Three Job Skills You Need to Really Impress Employers

Three Job Skills You Need to Really Impress Employers main image

When it comes to skills and personal development, there’s a massive gap between what graduates think they need to know, and what employers actually want from them. Consequently, the job skills you think are the most important are probably not actually the ones your future employer is going to value highly.

QS, in conjunction with the UK-based Institute of Student Employers (ISE), recently released The Global Skills Gap in the 21st Century, a report which looks at this very issue, detailing the differences between what applicants prioritize over what satisfies employers, and breaking the findings down by region.

For example, North America is where employers are most satisfied with the skills employees are bringing to the table, whereas Latin America is where they are least pleased.

More importantly, however, the report outlines the skills employers want you to prioritize right now. Here’s what you need to work on to get an edge in the job hunt.

Problem-solving

The world is facing a series of complex problems and technology is advancing at lightning speed. This means companies need employees who can hit the ground running and come up with clever, practical solutions to problems in real time.

While employers say they need this more than anything else, students tend to believe creativity is the most prized skill instead of problem-solving.

As a result, employees are regularly disappointing superiors with their lackluster problem solving. In the report, employers give problem-solving an importance factor score of 96, but a satisfaction factor score of just 67.

Business schools should look to do more to address this imbalance. Case studies are good at teaching problem-solving, but simulations or consulting projects with real companies might be better.

You should also try to take courses which involve analysis and problem-solving, and seek to take the initiative in internships to develop your experience in this area.

Ability to work in a team

Students think leadership is the second-most important skill after creativity, but employers prefer they would focus on improving their ability to work in a team. The gap between importance and satisfaction is smaller here (scores of 95 and 80 respectively), but it still exists.

There are plenty of opportunities to practice this skill both at school and in internships, so what you should try to do is gain experience working in groups across geographies and time zones.

The future requires the ability to work well with diverse groups of people who aren’t necessarily in the same place. While technology makes that ever more convenient, it still requires the human ability to understand the nuances of different cultures and ideas and learn to compromise and adjust.

Communication

People are constantly talking about how no one knows how to talk anymore. Digital devices and social media have completely changed the way humans interact. But if you can explain yourself – or better yet your mission – either in writing or orally, you will be one step ahead of the competition.

Employers place an importance factor score of 95 on communication, but they give it a satisfaction score of 71. By comparison, students think organizational skills are more important.

Business schools have paid mind to communication, but they still haven’t figured out the magic formula for strengthening this skill. Some are experimenting with including humanities or liberal arts curriculum. Perhaps, they need more of it.

What you can do is practice both writing and speaking, especially in public. Presenting research and participating in classroom discussions are great ways to sharpen this skill. Certainly, business schools and internships provide ample opportunity to work on communication.

Knowing what employers are really looking for in candidates can help you gain an edge in the job hunt. Improve these three skills, and you’ll take a big step forwards.

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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