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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’re 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. Lynda.com, for instance, recently published The Four Business Skills Recruiters Are Looking for – and Not Finding — and in addition to outlining the soft skill crisis employers are finding themselves in, the article also includes resources to trainings to improve communication, problem-solving, leadership and strategic thinking. Check it out!

Resume Tip: How to Display Your Soft Skills

Cover letters are great—and usually they’re the best place to tell a story incorporating the soft skills you’re marketing yourself as having—but they’re only good if hiring managers and recruiters are reading them.

As a staffing and 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, like Forbes (read: The Non-Boring Way to Show Off Your Soft Skills in Your Job Search), recommend using numbers.

To reference a couple of Forbes’ examples:

  • “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’s 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—and the talent they hire are at the crux of that. As you should with any skill you’re claiming credit for, numbers do the best storytelling—and they’re also the most eye-catching.

Here are a few examples from resumes of LABUR technical and financial professionals:

  • Chief Financial Officer: “Led, negotiated and executed pre- and post-sale discussions of $700M acquisition in 2011.”
  • 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 resume.