Skip to content
An employer interviewing a potential candidate to verify their employability.

Knowing what to include on a resume or what skills to sharpen can leave many adult learners and professionals at a loss. The specific skills that matter most often depend on a person’s career and future life goals, but there are certain abilities nearly all employers value in those they choose to hire.

The Importance of Transferable Skills

Most business leaders agree that some of the most valuable work skills are known as transferable skills. These flexible skills prove useful in diverse careers, roles, and industries, regardless of where you acquired them. Whereas many job skills are specific to certain professions, the value of transferable skills is that they remain relevant even in a new or unfamiliar position.

It’s crucial to highlight these capabilities in your resume because they’re relevant to virtually all employers. If you want to make a job change, list relevant skills from prior employment and consider how they relate to your desired job title. Chances are, the list of job skills you’ve cultivated in past positions will transfer to a new context. These skills can include:

  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Data analysis
  • Critical thinking and decision-making
  • Leadership and management
  • Creative problem solving
  • Adaptability
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Dependability and time management

The Difference Between Hard Skills and Soft Skills

Another way to classify your skill set catalog is by determining whether each skill is technical (i.e., “hard skills”) or more general (i.e., “soft skills”).

Hard Skills

Hard skills are often specific to a role, although some are notably transferable. For example, proficiency in using popular software is typically considered a transferable hard skill. On the other hand, familiarity with a proprietary program that only your company uses would be considered a non-transferable hard skill, as it’s only applicable to roles within that organization.

Soft Skills

Conversely, soft skills are usually very transferable. They can include interpersonal abilities, healthy work habits, a positive attitude, and other widely applicable skills that contribute to being a better employee or leader. You may even think of soft skills more as personal qualities or character traits. However, anyone can cultivate these skills, even if they don’t come naturally to a person.

Professionals tend to put their hard skills front and center on their resumes, but a LinkedIn survey found that 92 percent of employers say soft skills matter as much, or even more, than hard skills. In fact, the same survey—which polled more than 5,000 talent professionals worldwide—revealed that soft skills are the number one need for employers. Much of what determines your employability skill set comes down to a handful of foundational abilities, which become critical to success in any role.

Job Skills Checklist for the Modern Workplace

So, what are the key job competencies employers seek? Employers look for both hard and soft transferable skills that set employees up for success. Although it’s difficult to narrow this list of job skills down, we’ve identified 10 critical and transferable skills for career development that employers look for in their applicants. They may even help you land your dream job:

1. Digital Literacy and Tech Proficiency 

Digital literacy is the ability to use digital technology effectively, and it is crucial in nearly any occupation. For example, typing skills and familiarity with popular applications such as Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Creative Suite are imperative for many industries. 

Digital literacy can also include proficiency in software critical to your career field or specific job title. These programs might include customer relationship management (CRM) systems, specialized marketing platforms, or electronic health software. Basic programming and coding skills are also great to feature on a resume. Proficiency in using various digital tools and platforms demonstrates adaptability and an understanding of the modern workplace.

2. Adaptability and Flexibility

Being tech-savvy is a plus, but the capacity to quickly adapt to change may be an equally—if not more—desirable trait. Businesses are adopting new digital technologies at a breakneck pace, so the ability to adapt to change and navigate inevitable uncertainties is crucial. Employers want to know that potential employees can embrace new challenges, pivot when necessary, and demonstrate resilience in dynamic work environments.

3. Remote Collaboration Skills

As remote and hybrid work models become more prevalent, employers prioritize candidates with strong remote collaboration skills. This includes proficiency in virtual communication tools, effective remote teamwork, dependability, and self-motivation. 

Most jobs want candidates to have good organizational and time management skills, which also contribute to being an effective remote worker. Knowing how to prioritize tasks, delegate work, and manage your time is crucial in nearly any role, especially when working remotely. Being an independent and organized worker helps ensure responsibilities don’t fall through the cracks.

4. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

According to a report from The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), 95 percent of employers said critical thinking was a somewhat or very important skill. Fortunately, college professors typically share this priority and dedicate significant time to instilling critical thinking skills in students.

Critical thinking involves various aspects of effective reasoning, including evaluating ideas, solving problems, and making decisions. This remains a timeless skill, but its importance continues to grow. Employers value individuals who can analyze complex situations, think creatively, and develop innovative solutions to challenges. 

5. Emotional Intelligence

In 2023, many employers emphasized the significance of emotional intelligence. This type of intelligence includes self-awareness, empathy, and strong interpersonal skills and contributes to positive workplace dynamics and effective collaboration. Strong emotional intelligence is essentially the capacity to “play nice with others”—an emotionally intelligent person keeps an open mind, works well in groups, and understands things from various perspectives.

6. Data Analysis and Interpretation

With the increasing emphasis on data-driven decision-making, candidates with data analysis and interpretation skills are highly sought after. You don’t have to be a professional data analyst to possess data analysis skills—employers need those who can extract meaningful insights to inform strategic choices. In other words, if you have experience reading and understanding data, presenting data in readable formats, forecasting trends, or using data to inform decisions and processes, you should highlight this experience on your resume.

More recently, this skill has also involved at least an introductory understanding of data literacy, including foundations in data hygiene and data cleaning. In fact, according to a 2021 survey by Forrester Consulting, 82 percent of decision makers say that they expect at least basic data literacy from all employees in their department. This means that employers need their employees to not only effectively use data but also differentiate clean data from dirty data.

7. Continuous Learning and Upskilling

In the rapidly evolving job market, a commitment to continuous learning is crucial. Employers appreciate candidates who seek opportunities to upskill and stay current with industry trends and advancements. These initiatives include enrolling in higher education, acquiring specialty certifications, attending conventions, or taking educational trips abroad.

Upskilling involves developing new competencies to perform your current role at a higher level. Put simply, leadership teams want to know that their team members are actively working to learn new tricks of the trade and apply them to their existing job responsibilities.

8. Cultural Competence and Diversity Awareness

Cultural competence and an awareness of diversity and inclusion are paramount to nearly every workplace culture. Employers value candidates who can contribute to a diverse and inclusive workplace and actively foster an environment in which all employees feel respected and valued. This includes being aware of biases, working productively with those from different backgrounds, and practicing acceptance and tolerance. Trips abroad are an excellent way to gain cultural competence and a diversified worldview. 

9. Effective Communication Across Platforms

Communication is a soft skill that nearly all employers look for in their applicants. Good communication skills include proficiency in writing and public speaking. When it comes to interpersonal interactions, effective communication isn’t just about speaking well—it’s also about active listening and showing empathy.

Beyond traditional communication, the ability to convey ideas effectively through various platforms is essential. This includes written communication for emails and reports and verbal communication in virtual meetings and presentations. It can be challenging to build strong relationships with little or no in-person interaction. Once again, as more businesses adopt remote practices, these skills will become even more necessary.

10. Leadership and Collaboration

Lastly, most employers highly value leadership skills and the ability to collaborate effectively. Employers seek individuals who can lead teams, inspire others, and work harmoniously with colleagues to achieve common goals.

Being a good leader requires many of the job skills we already mentioned—such as emotional intelligence and cultural competence—but it also includes showing initiative and successfully coordinating members of a team. If you develop a good rapport with people you interact with and have meaningful, productive conversations, you can likely include strong leadership qualities on your list of job skills.

Grow Your Skill Set Catalog with the Best Online College Programs for Adult Learners

Consider how many marketable job skills you currently possess, what you excel in, and what you still need to develop. Going back to school can be an excellent way to sharpen your professional skills and boost your resume. Plus, you don’t even need to put your career on hold! Pursue your dreams while you work with MVNU Online’s degree programs for working adults.

Enjoy this blog? Here's more!

Two business professionals looking at information on a tablet together. A group of professionals is chatting behind them.

Top Reasons to Get an MBA Degree

Learn six key reasons to pursue an MBA degree and why an MBA program may be more...

Read More

8 Fulfilling Callings You Can Pursue with an Online Ministry Degree

Explore the diverse career paths you can pursue with an online ministry degree from MVNU Online.

Read More

Empower Children in Your Community By Earning Your Intervention Specialist License

Want to see what you can achieve with an intervention specialist license? Get the training you need...

Read More

Site Designed and Developed by 5by5 - A Change Agency