Top Skills Employers Look For

It’s rare that a diploma alone will help a candidate stand out in the consistently busy job market. Employers seek candidates that possess a dynamic range of abilities, a blend of soft skills and hard skills, a passion for continuous development, and a strong work ethic. This goes hand-in-hand with the cultural shift to skills based hiring, which sees employers assess candidates on their skills, competencies, and capabilities. This is a step away from the common disqualification of quality candidates due to their educational background - or lack of. 

Skills-based hiring takes into consideration both the hard and soft skills of a candidate. This provides a clearer picture of an individual and how well they will fit into the available role. It also enables employers to plan for the future; who will need training and when, what soft and hard skill gaps exist, and how the organization can fill them. With this in mind, the top skills for college students or new graduates according to CourseFinder are:

1. Python

Python is a programming language used by developers to design, create, maintain, and update applications. Developers commonly use Python across a variety of programs to integrate third-party programs and services, automate tasks, debug and add enhancements, and create and test scalable codes. Python developers work closely with other developers to complete larger back-end developments which means they must have quality communication skills, interpersonal skills, and be a team player. Python jobs are some of the highest in demand. This year alone, Glassdoor reported over 800 new python positions posted each day.

2. Java

Java is a programming language commonly used by developers and has a general-purpose architecture that is mainly class-based and object-oriented. It’s a good beginner language with the ability to handle advanced programming and is frequently used in the development of software, websites, and apps which makes Java developers in high demand. 

3. Google Platform Tools

Google is the leading marketing platform used by sole traders and organizations of all sizes and across all industries. Free to use and offering a variety of tools including analytics, paid ads, and cloud services, candidates with expertise in Google products are always required. 

4. Data Science

Data scientists are necessary to help organizations improve their decision-making capabilities. A data scientist is responsible for extracting, analyzing, and interpreting large amounts of data to gain insights into customers, target audience, and their trends and behaviors. They also assess their competitors and monitor changes in the market or industry. The ability to research, identify patterns, visualize data, and develop business strategies are essential skills for a candidate in data science alongside critical thinking skills, organization, and attention to detail.

5. Graphic Design

Graphic design is necessary for businesses to communicate visually with their audiences to inform, engage, and attract customers. Graphic designers are responsible for creating branding, visual concepts, and supporting assets to assist across all departments within the organization. Soft skills that are effective in graphic design include creativity and communication, with candidates frequently working with digital tools. 

6. Excel

Microsoft Excel is a tool used by organizations to track, view, and manage data. This includes the ability to set up tables, visualize information, use formulae, and carry out data analysis. Data scientists, store managers, project managers, and accountants are all examples of roles that benefit from excel experience. 

7. Web Development

Web development or website development is a skill required for building and maintaining websites. Web developers need a comprehensive understanding of websites, how they run, and what tools are required to create, manage, and maintain them. This includes a number of hard skills including working knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SEO, and back-end development. Necessary soft skills for web developers include creativity, time management, and communication. 

8. SQL

A technical based skill, SQL is used in data management to manage huge amounts of data and provide organizations useful insights into their business practices and customer trends. SQL is extremely versatile, and is a skill that is utilized as commonly in data analysis as it is in marketing, product, and operations. SQL experts are a necessity in organizations that want to get the most out of their data. Graduates that have SQL on their resume also show that they hold analytical skills, making them more attractive to recruiters.

9. DevOps

DevOps engineers are professionals in IT that work alongside developers and system operators to ensure efficient software development. They need a wide range of knowledge in development and operations to support the software life cycle from coding and testing, to implementation and maintenance. Communication and teamwork skills are important for DevOps engineers as they are required to enable cross-team communication and collaboration. 

10. Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a broad term given to a wide variety of skills including video marketing, SEO, content marketing, and demand generation. Digital marketers are responsible for creating messaging and increasing awareness for an organization. They need excellent communication skills as they frequently work with others to establish trust and build relationships with the target audience.

Top Soft Skills Employers Look For

Hard skills or job-specific skills are the abilities an individual needs to perform in their role. They are measurable and often acquired through training or education. Soft skills are described as innate traits and are closely linked to an individual’s emotional intelligence. They cannot be measured and are harder to acquire, but are just as important. Employers want well-rounded employees that hold essential soft skills and are refocusing their hiring criteria to target them. Here are the top soft skills employers look for in candidates:


Communication impacts how effective an individual is at interacting with those around them and is essential in the workplace. A good communicator can express themselves verbally, non-verbally, through written and audio/visual forms, and carry out active listening.


Teamwork is the ability to work well with others, show active participation, and be respectful of everyone’s ideas and opinions. Good team members are keen to help others, can provide constructive feedback, and ensure they hold themselves accountable. 

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze a situation and use facts and data to make a decision. Critical thinkers solve complex problems and make important decisions by assessing all the possible outcomes and working to mitigate risk and improve processes. 

Problem Solving

Problem solving is the process of identifying solutions to a problem or obstacle. It is closely related to critical thinking but involves more innovation and trial and error. Problem solvers are quick to identify an issue, research potential solutions, and work towards an outcome that prevents reoccurring problems. 


A positive attitude is a favorable trait in individuals as it helps to improve the relationships between team members. A positive individual is often optimistic and content, they are eager to carry out their role to the best of their ability, and contribute to improved morale in their team and across the organization. 


Adaptability is an essential skill that enables someone to change their behavior depending on the current situation. Often this requires learning new skills, communicating differently, following new processes, and keeping up with trends.


Dependable individuals can be relied upon by others to do what is expected and follow through on their commitments. They consistently produce high quality work, are punctual, are driven by deadlines, and develop relationships with their team by lending assistance. 


Organization is a combination of individual efficiency, productivity, time management, and punctuality. An organized individual typically tracks their tasks in a system or diary, has a file system, is good at prioritizing and meeting deadlines, and implements processes and procedures for work. 

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is the ability to calmly and respectfully resolve problems in the workplace between individuals or groups. An individual that has effective conflict resolution skills helps to mediate, reach compromises, communicate differences in opinions, and understands when to seek additional assistance. 


Creativity is an essential skill to many roles and creative individuals regularly use their imagination to find out-of-the-box solutions and come up with new ideas. Creatives commonly work in industries such as design, production, engineering, and marketing. 

The Evolving Relationship Between Hard and Soft Skills

Soft skills are essential to being successful in a professional environment. They strengthen an individual’s hard skills and improve working relationships. For example, for a content writer to be considered excellent, it doesn’t simply rely on the quality and output of their work. They need to consistently meet deadlines, communicate their roadblocks, and work together with others to produce supporting imagery and promotional materials. 

Collaborative environments especially benefit from candidates with a strong set of hard and soft skills and enable teams to reach their full potential and complete their goals efficiently. As more organizations embrace remote work, soft skills are often the deciding factor in hiring. The hard skill shows that a candidate can carry out their tasks but their soft skills will determine whether they have the self discipline and ability to work well remotely. 

Soft skills are hard to acquire and instead gradually improve through life experiences and the development of emotional intelligence. For example, someone doesn’t just become patient, but they develop patience as they mature. Soft skills are often advanced alongside hard skills in educational and training environments. Candidates in education need to work alongside others, learn how to communicate their needs, and show creativity and positivity. Although difficult to achieve, everyone needs a good set of soft skills to support them in their professional and personal lives.

How Have In-Demand Job Skills Changed?

The world and work environments have changed drastically in the last few years, impacted by the pandemic, the great resignation, quiet quitting, and now the shift to skills-based hiring. Organizations have adapted by embracing remote work and assessing candidates on their skills and abilities. Candidates have increased self-motivation towards building out their professional skill sets and pursuing certifications that offer digital credentials, enabling them to better showcase their competencies on social media and online. They are placing a greater importance on working for organizations that support their desire to learn and gain new skills. 

In-demand skills change quickly alongside the technologies utilized in the workplace. For example, cyber security and AI were highly sought-after skills in Q4 of 2022, yet dropped off the list in Q1. Similarly, throughout all of 2022, Databricks, C++, and React skills were also high in-demand, yet no longer appear in the top ten in 2023. 

These changes aren’t limited to hard skills but also impact the soft skill demand. Communication skills, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, and teamwork skills are always highly regarded and appear frequently on top ten lists. Whereas the demand for skills like time management has increased over time while the demand for project management skills have decreased. 

In Summary

The skills landscape is forever changing. As organizations scale, technologies change, platforms rise in popularity (or fall), and environments adapt, as do the types of skills that employers look for. Graduates and job seekers need to be aware of the demands of the workplace and be able to align their skill sets to the needs of the job market. The skills section of their resume needs to showcase both their hard and soft skills to ensure success in their job search and stand out against other candidates. 

Find your next certification on With over 14,000 credentialed courses to choose from, CourseFinder helps candidates find the programs that will enhance their skill set and improve their promotion and employability prospects. For more information on digital credentials or implementing digital credentials into your programs to make them more attractive to candidates, book a platform demo with Accredible today.