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Industry Expertise

The Skills Gap: What Recruiters and Hiring Managers Are Looking For


The skills gap is nothing new, but it continues to grow.

For the last several years, employment researchers have been warning about the disconnect between the degrees today’s students are graduating with and the skill sets needed in the workplace. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, by 2020 there is projected to be a shortage of 1.5 million college graduates. Of those graduating, companies planning to hire were most interested in graduates who majored in business, computer and information science, economics or engineering – to name a few. (National Association of College and Employers survey)

But more than education, employers are looking for those intangibles not taught in a classroom. In a Bloomberg survey, out of the soft skills most sought after by companies today, employers are looking for solid communication skills, creative problem-solving, leadership skills and strategic thinking. These skills are often made better with work experience, and they are rarely part of today’s curriculum.

“The emphasis over the past years has been on high tech skills like math and science for workers, but what’s missing in the discussion is the ability to communicate and make key decisions at lower levels,” said Ed Reilly, CEO of AMA, in a Huffington Post article.

Aside from formal education and on-the-job experience, there are resources to help improve in these critical business areas. LinkedIn Learning (formally Lynda.com), for instance, has trainings to improve communication, problem-solving, leadership and strategic thinking.

Resume Tip: How to Display Your Soft Skills

Cover letters are great—and usually they are the best place to tell a story incorporating the soft skills you have—but they are only good if hiring managers and recruiters read them.

As a consulting firm, we do not typically include cover letters when sharing resumes with our clients. Our job is to know our consultants and to be able to vouch for their soft (and hard) skills when going over hiring decisions with the managers and executives we work with. Therefore, if not properly displayed on a resume, vital soft skills—and the candidates who possess them—might be getting overlooked.

To showcase soft skills on a resume, we recommend using numbers, when possible.

Here are a couple of examples we agree with, courtesy of Forbes (The Non-Boring Way to Show Off Your Soft Skills in Your Job Search):

  • “Developed and independently initiated new mentorship program to alleviate high turnover of new staff members, resulting in the matching of 23 mentor-mentee pairs and a significant reduction in staff turnover.”
  • “Managed strict project timeline successfully by coordinating virtual meetings across time zones and presenting findings to over 50 colleagues via teleconference.”

It has been our experience that no matter the state of a business, employers are always looking for professionals with the intangibles that make their business better. As you should with any skill you have, numbers do the best storytelling—and they are also the most eye-catching.

Here are two examples from the resumes of LABUR technical professionals:

  • IT Program Management Consultant: “Responsible for implementing ITIL Service and Design framework in IT through program management of Service Strategy, Service Level and Service Catalog projects. Accountable for $1.9M budget and 22 global resources and 2 vendors in cross-functional, matrix organization utilizing Agile framework.”
  • Business/Technical Strategy Consultant: “Excellent communicator who serves as a client engagement liaison up to $25 million, and demonstrates a background persuading executives to invest up to $500,000 in technology solutions, process re-engineering and change management.”

Within these bullet points are examples of strong leadership and communication skills, in addition to negotiation and project management. Recruiting and hiring managers look at dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes for a given opening. Capturing key experience that required both soft and hard skills—and doing it concisely—is crucial to writing a good technical resume.

Keep Reading

This Fast Company article, These Are The Five Soft Skills Recruiters Want Most, is a great read with more information on how to write a resume that showcases strong soft skills.