Employers hiring in 2021 seek applicants who are skilled in communication, management, writing and leadership. These soft skills are critical for landing a job as the market remains highly competitive, a LiveCareer analysis of job ads and resumes found.
Soft skills are a wide set of capabilities highly transferable between industries, especially important in today's unpredictable and volatile employment landscape.
Sometimes difficult to master, they're crucial to career advancement and illustrating to potential employers the value that you can bring to the job.
Hard skills, by contrast, are more concrete and less transferable.
"You can think of soft skills as the catalyst that unlocks the value that is contained in the hard skills that a candidate brings to their job," said Chicago-based executive consultant, career coach and best-selling author Terry B. McDougall. "Without the catalyst the hard skills remain untapped."
Here are the 20 soft skills that appear most frequently in the more than 3,500 job ads analyzed by LiveCareer:
Skills gaps persist in every soft skill category
Job seekers are not always effectively capturing soft skills on their resumes. Nailing the correct skills on resumes and cover letters is essential for the 17.8 million on unemployment rolls.
While communication is mentioned in about 48% of job ads, it's only mentioned in 40% of resumes — an eight-point gap. Writing is even more dire, with 33% of job ads citing this skill, compared to 12% of resumes.
Additionally, safety skills were mentioned in 23% of job ads. This could be another sign of the times, as businesses attempt to grapple with reopening while an invisible threat looms. The ability to learn quickly appeared in 22% of job postings but only 16% of resumes. When employers are uncertain about the future, fast learners who are flexible, reliable and productive are the most attractive candidates.
Communication and safety-awareness aren't the only overlooked skills. Gaps also include:
- Analytical/problem-solving skills like corroboration, research, critical thinking and interpretation.
- Interpersonal skills like courteousness, ability to forge partnerships and empathy.
- Leadership skills like decision-making, coaching, guidance, change management and innovation.
- Personal traits like being a fast learner, responsible, punctual, flexible, independent, helpful, ethical, generous and having a positive attitude.
Ultimately, closing the soft skills gap by customizing your resume for every job description will give you the edge over similarly qualified candidates.