The Top 5 Skills Employers Want and Have a Hard Time Finding

According to employers, finding good employees is tough. A report by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2016 noted that two-thirds of organizations surveyed have a hard time filling full-time positions. This is a significant rise from 2013 when about half of participating companies said the same thing. With the unemployment rate still higher than normal, what is the problem? Why do HR departments have a hard time finding candidates? Here are the top five skills employers say they are looking for but cannot seem to find.

The Case of the Disappearing Basics

As manufacturing and industrial jobs have decreased, and technology jobs have grown, employers need candidates with basic reading, writing, and computer skills. In today’s economy, being able to compose a clear business letter or jump online and do some quick research are no longer optional skills. For even the lowest paying office job, you need to be able to operate word processing and spreadsheet programs, and be able to navigate within a database. Your typing speed should be at least 40 wpm. Even customer service and retail jobs require an employee to interact with some sort of computer-based point-of-sale system. And, for those who thought computers would reduce the need for written communications, wrong! Companies need employees who can write well.

Soft Skills Rising

Today’s hiring managers look for attendance, attitude, and the ability to take direction. These skills are called “soft skills” because you cannot test for or teach them. As you might surmise, these qualities are difficult to reflect on a resume. However, employers scan cover letters and resumes for evidence of leadership experience and the ability to work as part of a team.

Teamwork is vital. Cubicle walls are coming down and companies are interested in focusing multiple brains on one project. You might not like working in teams but unfortunately, that does not matter much. It is a concept that will not be leaving the work environment any time soon. You need to figure out how to function as a piece of a greater whole. Blending diverse personalities is not always easy, but is necessary in today’s workforce.

Use Your Brain

Employers claim they have a hard time finding employees who can reason their way through a problem using critical thinking and analysis. Prospective employees would be well advised to know at least the basics of how to approach a problem analytically and how to logically work their way through it. It is certainly easier to run to the boss if a problem stymies you, but do not give in to that impulse immediately. Stop for a moment. Think. Bring in a co-worker to help. Keep in mind, analytical thinking is as much a learned behavior as a matter of intelligence.

Hard Work and Professionalism

The SHRM survey report lists complaints about a lack of professionalism, especially in the real estate, finance, retail, accommodation, health, food services, and social assistance industries. Are you showing up on time, working hard, and demonstrating you care? An employer must believe that hiring you results in a net gain for his or her company. From the way you dress to how you speak, everything you do is representative of the company for which you work.


Honesty is a big one. Business owners have a hard enough time turning a profit without having to worry about an employee stealing from them. If you have had issues in this area, it might be tough to overcome. From outright theft to glossing over a costly mistake, employers are reluctant to give second chances.  Unfortunately, a reputation for dishonesty will probably affect the quality of jobs you find for the rest of your career.

Getting a job requires both hard and soft skills. Find out and acquire in-demand technical skills, but also pay attention to the five skills we talked about in this article. Employers want them, and you need to have them.

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