Employees have spoken! These are the Best Places to Work in 2022. See the Winners!

Career Advice

4 Shocking Job Skills That Will Help You Stand Out

Posted by Heather Huhman

March 24, 2015

You’ve probably heard a lot of advice about selling your skills during an interview. Sure soft skills like adaptability and a positive attitude are just as important as hard skills used on the job. But, there’s a new part of the skills gap employers are seeing.

Today’s Millennial candidates are missing key fundamental skills, and they might not be what you’d expect. Princeton researchers recently administered a test measuring the job skills of adults aged 16 to 65, in 23 countries, and found U.S. Millennials rank lowest in a couple of skills typically learned in elementary school.

Here are four unexpected job skills to play up to help you stand out among the crowd:

1. The ability to follow directions.

Literacy, including the ability to follow simple directions, stood out as one of the top areas where Millennials aren’t quite up to snuff, according to Princeton’s research.

The next time you communicate with a potential employer, demonstrate your unique attention to detail. Ask questions that show you’ve thoroughly researched the company and position responsibilities. Follow instructions on assessment tests and projects with care.

2. Practical math.

Thanks to the calculator feature on smartphones, executing mental math is no longer a requirement for most of us. But this convenience might be more detrimental in the long-run, especially when we have a workforce of employees who cannot perform simple addition and subtraction problems on the spot. That’s the direction U.S. Millennials seem to be heading, according to Princeton.

Now, I’m not suggesting you recite multiplication tables at your next interview. Instead, beef up your basic math skills alongside your job search so you’re ready to solve for X, should you be tested. Though the position might have little to do with numbers, it never hurts to keep your critical thinking skills fresh.

3. Problem solving in technology-rich environments.

Nearly every position out there requires problem solving skills, but in today’s tech-rich landscape, these skills applied to working with technology are even more crucial. Unfortunately, Princeton’s test reveals U.S. Millennials fall behind the rest of the world and other age groups in this skill, too.

It’s not about knowing how every piece of office equipment or computer program works; it’s about being able to troubleshoot problems when you encounter them.

If you have valuable experience working with a troublesome scanner or debugging computers at your last job, share that with the hiring manager. Your proven track record of solving tech problems will demonstrate you can do the same in any role, placing you above the rest.

4. Basic word processing skills.

As much of our business and commerce migrates online, digital skills will be invaluable to remain competitive in the future job market. In fact, they’re already moving into high-demand, according to a recent study by Burning Glass Technologies. The study found 78 percent of middle-skill jobs, or jobs that require an associate’s degree, require digital skills such as spreadsheet and word processing proficiencies.

During your job search, familiarize yourself with the programs your ideal job requires. If there are any you have yet to learn, teach yourself in your spare time. This will show hiring managers you’re proactive and self-motivated.

It’s easy to overlook these basic skills, since many of us take them as a given. As these skills become endangered in the wake of the many conveniences, brush up on them and use them to your advantage.

What other skills do you have that set you apart from your competition?