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What Employers Are Really Looking For

Employers in different industries say they want workers with soft skills and hands-on experience.

Recent interviews with employers in nine different industries and in all regions of Minnesota show that employers are looking for a variety of skills and qualifications in their workers. But the two qualities listed below came up most often.

"Soft Skills" or "Foundational Skills"

Employers want workers who can see the big picture, solve problems, are good communicators, and team players. These are also called employability skills. Here are a few comments from employers:

  • “Even when the applicant has good qualifications, they are hired based on personality and soft skills.”
  • “Communication is as important as technical skills.”
  • “[Employees need to understand] new ways to look at business and need to be innovative.” 
  • “Customer service orientation, basic work expectations such as being on time, professional dress, following rules and procedures, etc., are all lacking [in the people we see].”
  • “Finding the right technical skills, combined with the ability to communicate and collaborate with business partners, is the biggest challenge.” 

Hands-On Experience

Employers also say that new graduates and career changers will be much more marketable and valuable if they have gained practical experience while going to school:

  • “Some kind of experience, such as an internship, is critical.”
  • “Students should have ‘ride alongs’ or job shadowing to gain exposure to the job.”
  • “Manufacturers would like to see graduates with a little more background in working on the machines, more hands-on experience.”
  • “[We] look for those who have had internships.”
  • “It’s important for colleges to provide fellowships, externships, and residency programs to aid in transition from student to employee.”

Want to know more about the skills and qualifications employers are looking for? Check out the Minnesota Employers Speak tool. This tool shows comments from more than 50 listening sessions with employers in nine different industries around the state.

Review Why Skills Are Important to learn how to gain or improve skills, and how to identify your skills.


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