When you're looking for a job, the best way to increase your chances of getting hired is to include the right qualifications on your resume and online profiles. While the specific job requirements for any position vary by industry, there are a few broad skill sets that are useful to employees in any field. Career experts and hiring managers weighed in on today's most in-demand job skills and how to improve them.
Self-management. Many job hunters, especially in the tech field, aspire to work in a startup setting. In this type of work environment, companies are eager to find employees who are able to keep themselves on track without excessive supervision or micromanaging.
"At a quickly growing firm, [managers] don't have time to stand over employees' shoulders and make sure they're doing what they're supposed to do," said Bryan Lewis, chief operating officer of business research company Cognolink. "[They want] to give them a task and have them do it."
Cristin Sturchio, Cognolink's global head of talent, noted that hiring managers are able to tell when candidates can manage themselves, based on the way they conduct themselves and respond during the interview. To improve your ability to self-manage, she recommended asking for regular feedback from your supervisor about your performance.
"When you do something, ask the person, 'How did I do? What could I have done differently?'" Sturchio said. "Any skill improvement is about being brave enough to ask for feedback." [25 Hottest Job Skills on LinkedIn]
(Real) social media skills. In recent years, "social media" has been a popular item in the "skills" section of many job seekers' resumes. But what does it really mean to be skilled at social media? It's more than simply having an account on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, to name a few. You need to be able to show an interviewer that you're active on these networks and understand the nuances of each one's distinct community.
"Be involved in groups," said Kerry Hannon, job expert for AARP and author of "Love Your Job: The New Rules of Career Happiness" (Wiley, forthcoming 2015). "Chime in on discussions and post articles. A personal [blog] URL also shows your understanding of [social media]."
Hannon also advised job seekers to show off some related tech savvy by setting up news alerts about the company and slipping it into your conversation with a hiring manager.
"If you can say, 'This [company news] came up on my Google Alerts,' it shows you know something," Hannon said.
Data analytics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the fastest-growing occupations between now and 2022 will be information security analysts (37 percent), operations research analysts (27 percent) and statisticians (27 percent). This means that candidates with a strong background in data science and analytics will have a real advantage in the job market. Rowan Gormley, CEO of customer-funded winery NakedWines, said that smart employers are looking for people who understand data and its value to a business.
"It takes a special kind of person to analyze [data], build a test plan, measure results and implement winning ideas," Gormley said. "Part of this is easy to obtain — go and take a class or two about databases, learn SQL, etc. The other piece of the puzzle is knowing how to use that data. Managers ... want the people who can look at a wall of data and say, 'There's one number here that matters.'"
Dan Finnigan, CEO of recruiting platform Jobvite, said that open online courses through companies like Coursera and EdX will allow you to affordably take courses in these areas with some of the country's top universities.
Creative problem solving. Knowing how to analyze and use data is important, but it takes a combination of those strong analytical skills with the creative vision to apply it to the "big picture." Having both of these traits greatly enhances your ability to come up with effective solutions for a company, and makes you a great asset to a team, Gormley said.
"We look for the people who are very creative, but they have a tendency to be less organized [and pay] less attention to detail," Gormley told Business News Daily. "And we like the analytic data types, but we want them to know when to turn analysis into action so they don't get carried away looking at the data and forget the bigger picture."
Even if you currently have these skills, it's important to remember that there's always room for improvement. Your education didn't stop when you received your diploma or completed that certification course for your first job. A thirst for knowledge is and always will be one of the most prized qualities in an employee.
"In today's job market, the candidates who succeed are the ones who continue training and building new skills," Finnigan told Business News Daily. "Take advantage of your current employer's continuing education or training program, if it has one. Build new skills on the weekend or during your commute with open online courses. Strive to understand what skills your next job will look for, and make sure you stay up to date."