When searching for the right candidate to fill a job, we often focus on the applicant’s work experience and level of education. Sometimes it’s all about who they know or who referred them to the job. But what we should really focus on is the candidate’s employability skills.

There are certain skills employers want from every candidate, no matter what role they’ll have in the company. From entry-level workers to executives, every employee should possess these personal skills in order to succeed and help your company move forward.

These are good skills for any job, which means they should be top-of-mind for every employer. And they’re good skills for any resume, so qualified candidates should be including examples of these skills in their resumes.

Here are the 12 essential skills employers want from every employee, no matter what their role is:

1. Communication

More than two-thirds of recruiters across all industries say communication is the most important skill they look for. Good verbal and written communication skills are often thought of as a given, but not everyone can communicate effectively in one or either format. Make sure the candidates you consider have proven effective communication skills.

2. Decision-Making

You may think decision-making skills are only needed for upper management, but that’s not true. Every employee should be able to make smart, quick decisions for the betterment of the company, no matter what role they play.

3. Flexibility

Some jobs have a lot of variety in their day-to-day, while others are more predictable. But even in jobs that have very little variance, employees must be flexible enough not to get stumped when something doesn’t go as planned.

4. Commitment

Hiring candidates that show a commitment to their employer and are engaged at work is a smart financial decision, especially considering a Gallup analysis that shows businesses with engaged employees are 21% more profitable and 17% more productive.

5. Innovation

This skill is not just for scientists and inventors. According to a PWC Global Innovation Survey, 43% of the executives interviewed said that innovation is a “competitive necessity” for their company. Always look for candidates that demonstrate innovation on the job.

6. Integrity

It’s hard to imagine that not all candidates possess this skill. You want candidates who’ll follow procedures and company standards, understand when something is confidential, and speak up when they witness something wrong or inappropriate.

7. Leadership

Again, this is not just for senior-level employees; the ability to lead and motivate others is priceless. According to a Harvard Business Review study, 38% of respondents said being able to inspire and motivate others is the most important leadership skill. Look for candidates who have shown leadership skills, even in unusual circumstances where it’s not so apparent, like peer-to-peer leadership.

8. Life-long Learning

Life-long learners are interested in continuing to learn new skills, not just for their current role but for future ones as well. According to a Pew study, 63% of those in the workforce had taken a course or received additional training to improve their job skills and expertise. When reviewing resumes, look for candidates who have several degrees or certificates.

9. Motivation

Good employees show up and do their work. Great employees are motivated and passionate about their work. As Daniel Pink explains in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, “It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine-to-five. It’s whether our work fulfills us.”

10. Negotiation

Good negotiation skills are not just for the sales team. Candidates with this skill are able to discuss and reach agreements with others. They can explain concepts and effectively advocate for a particular course of action.

11. Teamwork

Nearly three-fourths of employers rated teamwork and collaboration as “very important,” according to a Queens University survey. Every employee you hire should be able to work confidently and effectively within a group. Even if they don’t have to work in a team all of the time, the ability to work with others is paramount when it comes to finding the right candidate.

12. Time Management

Every job these days requires us to wear many different hats. Look for candidates that know how to successfully manage their time, who can prioritize tasks and meet deadlines.

The candidate that checks most—if not all—of these skills should be the one you hire. What other skills do you look for in candidates?

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Adina Miron


  • Avatar Beth M. says:

    I think it’s hard to test all of these skills during an interview. That’s why you might get help from talking with ex-employers of your candidate. Also, I think you have to set up a clear measurement system, since it’s a more subjective assessment.

  • Avatar Michael S. says:

    In today’s world, you need to have computer and foreign language skills too. I appreciate that this article covered the soft skills only, but seriously, who will hire someone that doesn’t know how to at least read and send an e-mail?

  • Avatar Sarah T. says:

    I think candidates should have a section in their CVs with these soft skills. Sure, we’ll put those to the test, but it’s nice to know that at least they find them important and don’t rely on just being working robots.

  • Avatar Francis Wong says:

    Totally agree with Michael. IT capability and a world language are very important. Whilst innovation is a nice word but it has no context. I would say it is about understanding of the world (common sense,but no more common now!) and logic.

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