The five most in-demand skills listed in Canadian job descriptions

Analysis of the content of online job postings reveals the skills and qualifications that Canadian employers are most-often looking for.

I looked this up because of some online reaction to a recent post of mine. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post last week in which I explained that the word we all need to stop saying in job interviews is ‘we.’ Describing your work experience and accomplishments in phrases like “we launched a new platform” or “we shattered sales records” implies that the company or the team did well, but it diminishes your individual achievements.

While I still believe that is true, I was accused by some readers of being “patently male biased” because they feel that collaboration and teamwork should be celebrated not downplayed.

Fair enough. It turns out that the single most sought-after skill in all Canadian job postings in “teamwork.”

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario analyzed the content of online job postings in Canada across platforms to determine which skills are mentioned most frequently – and therefore the most sought after – by employers. The results show that employers in this country really are looking for people who can play well with others. Teamwork, collaboration, cooperation and various other ways of saying ‘working together’ is the most frequently referenced skill.

Other top skills appearing most often in Canadian job postings include “communication skills” and a variety of documentation, organizational, and computer skills.

However, because these skills appear the most frequently in job postings, they tend to be the most generic. The baseline skills, the price of admission to get hired. Once you have those, you need to set yourself apart on the job market with your specific talents, the stuff you’re really good at, and the accomplishments that you achieved above and beyond what others might have been able to do in a similar role.

But let’s start with the basics. Analysis of online job postings reveals that employers across categories are looking for these five things in most people they hire.

The five baseline skills appearing most often in job postings:

    Teamwork

    Team work, collaboration, working with others is the most commonly listed skill in online Canadian job ads. Nearly all postings, 93 per cent of them ask for applicants who are good at ‘teamwork.’

    Communications

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, if teamwork is so important, you’re going to need to be able to communicate with your coworkers. Communications, expressing ideas, instructions, and information in clear and easy to understand terms in English is the second most frequently-sought skill in Canadian job ads, with 84 per cent of posts asking for it.

    Computer Skills

    Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of all job ads are now asking for computer use. These aren’t just tech jobs, or even office jobs – but posts across genres. Employers ask for candidates to be tech savvy, comfortable with computers and operating systems, internet use, email, and a variety of computer skills such as popular software programs (Microsoft Office, Word, Excel, PowerPoint.)

    Administrative and organizational skills

    Time management and planning skills are highly sought-after by Canadian employers with those terms, along with phrases such as detail oriented, prioritization, budgeting, and documenting turning up in 64 per cent of online job ads.

    Documentation Skills

    Similarly, bringing many of the above-mentioned skills together, the effective use of documents is in demand right now. These skills include writing and research abilities, grammar and spelling, word processing, as well as a host of terms describing the creation, sharing, and management of files and documents. Collectively these documentation skills appear in 58 per cent of Canadian job descriptions.

This research was done by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario for a report on career paths for university grads. I spoke at their annual conference on job market trends last year.

As I mentioned, those five skills are the price of admission to the job market, not the keys to success. So, make sure to demonstrate how you have them in your resume and job interview answers. But don’t stop there. When skills or qualifications turn up in so many job postings, often it is because employers list them by default. As filler text. Part of the template.

You don’t want to be a template. If you turned up for a job interview with great teamwork, communications, documentation, organizational, and computer skills, but no significant accomplishments or unique skillsets apart from these, you’d be a forgettable, generic candidate. Qualified enough to meet with, but not impressive enough to hire.

Get the baseline right. Then focus on the stuff that sets you apart. Oh, and stop saying ‘we’ in job interviews. It hurts your credibility.

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