are desirable in prospective employees in any industry because they're applicable to a broad range of fields and job functions.

1. Business acumen/industry knowledge.

Regardless of the industry one is working in, employers like to see that their employees understand the industry they're in. A good understanding of the industry your employer is in will take you a long way as an employee; savvy employers understand this, so they'll often look for employees with strong business acumen. If they have specific industry knowledge, it's even better.

2. Analytical skills.

All employees, even those in non-analytical jobs, are well-served by having the ability to analyze data on their own. This is a prized skill in a prospective employee. You don't have to be a data visualization wizard, but you should be able to find basic trends in data and understand how to draw useful insights out from information sets.

3. Technical skills.

Even if you aren't trying to land a technical position, it's still important for you to have basic technical skills. Competency with the Microsoft Office Suite (including Word, PowerPoint and Excel), email, common internet browsers and software that's frequently used in your industry (such as Salesforce for sales professionals) are important for any prospective employee.

4. Communication skills.

Comfort presenting to audiences is an important attribute for employers to find in most employees. Many roles — regardless of whether or not they're public-facing — will require the people in them to present to others, even if only infrequently. Consequently, it's important to demonstrate good communication skills as a prospective employee.

5. Problem-solving skills.

No one wants to hire an employee who can't figure things out on their own. As a result, employers like to hire people who demonstrate the ability to solve problems with minimal help from others.

6. Organizational skills.

Scatterbrained people who struggle to keep track of all their obligations struggle to meet their job obligations. Employers are aware of this fact, so they're careful to look for employees with strong organizational skills. As a prospective employee, you'll want to illustrate your ability to organize and plan your life on your own.

7. Writing skills.

Many jobs require people in them to write for others. Even if you aren't looking for a journalism or research job, the odds of needing to write for internal and external audiences are high. Employers are well aware of the fact that their employees will likely to have to write for others at some point in their tenures; as a result, they look for employees who have strong writing skills.

8. Research skills.

Even if the job you're applying for doesn't isn't explicitly a research role, it's a good bet that you'll still need to occasionally do your own research in the course of carrying out your job obligations. Being able to find the resources you need to figure something out at work is an important skill that employers value in a prospective employee.

9. Intercultural competence.

In today's increasingly intercultural, global offices, it's more important than ever for employees to be comfortable communicating with people from diverse cultures, races, geographies, sexual orientations, religions and more. Employers — especially ones whose businesses cover large geographic areas — look for employees who are comfortable communicating with people who differ from themselves.

10. Flexibility and ability to deal with ambiguity.

The ability to roll with the punches and adapt to changing circumstances is important in many settings, including the workplace. Employees who can deal with ambiguity and adjust their approaches to work based on new information are good ones for employers to have.

7 steps for identifying the best skills to include in your resume.

If you're just getting started with writing or revising your resume, you may be wondering just what skills you have. A few simple steps can help you identify them and figure out which of those skills should be included in your resume.

1. Make a list of the things you're good at.

First, start by making a list of the things you're good at. Divide the list into both hard (tangible) and soft (intangible) skills. If you're struggling with this, the things you do at work or school on a daily basis are good starting points.

2. Figure out what types of jobs you're interested in.

Next, figure out what types of jobs you want to apply to. The type(s) of job(s) you want to apply for will inform the best skills for your resume.

3. Make a list of the skills common to the type(s) of job(s) you're interested in applying for.

Once you've figured out what type(s) of job(s) you're interested in applying for, look at the job descriptions for these types of jobs to figure out what skills are commonly required. Make a list of these skills so you can start matching them up against your own skills (see the next step for more information on this).

4. Match the skills on your resume to the job(s) you're interested in applying to.

After you've compiled a list of the skills that are commonly required for the job(s) you're interested in, match those skills up with your existing skills. As a good general rule of thumb, you want to include relevant skills on your resume so you can prove that you're a strong candidate for the job(s) you're applying to.

5. Upskill yourself as necessary.

Sometimes, you'll find that your skill set doesn't quite meet the needs of the job(s) you're interested in. In such cases, you may need to upskill yourself. "Upskilling" is the process of learning additional skills to expand one's capacities. It's recently become a buzzword among workers, many of whom are choosing to go back to school or join training programs to gain new skills to stay competitive in the modern workforce.

6. Update your resume as you obtain new skills.

As you gain new skills, you should keep your resume up to date to ensure that your resume reflects your current skill set. While you don't have to constantly update your resume, it's a good idea to review it periodically to ensure that it stays accurate.

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Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.