Looking for a Job? Focus on Developing These Skills

Key Skills Employers Look for in New Hires

You’ve earned your career certificate, you’ve developed the skills you need to do the job well and you’re ready to send out your resume to recruiters and potential employers. Before you start applying for jobs, it’s important to consider what employers are looking for in potential hires.

Having hard or technical skills, such as knowing how to operate a piece of machinery or having an understanding of the medical billing system will definitely help you land a job. But many recruiters and employers are looking for something more. They’re looking for soft skills, sometimes known as “21st century skills” or “transferable skills,” and often described as “character traits, attitudes and behaviors.”[1]

Developing soft skills is critical not only when it comes landing your first job, but also when it comes to your continued and future success in your chosen profession. When conducting its Job Outlook 2018 survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) asked recruiters and employers what skills they most wanted to see on resumes and from potential candidates[2]. Among the most highly sought after skills were problem-solving, ability to work on a team and written communication skills.

When applying for job, emphasizing the most in-demand skills will help you stand apart from the crowd and increase your chances of finding a job.

Skill 1: Problem-Solving

According to the NACE’s Job Survey, problem-solving ability was the skill that most employers said they looked for in a candidate. Nearly 83 percent of respondents[2] described problem-solving as the most desirable quality in a job applicant.

When a person has strong problem-solving skills, they can use information and their own knowledge to come up with a workable solution to an issue. Being able to solve problems can also mean being flexible and willing to try new ideas until you find one that works.

How can you demonstrate your problem-solving abilities on a resume? One option is to choose a problem that might have come up during your training or at a previous job and detail what you did to find a solution for it.

Ability to Work Well With Others

You’re likely to see phrases such as “team player” and “must work well with others” in a job description. The ability to work on a team and with others was the second most in-demand soft skill among respondents to the NACE survey. Nearly 83 percent of employers said that they looked for teamwork skills in applicants[1].

One way to highlight your teamwork skills on a resume is by listing how many people you worked with on a particular project and by using the pronoun “we” when describing your accomplishments rather than “I.”

Written Communication Skills

In today’s connected world, written communication skills are more in-demand than ever. More than 80 percent of employers stated that written communication skills were a must-have skill for applicants.

Even if you are applying for a job that doesn’t seem as if it will be writing intensive, there will most likely be times when you need to use the written word to communicate, such as by sending an email to a client or manager.

Fortunately, you can easily demonstrate your written communications skills on your resume. Use easy-to-understand sentence structure, action verbs and simple words to get your point across and to grab the attention of a employer.

Leadership Qualities

Although you probably won’t be applying for a management or leadership position for your first job, leadership abilities and qualities are still things recruiters like to see on a resume. Nearly 73 percent of respondents to the NACE survey cited leadership as a critical skill.

Depending on how you’ve used leadership qualities in the past, you can use words and phrases on your resume that signal to an employer that you’ve got what it takes to lead others. For example, if you supported and helped other students during your time at school, you can say that you were a mentor or a coach. If you led group projects, you can use words like “spearheaded” or “piloted” on your resume.

Strong Work Ethic

The fifth most in-demand soft skill among recruiters and employers is a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic means that you are willing to do what is needed to succeed and to get the job done.

It means getting to work on time, working even when you’re not feeling up to it and not complaining about the job. On a resume, you can demonstrate your strong work ethic by illustrating for an employer how you tackled various tasks and what the results were of doing so.

Earning a career certificate at Orange Technical College is just the first step towards a fulfilling and rewarding career. Our programs help prepare students for life-long careers. To learn more about the program or to explore our other career certificate options, request more information today.


  1. “The soft skills college students need to succeed now and in the future,” American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2017/09/soft-skills.aspx
  2. “The Key Attributes Employers Seek on Students’ Resumes,” National Association of Colleges and Employers, https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/press/2017/the-key-attributes-employers-seek-on-students-resumes/
  3. “What are soft job skills and why are they important?,” CareerBuilder, https://www.careerbuilder.com/advice/what-are-soft-job-skills-and-why-are-they-important
  4. “Skills to Pay the Bills,” Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/softskills.pdf