Skills and Traits Employers Seek For 21st Century


The ability to work with others cooperatively toward a common goal, i.e., being a "good team player," is usually at the top of every hiring manager's list of desirable traits. No project is likely to be completed without the resolution of conflicts and the building of cooperation. Look for classes where a team project is required. Join organizations where you will be part of a team sharing a common purpose.

Writing Ability

The ability to write well is in high demand for both technical and non-technical people. New hires must be able to write clear memos and proposals, compose reports in a readable style, and convey complex information to a lay readership. Be prepared to offer a writing sample to prospective employers.

Public Speaking

It is imperative that you prepare yourself to be able to stand in front of a group and say something intelligent without losing composure. Expose yourself to situations where you must speak in front of a group. This includes both prepared talks and impromptu speaking.


Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate that they have previous experience and the ability to look at a problem which has no obvious answers and develop possible solutions. Take classes that involve "problem solving." Team problem solving is especially valuable.


Many entry-level positions require the ability to get your fingers dirty in the data, by unearthing information that is needed by others who will not be able or willing to do the digging themselves. Researching on-line is fast becoming the primary mode.

Organizing & Coordinating

Being able to bring order out of chaos, be it people, resources, tasks, problems, information, or schedules, is a skill in demand for almost any job. Volunteer for leadership positions or work with organizations where your responsibility is "keeping it all together."

Adaptability & Flexibility

The 21st century workplace requires people who can change and develop as the market demands. This means being able to learn new skills or upgrade current skills on a continuing basis.

Quantitative Reasoning

This hiring term in simple language means not being afraid of numbers. On the job it means you can face mathematical concepts and statistical data and apply them to problem solving. For non-technical majors, make sure a few of your courses are "number crunching" classes (e.g., econ, stats, accounting, math, etc.)

People Skills & Interpersonal Communication

People with "strong interpersonal skills" will be able to relate warmly, effectively, and consistently with a wide range of people, even those who irritate you, confuse you, or are just plain unpleasant.

Valuing & Ethical Behavior

In former days, this was called "integrity." Business ethics require that you have the ability to sense the effects that your work may have on others, and apply right-and-wrong, good-or-bad, do-or-don't to the possibilities and choices that you will encounter.

Foreign Languages & Global Perspective

As a result of our increasingly global economy, employers value the ability to speak and/or read other languages, a sensitivity to the cultural differences of other people, and knowledge of their countries. Developing an "international or global perspective" means that you understand and appreciate why others may not see things the same way you do.

Information Management & Technology

The four most valuable computer skills new hires will need are: word-processing abilities, an understanding of databases, knowledge of spreadsheets, and an ability to navigate the Internet. These basic tools will enable you to work more effectively in almost any setting. Curiosity, Energy, & Enthusiasm will also go a long way.