Education and Skills

Here are 5 skills researchers say employers are looking for right now

Shoppers walk past a newspaper advertising board promoting its job supplement in Leicester, central England, September 14, 2011. Britain's unemployment rate rose at its fastest pace in two years in the three months to July and one of its biggest retailers saw a large fall in first-half profit, underlining the fraught economic outlook and raising pressure on the government to act to boost growth.  REUTERS/Darren Staples   (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - GM1E79E1PTZ01

The equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs have been lost globally since COVID-19 hit. Image: REUTERS/Darren Staples

Harry Kretchmer
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This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit
  • The equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs have been lost globally since COVID-19 hit, according to ILO figures.
  • But there are signs recruitment is increasing in some markets.
  • LinkedIn has analysed millions of job adverts to find what employers are looking for.
  • So-called ‘soft skills’, including communication and problem solving, head up the list.

Getting your first foot on the career ladder – or climbing back onto it – has seldom felt harder.

The equivalent of 305 million full-time jobs have been lost globally since COVID-19 hit, according to the International Labour Organization. Manufacturers, airlines and retailers have announced redundancies in the thousands. The young have been particularly hard hit.

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But bright spots are emerging. In the US, businesses added 1.8 million jobs in July, albeit at a slowing rate. China’s employers are hiring too. Rising retail spending in eurozone economies might also create more jobs.

jobs economics workforce skills important soft employer employee recruitment vacancies cv resume Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
‘Soft skills’ lead the list of qualities employers are looking for. Image: LinkedIn

Who’s hiring – and what do they want?

In the US, many clothing, home furnishings and gadget retailers are recruiting, according to Bloomberg. LinkedIn says young graduates, who have been hit hard, could aim for more than 1.5 million entry-level jobs and 65,000 internships in the US alone.

The social network has analysed its data to identify the skills employers want most and how you can use them to raise your game. It says interpersonal “soft” skills (versus “hard” skills – abilities developed over time, like coding) are the most prized. This reflects previous research by organisations including Deloitte, and the World Economic Forum, which investigated the skills that will be needed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in its Future of Jobs Report.

Here’s a deeper look at five in-demand skills:

1. Communication

This is top of the wish list for many employers. It’s great if you can code – but can you express yourself too?

As work guide Career Contessa puts it: “Have you ever had a manager who refused to listen? Have you ever worked with someone who could not pick up on social cues; someone who didn’t know when to be sociable and when to power down to work? Have you ever worked with someone who used a ton of office jargon in order to say… seemingly nothing?”

Because COVID-19 has increased the adoption of remote-working software, the need to strike the right tone of voice has, if anything, increased – not just for employees, but for employers too.

LinkedIn says it’s not just verbal cues that recruiters are looking for, but “digital body language”. Are you making the right impression with the tone you adopt in emails and texts?

jobs economics workforce skills important soft employer employee recruitment vacancies cv resume Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Certain skills could open up employment opportunities post COVID-19. Image: Skills Panorama

2. Problem solving

Forget team-building exercises that involve building a bridge with a pair of styrofoam cups and a piece of string. Problem solving is much more than that.

It’s about identifying a task, breaking it down into its components, and fixing it, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. It’s about the skills around it, like sticking with the task and doing your research. And just like clear communication, it’s seldom been more vital.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

There are many examples of businesses thinking differently about their problems during COVID-19, as the has crisis forced changes in everything from management to business models.

jobs economics workforce skills important soft employer employee recruitment vacancies cv resume Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Jobs remain far below pre-pandemic levels. Image: NY Times

3. Analytical skills

“It’s an important time to be thinking critically,” says executive coach Joshua Miller. “Your actions are based on the types of questions you ask yourself and others on a daily basis.” Could they change the type of answer you get?

Businesses everywhere are facing and making tough choices, from budgeting to changing headcount. What’s clear is that evidenced, focused thinking can help at every level of an organization.

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4. Customer service

Regardless of the industry you’re targeting, from senior to junior level, you need to create a positive experience for those who, ultimately, pay your wages.

Retailers have been at the sharp end of this need during lockdown, expanding or pivoting to online, in order to serve customers stuck at home – often with transformative results.

Professional services firm KPMG says COVID-19 has been rich with lessons in how great customer service can make a difference. Taking China as an example, it says that the secret to successful e-commerce during the pandemic was not just speed, but safety. “In times of uncertainty and crisis, people want information they can trust.”

5. Leadership

Is leadership all about the C-suite? Executive advisor Gartner says there are useful leadership lessons that anyone, at any level, can benefit from. These include being able to make a clear list of your priorities, in order, and not thinking in a binary way; there are rarely only two choices in a tough situation.

Harvard Business School professor Bill George says he prioritises being “authentic.” Leaders “bring people together around a passion, for a common purpose, to make this world a better place.”

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