Stay Ahead of the Curve: The Top Skills Employers Crave in Candidates in 2024

If you want to maximise your chances of getting your ideal role this year, you must demonstrate the skills employers are searching for.

It’s not just technical skills that are prioritised today, but a range of soft skills too, from exceptional communication to resilience.

To ensure you can stay relevant in the current recruitment market, we’re exploring the most important hard and soft skills you should concentrate on as you invest in professional development for 2024 and beyond.

The Value of Hard Skills in 2024

Hard skills, or “technical skills”, are the quantifiable abilities that most hiring managers will look at when reviewing your application for a role. They’re the competencies you need to accomplish the responsibilities and tasks of a specific job.

Hard skills result from the knowledge, training and experience you’ve gained throughout your career.

Unfortunately, the hard skills requirements for many roles evolve all the time. Employees need to quickly adapt to new systems, tools and processes that didn’t exist in the past.

The key to defining which hard skills you need to develop in your role is to examine industry trends and job descriptions in your sector.

Look at things like:

  • Relevant qualifications: Most employers will look for evidence of your abilities through credentials, including certifications, degrees, demonstration of continuing professional development portfolios, or attending courses.
  • Proficiency with specific tools: All industries rely on specific tools like hardware and software. Ensure you know the resources your chosen business uses daily, such as accounting or design software.
  • Hard communication skills: Hard communication skills combine soft communication skills with new technologies and business goals. They can include skills in digital communication, copywriting, reading, writing and speaking in non-native languages.
  • Transferable hard skills: Some hard skills are becoming relevant in all industries. Project management skills, proficiency with data analysis and even management or leadership skills can be valuable in various roles.

Digital Literacy: The Non-Negotiable Skill Set

Perhaps the most significant hard skills employers require today align with “digital literacy”. As mentioned above, virtually every company is in the midst of a continuous digital transformation process.

Your ability to use and adapt to new technology will make you a valuable resource to your employer, even if you’re not pursuing a tech-related role. In fact, according to Forbes, around 93% of businesses are struggling to fill a “digital skills gap” today.

The specific digital skills you need will vary depending on your role, but they may include:

  • Data analysis: Understanding and interpreting data is valuable in any role, as it improves your problem-solving capabilities. Using tools like Excel and SQL to manage and visualise data will make you a highly appealing candidate.
  • Software proficiency: As noted above, most roles require employees to use specific software to accomplish tasks. This could include project management, calendaring, team collaboration apps, or specific design or data processing solutions.
  • I. proficiency: Artificial Intelligence is here to stay in all industries. Learning how to work with generative A.I. applications and bots or use intelligence to optimise and learn from data or business trends is a must in today’s world.
  • Cybersecurity: As digital threats continue escalating, your ability to safely work with tools and data is paramount. Ensure you have a basic knowledge of protecting your online accounts and how to avoid scams and phishing attacks.
  • Cloud computing: Cloud computing has transformed how businesses operate, offering access to scalable resources over the internet. A fundamental knowledge of cloud computing best practices will help you to thrive in today’s digital world.

Soft Skills: The Unseen Backbone of Professionalism

Soft skills have always been essential but in today’s digitally transforming world they’re more crucial than ever. Fast Company reports that employers increasingly value “soft skills” over hard skills.

Soft skills refer to character traits and interpersonal skills that characterise a person’s ability to interact effectively with colleagues.

The combination of both soft and hard skills and knowledge results in an employee who has the potential to contribute and perform at a higher level than peers who are less skilled in one or both areas.

Some soft skills, such as collaborating well with colleagues, have always been essential. Others have grown more crucial in recent years.

In 2024, employers will be looking for staff members that show skills with:

  • Creative problem solving: The ability to look at an issue from various perspectives and develop creative solutions.

    Every business faces problems and your ability to respond effectively will make you a valuable asset.

  • Adaptability and resilience: As the world continues to evolve at break-neck speed, resilience and adaptability are becoming more crucial.

    You’ll be a better employee if you can manage change effectively and stay strong in the face of stress and challenges.

  • Commitment to continuous learning: According to the World Economic Forum, 44% of employees’ core skills will change in the next five years. A commitment to lifelong learning and development ensures you can adapt to the changing landscape.
  • Motivation and self-management: The ability to act independently and maintain high motivation is crucial today.

    An ability to manage your own time and stay focused will make you more efficient in your role and inspire the teams around you.

  • Emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence, defined as the ability to recognise and respond effectively to your emotions and the feelings of people around you, will help you contribute to a positive company culture.

Communication Skills: Your Career Amplifier

In essential soft skills, communicating effectively is perhaps the most valuable thing today’s employers are looking for. Excellent communication has always been necessary to ensure a thriving company culture.

However, in today’s hybrid and remote work world, fantastic communication skills are even more crucial with changing collaboration strategies and evolving worldwide teams.

Strong communication skills are pivotal to working effectively with others, communicating with customers and clients and thriving in your role.

Grammarly found that poor communication in the workplace can lead to a range of problems, from increased stress levels for 50% of workers to a 15% drop in productivity.

Assess your communication skills and focus on improving:

  • Verbal communication skills: The ability to speak clearly, using your knowledge of a situation and emotional intelligence to your advantage.
  • Visual communication skills: Your ability to use graphs, charts and maps when necessary to add context to a statement or guide other team members.
  • Digital communication skills: Leveraging various communication tools for online calls, messaging and video conferencing sessions.

Frequently ask for feedback from your peers, managers and supervisors to help you pinpoint potential gaps in your ability to communicate.

Integrating and Balancing Skill Sets

Success in today’s competitive hiring landscape relies on your ability to cultivate and constantly improve a wide selection of hard, soft and digital competencies. You need a plan for constant personal development and growth to improve your chances of getting the desired role and achieving your career goals.

Committing to constantly expanding your skills based on the trends you see in your industry and your employer’s core objectives will help elevate your professional brand and improve your chances of accessing new opportunities in your chosen field.

By embracing a growth mindset and investing in lifelong learning, you’ll always be in a position where you stand out among other experienced candidates in your sector.

Kind regards

Neil Scarborough – Managing Director

At The Recruiting Office, we have been helping firms with their talent acquisition, and a wide range of job seekers find their ideal roles for almost a decade and have successfully placed hundreds of top tier candidates. If you want to find out how we can help you – call us on 01603 964816 or email neil@therecruitingoffice.co.uk

Further Reading:

Planning Your Next Career Move: The Step-by-Step Guide
Staying Motivated in Your Current Role: 6 Strategies That Work