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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

5 Skills That Will Impress Every Hiring Manager

September is Professional Development Month at The Muse! Check in all month for ways to boost your skills, get ahead at work, and be the best professional you can possibly be.

Whether you’re in college and starting to think about your career path or considering a career change to a new field, you might be asking yourself, “What do I want to be?”

But a more important question to think about may be: “Am I marketable to a variety of positions?”

Truthfully, no matter what you’re interested in, there are a few key skills that will serve you well across industries and roles. Plus, if you build and master multiple skill sets, you’ll be a desirable candidate for many types of jobs, even if your career interests change over time.

After surveying employees from industry giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, as well as small to mid-size companies like Castlight, Room77, and Prezi, about what they look for in new hires, we found a lot of unpredictable answers (for example, being considered “smart” was low on the list). But fortunately, the top skills they're looking for are all things you can learn, no matter who you are or what you want to do.

Prepare yourself for career success by becoming fluent in these five business skills.

1. Quantitative Analysis

Data is the backbone of many organizations, and your ability to organize, analyze, interpret, and present that data is important whether you’re creating an app or looking for ways to attract new customers. Specifically, employers said they value an ability to review organized data and create an action plan based on it. So, if you’re able to dig into the numbers and emerge with real insights, you’ll have a leg up on the competition. (Hint: In an interview, bring up a project in which you worked with data, and share how it informed your next steps.)

Get the Skill

MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) are a great resource for learning data analysis (or anything, really). Check out Udacity’s Exploratory Data Analysis course, or find others from Udemy or EdX.

2. Excel

What’s the most important tool in your quantitative analysis arsenal? Excel. While you can learn how to use it on the job, many jobs don’t want (or don't have time) to teach employees how to do it. So, if you come in knowing how to proficiently use Excel—and I mean really use it—you’ll save your employer tons of time and be much more marketable as a new hire.

Get the Skill

You can find a number of in-person Excel courses in your area (check Yelp for reviews before you enroll), or try the free training videos from Microsoft.

3. Creative Thinking

This is a hard skill to teach or learn, but the ability to think creatively can make a huge difference in the way a hiring manager views you. With the business world changing faster than ever, employers are excited by innovators and those who look beyond the status quo. They want people who can think outside the box, share new ideas, and improve upon current systems—from day 1.

Get the Skill

While there’s no real “how-to” guide for creativity, you can boost your ability to think innovatively with resources like the virtual Design Thinking Class from the Stanford or Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley.

4. Communication Skills

Employers are looking for strong communication skills from the get-go. They want to know that you will effectively represent the company when communicating with colleagues and clients in emails, phone calls, meetings, presentations, and day-to-day work. Most importantly, they want to see that you’re able to clearly share your point of view in a concise and professional way. The good news? You can easily show this off during the hiring process when emailing potential employers or speaking in an interview.

Get the Skill

Communication skills take practice, and one of the best ways to grow is by getting feedback. Check out the Beyond Business summer program, which combines the practice of marketable skills with feedback from professionals and mentors.

5. Humility

This answer may seem surprising, but employers were quick to point out that it’s an in-demand skill. Sure, companies want you to come in confident and excited, but they also value flexibility and a willingness to learn, especially in new hires. While you shouldn’t feel that you have to hold back when it comes to sharing your thoughts and ideas, you should get comfortable being wrong and learning from it. Ask questions, spend time getting to know about the position and company, and don’t come into a job assuming you know more than your boss.

Get the Skill

The best way to gain this skill? As Nike said, just do it. Be gracious, humble, and eager, and demonstrate your flexibility by not only being open to feedback, but incorporating that feedback into your work.

Photo of people working courtesy of Shutterstock.