Job seekers in 2021 have reason to be optimistic. While the economy and the job market continue a tenuous comeback from Covid, more than 80% of hiring managers say they're planning to hire this year, according to a recent survey by job website Monster.
There is a catch, however.
The so-called skills gap continues to be a sticking point for employers looking to expand their workforce. That gap refers to the perceived discrepancy between the skills that employers are looking for and those that applicants have.
Four in 10 of the hiring managers Monster surveyed said they anticipate that finding candidates with the correct skills will be a challenge this year, and one-third said the skills gap is worse now than it was a year ago, before the pandemic.
Here's how to make sure you're making yourself an attractive candidate by highlighting the right skills in the job application process.
Some of what appears to be the skills gap may actually be miscommunication, says Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster. One of the most common concerns among recruiters is that "job seekers aren't communicating effectively" about how their past experiences relate to the job at hand, she says.
Luckily, that problem is easily fixed. Carefully read the job posting and retool the way you talk about your job history in your application materials and interviews, Salemi explains. Applicants "should focus on their transferable skills" such as customer service, she says, which is necessary across many sectors.
Keep a list of examples from your working life that can be applied broadly on a phone call with a recruiter or in an interview, Salemi says. Sometimes, even slightly tweaking your resume can do the trick.
"They can always change the order of the bullets in which they appear and highlight their customer service skills, for instance," she suggests. Just remember not to get carried away: "The resume should always be factual and accurate."
Video by Courtney Stith
If you're making a list of transferable skills that you can use to market yourself, don't forget to showcase your so-called soft skills, like your ability to communicate with teammates, your knack for solving problems, and even your basic manners.
A particular instance from Salemi's time as a recruiter stands out. A candidate she interviewed "was rude to the receptionist," she remembers, and Salemi warned the hiring manager: "I don't think this is going to work out. You might want to rethink it."
Despite Salemi's advice, the hiring manger gave the candidate the job. "Within 3 months we had to put her on a performance improvement plan and then fire her," Salemi says.
Your ability to play well with others is a huge value to your future employer, and you should capitalize on it. Even now, when interviews are being held virtually, and thank-you notes are emailed, "soft skills will always be important," Salemi says.
Video by Courtney Stith
There's another concrete way to close a skills gap: Take steps, both big and small, to further your education. You may not even have to go back to school to do it.
"I'm big into online certifications because sometimes they cover the road a little faster than traditional degrees," Anita Kanti, a career coach and founder of Anita K Solutions, recently told Grow. Highlight skills you're learning to optimize your online profile and resume. "That will show that you're taking the initiative to get the inroad to where you want to go professionally."
Kanti recommends the following resources to her clients:
- Udemy. This website boasts more than 100,000 online video courses, covering a broad range of topics like accounting, business law, computer programming, and dog training.
- LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda). There are more than 16,000 courses, ranging from topics like leadership, project management, and design on this hub. For example, there are nearly 1,000 courses on 3D animation alone.
- Universities. You can take courses alongside other students online or through professional development workshops.
For other in-demand skills, there are plenty of low-cost (or no-cost) online resources, including Free Code Camp for web development, Moz Beginner's Guide to SEO for marketing, Skillshare for design work, and Duolingo for foreign languages.
You won't regret investing in yourself, "Shark Tank" investor Barbara Corcoran told Grow. "If you can figure out what your sweet spot is and bet on yourself, that's how you make a fortune," she says. "You chunk down your money on yourself."