Top 16 Skills Needed in 2020 and Beyond  

A 2019 survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. found that while more than 82% of employer respondents said they were actively hiring for open positions, approximately 80% of them said they were having a hard time finding qualified candidates. Seventy percent of respondents reported finding a skills shortage among applicants.

“This presents a difficult situation for hiring managers who need to fill positions,” Challenger said in a press release. “It’s far more costly to hire someone who does not have the requisite skills and who will potentially only last a short time than to wait for the right person to come along.”

As such, new grads who are looking to enter the workforce and professionals who are interested in changing jobs should focus on developing the hard and soft skills that employers look for.  For those looking to return to school to complete their degrees, and for those looking to obtain a graduate-level degree, finding a university that addresses the current skills gap will be crucial.

What goals are you looking to achieve to help advance your career? If expanding your skillset is on your list, read on to learn more about the top skills that employers will be looking for in 2020 and beyond.

Tech Savviness

The days when employees could get by without possessing up-to-date technical skills are long gone. The Fourth Industrial Revolution — which refers to technologies such as autonomous vehicles, digital healthcare sensors, and facile ID recognition — is changing how we work, live, and interact with our peers. Employers want to hire candidates who are comfortable adapting to new technologies.

Emotional Intelligence

Forbes reports that emotional intelligence ranks high on employers’ wish list. Applicants who can recognize and respond to their own emotions and the emotions of others are in high demand, as this skill allows them to navigate the complexities of social interactions in the workplace.


Every decision made by an employee can have an impact on the entire company. Job applicants who can demonstrate that they know how to identify and evaluate options and then make sound decisions that will positively impact company productivity, employee morale, and the team as a whole rank high on a hiring manager’s wish list.

Problem-Solving Capabilities

Hiring managers often ask interviewees to talk about a time when they solved a complex problem in a creative or innovative way. They ask this question to learn if an applicant can approach a dilemma from various angles and find out-of-the-box solutions. Candidates who possess refined problem-solving skills stand out from their peers.


There are a variety of soft skills that help people become better leaders, including communication skills, problem-solving skills, and project management skills. Individuals who take time to work on the competencies that grow their leadership abilities may find that it’s easier to land the jobs they want.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict in the workplace can hinder productivity and increase employee turnover rates. This makes employees who have the ability to work through and move past disagreements with their peers valuable.

Written Communication

Written communication encompasses everything from contracts to emails. Individuals who are unable to compose clear, concise, error-free messages are unlikely to get ahead in the workplace.

Verbal Communication

Strong verbal communication skills help people relay information clearly and concisely. This saves time and helps avoid the misinterpretation of messages. Hiring managers look for candidates who can demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively.


A growing number of companies are turning to technology and automation to streamline processes. However, the need for creative individuals who can help design products and solutions for tomorrow remains strong.


Technology is ever-changing, and managers want to hire people who are willing to learn. The ability to adapt to change in the workplace is more important than ever.


It’s one thing to have a great product or concept. It’s another to be able to persuade people to buy into it. Strong negotiation skills are a must-have in the workplace, regardless of whether an employee works in sales or project management.

Willingness to Actively Help Others

Companies understand that if they want to gain a competitive edge, they need to hire managers who can build successful teams. Team members who work together and help each other so they can succeed as a unit are valued in the workplace.


Teamwork is a critical attribute in the workplace, and it’s not unusual for hiring managers to ask about your ability to function on a team. When companies are tasked with complex projects, employees’ ability to collaborate with others becomes increasingly important.

People Management

The ability to manage people is arguably among the most important leadership skills that hiring managers look for, because this skill has a direct impact on productivity and morale. Individuals who possess strong people-management skills can help lead teams through workplace transitions and periods of uncertainty.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers understand that problems aren’t always black and white. They’re able to view a problem from all angles and understand how to analyze and evaluate the information they have, before they make a decision. It’s not surprising that employers look for candidates who are capable of high-level thinking about complex problems.

Time Management

Learning how to manage your time effectively will serve you well throughout your career. Not only will it allow you to accomplish more in less time, but strong time-management skills can help you focus and be more successful in the workplace.

Refining Hard and Soft Skills Can Help Take Your Career to the Next Level

Professionals wanting to take the next step in their careers are likely to be well served by completing or continuing their education. The decision to return to school is not an easy one, but those who make that bold choice can create new opportunities for themselves. Whether you’re interested in finishing an undergraduate degree or enrolling in an online master’s or doctorate program, you’ll want to choose a university that has a track record for preparing graduates to enter the workforce.

The online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs at Maryville University have been designed to provide students with the key hard and soft skills needed to meet employers’ demands. Discover how an online degree from Maryville University can help you toward the career you want.

Recommended Reading

Women in STEM: A Guide to Bridging the Gender Gap

Soft Skills: Why Businesses Crave Them

Trends in Higher Education


The Balance Careers, “Critical Thinking: Why This Is an Essential Skill”

The Balance Careers, “Important Adaptability Skills for Workplace Success”

The Balance Careers, “Important Negotiation Skills for Workplace Success”

The Balance Careers, “Important Time Management Skills for Workplace Success”

The Balance Careers, “Top Skills and Attributes Employers Look For”

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “Challenger Hiring Survey: Employers Report Skills Shortages; HR in Demand”

CNBC, “Everything You Need to Know About the Fourth Industrial Revolution”

Entrepreneur, “Five Tips for Making Better Decisions”

Forbes, “The Skills You Need to Succeed in 2020”

Forbes, “The 10+ Most Important Job Skills Every Company Will Be Looking For in 2020”

Forbes, 12 Qualities Employers Look for When They’re Hiring”

Houston Chronicle, “About People Management Skills”

Houston Chronicle, “What Are the Benefits of Good Conflict Resolution Skills?”

Inc., “7 Absolutely Certain Ways to Grow as a Leader”

LinkedIn, “The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019 — and How to Learn Them”

LinkedIn, “Why Creativity Is the Most Important Skill in the World”

Monster, “These Are the 9 Skills That Would Make Any Hiring Manager Happy”

World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs”

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