Biggest Skill Gaps Going Into 2024 – How to Be the Best Candidate

Winning a dream job (or any job, for that matter) requires both an ample amount of skill and luck. A twisting of words to become the most presentable. A pulling of connections to create a reference sheet that blows the competition away. Placing the correct keywords in your past work history as a way of presenting your abilities and experience as a professional, creating an efficient and eye-catching elevator pitch. Crafting both the best resume and job application requires dedication and knowledge of your field, so much so that we have created countless articles about it. And though we’ve piled over countless words about what to do in your job hunts, we have yet to delve into one of the most important topics: skill gaps.

Currently, the labor market is in a strange place. Despite businesses crying out over significant labor shortages, employers may be pickier than ever in regard to who they decide to bring on board. Though plenty of companies are hiring, they may see too many skill gaps between them and applicants, leaving the positions open for an extended (if not uncomfortable) period of time.

According to a study by McKinsey& Company, 87% of major worldwide companies are aware that they either already have a skills gap or will have one within a few years. Businesses know that skill gaps are a thing and they are actively attempting to work around them.

So, how do you, as an employee, close this gap? How can you use a major decrease in certain skills as an advantage during your job search? How can you use these desired abilities as an advantage in your favor?

As a staffing agency, we hear about the skills employers desire every single day. Therefore, we know how to navigate the overwhelming and intense market. We, being the charitable souls that we are, are going to share some secrets with you. Let’s get that dream job.

What Is the Skills Gap?

Overall, Skill Gaps is one of those self-explanatory terms that is often thrown around the employment and recruitment industry. It’s a catch-all, if you will. When a company is having a hard time finding employees that meet or exceed their standards, they may use the term gaps loosely, referring directly to the inability to find great employees. When asked what gaps are specifically desired, they may be unsure. Someone has yet to grab them, even if they’re not sure why.

As defined, the skills gap is the difference between the soft or hard skills
a company desires in their employees and the average skills held by applying candidates.

For an extremely broad example, if a company wants employees that have 10 or more years of experience in the field, and all of their applicants only have less than 10, there is a skill gap. It’s as simple as that.

As stated, this is particularly loose in scope, often dealing with averages instead of exact despair. Say a company says they have a skill gap in candidates or employees regarding leadership. It’s entirely possible that a few candidates or employees have leadership skills but are undesirable due to a lack in other departments. Or, the candidates didn’t mention leadership skills in their applications. Here there is an average gap in leadership skills, not an exact issue. At the end of the day, chances are that some candidates have the desired skills, it’s just not enough candidates.

In a way, this is still a problem. Though it may not be as dramatic as the entirety of a candidate pool not having said ability, it still shows that the supply and demand in labor is off somewhere. If companies are complaining about candidates not having enough, say, leadership skills, then who’s to blame? Are the companies holding too high of demands? Or are we not preparing future workers well enough?

Regardless, if a candidate or current employee doesn’t have the skills, experience, or training the employer desires, there is a skill gap.

How Does This Benefit Me?

So far, we’ve been exceedingly negative. Here we are sprinkling can’t and don’t throughout the article. Not enough candidates possess this skill. Employers want more of that skill.

According to PwC, the talent shortage and skills gap in the U.S. alone is expected to total a loss of $8.5 trillion by 2030. On top of that, the amount of available workers during the outright labor shortage is stunning. In 1960, there were six working adults for every person over 65. In 2030, we’ll hit 2.8 working adults for every person over 65.

The skills gap is an issue that will continue to grow throughout the next… Well. Who knows how long? Therefore, it’s important to brush up on your tangible skills, allowing you to stand out from the wide majority of workers that don’t possess those desired abilities.

If job competition is going to lower and continue to not have the required abilities, why not be the outstanding employee that does have them? Why not bridge the gap yourself? It’s a surefire way to win the attention of the possible employer.

By taking the biggest skill gaps in your specific industry and making sure you bridge them,
then you automatically make yourself a top-tier applicant.

Never Lie

Before we begin listing the most critical skill gaps happening in the labor market right now, we must note the importance of honesty. At the end of the day, you must actually have or acquire the skills we are about to discuss. Sure, lying about them may get the attention of a hiring manager, but you will be quickly discovered, resulting in a loss of job opportunities or worse, a tarnished reputation in your local industry. Therefore, it’s crucial to be honest about these skills, even if using them as an attention grabber is enticing.

Let’s take quote from our previous article regarding resume lies.

Excerpt from our article Resume Lies – Never Fabricate These 8 Application Items!

Finding that perfect gig is hard enough. Once you do, you have to garner the attention of the hiring manager. It’s a try-and-fail task that can quickly dwindle someone’s ego, especially if they are in dire need of reliable income. Therefore, we understand why people tend to lie on their applications.

We get it. We do. Job searching can be arduous. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that some people are willing to bolster their resumes with little lies here and there.

Here’s the thing: you never want to start off your relationship with a potential employer based on a lie. Even if you manage to get away with the fabrication, you are still building a working relationship off of a shaky foundation. And, if the employer does find out that you were lying about something, you will end up untrusted for the foreseeable future.

Lying on job applications can go one of three ways. One, the employer notices it before hiring you, eliminating you from the candidacy. Two, you get the job and nothing is ever discovered. Three, the employer notices once you’ve been hired, which may lead to firing or a lack of trust.

If there’s only a 33.33% chance of a positive outcome, is the risk truly worth the reward?

Trust is one of the main attributes hirers look for in candidates. Why start your working relationship based on the negation of trust? It’s likely to lead to a bad ending.

Biggest and Most Common Skill Gaps Right Now

It’s time to get to the meat and potatoes.

According to both our experience and market research, we have put together and described the biggest skill gaps happening in the current working world. Obviously, this is not industry specific. There will always be skill gaps within certain industries that relate directly to applicable applications, software, or technology.

For example, in the transportation industry, it’s possible there is a lack of drivers with commercial driver’s licenses. That’s an industry-specific gap. We won’t get into those here (it would fill a whole book).

These are general skills that employers are looking for and can’t seem to find. These are skills you should look to include in the bulk of your application. If you don’t have them, you can look to bolster them in your next job to assure your resume dominance going forward.

Soft or Hard Skills?

Moving forward, we will refer to skills as either hard or soft. What exactly does that mean?

Soft skills are often intangible. They are often the adjectives of the skills section. Things you have learned as a person to be a person, interworking them into your professional posture. For example, hardworking, great at communication, and attentive are all soft skills.

Hard skills are the things you’ve learned that can help you in a specific field. These are the skills you pick up along your professional journey, giving you the edge over the competition. For example, if you work as a graphic designer, being fluent in Photoshop would be a hard skill. Knowing JavaScript is a hard skill.

Overall, hard skills are often seen as the better of the two. They are the ones that can truly be backed up and can be easily seen as applicable to the job at hand. Sure, hardworking is a great skill to have, but it’s easier to mentally connect knowing Photoshop to be a designer. Thinking of the relevance of soft skills takes a fair bit of introspection and mental gymnastics.

In a world where your resume needs to be efficient and punchy, hard skills make more sense.

1. Writing Abilities

Even if you are not working as a writer, having the ability to write well is a colossal plus. And, with new generations throwing long-form writing and book reading to the wayside, the need for writing skills is increasing in the job market.

Let’s break down the simplicity: There are 6.1 million jobs on ZipRecruiter listing communication skills as a necessary adjective to have for the role. In a world where the majority of work is done at home, what’s the main medium in which those communication skills are necessary? Email, text, and chat clients.

What’s it take to be good at those forms of communication? Writing skills.

Even if you never have to write to customers, being able to write to your other teammates in a reasonable and understanding fashion makes the entire work process much easier. If you can clearly demonstrate your purpose, wants, or business needs, everyone will have an easier time continuing production.

Have you ever received an email from a coworker and you don’t understand what was being asked? It’s a nightmare and only slows daily production. If only they were better writers.

Overall, being a good writer is always a useful skill, regardless of the industry. Employers are still looking for workers with writing abilities, despite the skill being left off the majority of resumes.

2. Customer Service

Customer service will always be a desired skill. Dealing with clientele is and always will be one of the most important aspects of maintaining a business, regardless of the industry. Unfortunately, with the ever-growing increase in hybrid schedules and the 3 previous years of pandemic-caused remote work, customer service skills are being lost among younger workers. They truly haven’t needed them much over the last few years, especially within the tech industry.

Dealing with people can be difficult. Social batteries drain faster for some than others. As long as a job involves a product or service, it will eventually lead to a customer service-based situation. Being prepared for these encounters involves more than just a smile. Honing your customer service skills is crucial for any job and frankly, life itself.

Not only does great customer service reflect fondly on the company you work for, but also yourself as a worker. Being an outstanding representative makes you attractive for possible jobs. Exceptional one-on-one skills are an attribute that companies look for, regardless of if the potential role involves customer service.

All in all, interaction with others is needed for any job. So, having communication skills goes a long way. With younger generations not having as much exposure to customer service, it’s a soft skill that will become rare in the future.

3. Public Speaking

Along with the decreased need for customer service over the past few years, public speaking has also dropped into a shallow pool only swum in by those that have a passion for presenting. And, if you are like most people, you probably don’t have joyous excitement when you need to present in front of people.

Public speaking is a skill often picked up in school or through the necessity of work. Most people do not go out of their way to build up their presentation skills unless they absolutely need to. In fact, The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 40% of the population.

If high school students went through their educational career in Zoom classes or started their professional careers during the remote work lockdown, then they may have never needed to do physical public speaking. It’s possible that they’ve given little-to-no public presentations in their short professional careers. Therefore, public speaking ability will become a remarkable gap in the next few years.

If you have great public speaking skills, you are in luck. Make sure to mention it somewhere on your resume. With the return of the normal world (or something akin to what it once was), public presentations will slowly come back into the norm of business operations. If you are great at them, you are ahead of the competition.

4. Teamwork

36% of hiring managers said teamwork is one of the most noticeable and concerning skill gaps in new candidates. Ultimately, being a great member of a team or workplace is a good indicator of your overall communication, collaboration, and friendliness.

Pinpointing where exactly the lack of teamwork skills comes from is fairly difficult. It’s easy to point the finger at remote work (like we’ve been doing) and the lack of in-person teamwork during the pandemic. But, in a way, this is ironic. In fact, with the strain of clear communication during remote work, teamwork may have been more important than ever.

It’s possible that jobs (especially in tech) don’t call for much collaboration anymore. If that’s truly the case, it calls for a rough future for hiring managers. The need for teamwork in production is never going away, so the lack of employees skilled in teamwork is concerning.

If you have teamwork skills, you should show them throughout your resume. In the job experience section, note what your role was in your team and how you worked together as a unit to achieve greatness. Communication, leadership, and empathy all work together here, too.

When you note your achievements at each job, say ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.
Say ‘my team’ instead of ‘me’. That subtly shows that you are a team player.

5. Data Analysis

Much like teamwork, exactly 36% of hiring managers said employees lack data analysis skills. In the current world where every statistic can be found in the blink of an eye (or the click of a mouse), having the ability to understand and use data toward your job is significant. If your company isn’t using data to better itself, the competitor certainly is.

Regardless of your position or industry, you should be able to read and understand data. You should be able to use your findings to help improve your team, department, or overall production.

Overall, data is used to improve how a company runs, boost revenue, or increase efficiency. It’s also helpful to find and keep investors happy with the company’s performance. 

As a leader in your department, you may be called upon to find the required digital data to assist the company in making valuable choices. This data can be used to increase production, create better products, have better customer service, or improve logistics among many others. You, as the liaison of your section, will be called upon to make sense of it all, connecting the numbers to faces and physical attributes.

If you have used or acquired any type of data in your previous roles, you should certainly highlight it on your resume. Note you are fluent in Excel, Python, and/or Tableau. State specific examples of how you used the data to help bolster your department or speed up your production.

Companies have noticed that data analysis is one of the current skill gaps. If you have even just a small understanding of analysis, noting it will put your resume above others.

Keep Building Your Skills

If you have any of the hard-define attributes we’ve listed that will help fill in employer skill gaps, great. As noted, make sure to include them on your resume. If you don’t, that’s okay. Ultimately, you should always be looking to increase your skills as a potential employee, especially within your industry. Because the aforementioned skills are considered skill gaps, you may want to put them on your to-learn list.

According to a recent report, 82% of employees and 62% of HR directors said they believe that workers will need to reskill or upskill at least once a year to maintain a competitive advantage in a global job market.

Regardless of if that is hyperbole, there is still a point to be made. Professionals (and humans in general) should always be looking to improve on current skills or learn new abilities, especially ones considered skill gaps.

Even if you are currently employed, you can always be looking for ways to bolster your abilities for future promotions or job hunts.

If you need new certifications for new jobs (or industry changes) or need to further your education in the industry you were already in, now is the time to do so. Make sure to brush up on all of your industry-based certifications and further learnings while you have the time. Not only is it more applicable during your job search, but it will help you land better jobs going forward.

If you can gain new abilities through your current workplace, take the opportunities. For example, if your boss is looking for someone to give a big presentation, volunteer. This will help you fill the gap in public speaking skills.

In a perfect world, skill gaps should not be a thing. We should all always be learning and becoming better at our jobs. You can always grow and learn new skills, and now might just be the time to do so.