Skip to content

The top 10 skills employers look for in job applicants

Getting from A to B has never been easier. Tools such as Google Maps and Citymapper have made navigating around the world simple. It’s a shame the same cannot be said for navigating the labour market.

The need for a skills map is growing. Recent research forecasts that around 35 per cent of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years.

To stay ahead of automation, workers will need to become lifelong learners. But to do so, they must be able to identify relevant new skills

We believe that online job adverts could act as the database for an automated skills map. To test that idea, we have built a basic prototype Skills Map using millions of job adverts provided by Burning Glass. The dataset contains over 11,000 unique skills and software programs. These skills are mapped to occupations which allow us to build up a detailed picture of the latest skills required in a range of occupations, and identify the key changes in skill demands over time.

The data are not without errors and there are still several hurdles to overcome before the UK could have a fully automated skills map driven by job adverts. But if you’re currently applying for jobs, it still might be worth giving a thought to our lists, and trying the tool.

The top 10 skills for employers in 2014 to 2016

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the most common terms in job adverts relate to inter-personal skills, such as customer service and teamwork. Basic competencies, such as writing and problem solving, also feature in the list.

  1. Communication skills
  2. Organisational skills
  3. Planning
  4. Customer service
  5. Microsoft Excel
  6. Business management
  7. Teamwork/collaboration
  8. Writing
  9. Detail-orientated
  10. Sales

Which 10 skills are now mentioned more frequently?

These skills have shown the fastest growth in the number of mentions between 2012-14 and 2014-16. Several factors can drive growth, including an increase in the number of vacancies for the job that requires this skill, or an increase in the range of jobs that use this skill.

A number of these skills (looking at the top 100) relate to caring for others, such as patient care, mental health, and working with patients who have dementia. A second group of skills reflect the opportunities and threats that come from living in a more connected world. These include digital marketing, big data, social media, information security and firewalls.

  1. Big data
  2. Information technology industry experience
  3. Contract accountancy
  4. Onboarding
  5. Digital marketing
  6. Information security
  7. Transportation logistics
  8. Front-end development
  9. Patient care
  10. Mental health

Which 10 skills are now mentioned less often?

These skills have experienced the slowest growth, or largest falls, between 2012-14 and 2014-16. The appearance of ‘basic internet skills’ may seem counterintuitive in an ever more digitised world. It appears because more employers are now taking this skill for granted and no longer need to mention it in job adverts. Other skills appear because employers no longer require the skill or because they are now using a different word to describe that skill.

Looking beyond the top 10, a number of skill groups emerge. One group of declining skills relates to consumer finance, such as financial planning and mortgage advice. Another group centres around working with industrial machinery, such as computer numerical control. A third group relates to logistics and a final group contains skills that rely on the telephone, such as cold calling.

  1. Warehouse management
  2. Basic internet skills
  3. Materials design
  4. Mechanical design
  5. Advertising sales
  6. Insurance underwriting
  7. Retail sales
  8. Teaching English
  9. Computer Numerical Control (CNC)
  10. Derivatives
Part of
Future skills

Author

Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Quantitative Research Fellow

Cath is the Quantitative Research Fellow at Nesta, working in the Policy and Research team. She is interested in scraping, analysing and visualising complex data.

View profile