What Employers Are Really Looking For

Employers in different industries say they want workers with soft skills and hands-on experience.

Recent interviews with employers in nine different industries and in all regions of Minnesota show that employers are looking for a variety of skills and qualifications in their workers. But the two qualities listed below came up most often.

“Soft Skills” or “Foundational Skills”

Employers want workers who can see the big picture, solve problems, are good communicators, and team players. These are also called employability skills. Here are a few comments from employers:

“Even when the applicant has good qualifications, they are hired based on personality and soft skills.”

“Communication is as important as technical skills.”

“Employees need to understand] new ways to look at business and need to be innovative.”

“Customer service orientation, basic work expectations such as being on time, professional dress, following rules and procedures, etc., are all lacking [in the people we see].”

“Finding the right technical skills, combined with the ability to communicate and collaborate with business partners, is the biggest challenge.”

Hands-On Experience

Employers also say that new graduates and career changers will be much more marketable and valuable if they have gained practical experience while going to school:

“Some kind of experience, such as an internship, is critical.”

“Students should have ‘ride alongs’ or job shadowing to gain exposure to the job.”

“Manufacturers would like to see graduates with a little more background in working on the machines, more hands-on experience.”

“[We] look for those who have had internships.”

“It’s important for colleges to provide fellowships, externships, and residency programs to aid in transition from student to employee.”

Employability Skills: The Skills You Need to Get a Job

For many people today, a career for life is no longer an option. Most people will hold jobs with a variety of employers and move across different employment sectors through their working life.

We therefore all need to be flexible in our working patterns and be prepared to change jobs and/or sectors if we believe there are better opportunities elsewhere.

For this, we need to understand that we all have a set of transferable skills or employability skills. These are skills that are not specific to one particular career path but are useful across all employment sectors.

What are Employability Skills?

Employers are often looking for skills that go beyond qualifications and experience.

Your education and experience may make you eligible to apply for a job but, to be successful in most roles, you will need skills that you are likely to develop over time. Some will be specific to the job, but the vast majority will be so-called ‘soft skills’ that can be used in any job or employment sectors. These soft skills are ‘employability skills’: they are what makes you employable.

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