What Employers Want: Computer/Technical Skills

A recent nationwide survey asked employers to list, and rank order, the most important skills that they look for in a candidate for a job. The survey was completed by employers from a wide variety of fields, and it focused on what they look for in recent college graduates. Surprisingly, “Technical knowledge related to the job” came in 7th on their “Top Ten” list, and “Proficiency with computer software programs” came in 8th.

I suspect that the reason these skills came in so low on the list is that many organizations, especially large corporations or government agencies, are going to use software that has been modified to meet their needs, and they recognize that they will have to teach any new hires how to work with those tools. What’s crucial is that you demonstrate that you’re comfortable with the applications you’ve used, and (ideally) that you can talk about how you’ve learned to use a variety of applications, showing flexibility and adaptability.

Since most lists of required skills are going to include some mention of technical or computer skills, you need to think about how you’re going to display them on your resume and discuss them in an interview. The type of skills that you’ll need are going to vary widely by the field that you hope to enter, so my advice here is going to be somewhat generic.

  • Create a section of your resume specifically for technical or computer skills.
  • Include all the most commonly used tools, such as Microsoft Office applications.
  • Use the correct name—and spelling—for anything you include on the list.
  • List your level of proficiency, and don’t exaggerate. You can use phrases such as “some exposure to,” “familiar with,” “five-years of experience using,” “proficient at,” and so forth to attempt to accurately reflect your experience.
  • You will need to be familiar with (and include mention of) any specific software applications that are distinct to your field.
  • Include platforms (such as Windows, Mac OS, and Linux).
  • Include social media. Common sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook are okay, but the more esoteric ones will catch the employer’s eye if they’re important to the work of the organization—so do your research! Wikipedia provides a pretty good list to choose from, so scan it and include any that you know would be valued (as long as you actually DO know how to use them).
  • Succinctly describe specific projects that you completed using a particular type of software. For example, “produced a monthly newsletter using InDesign,” “searched for information about corporate hiring practices using Big Sheets,” or “used SAS tools to predict the profit margin of an innovation.” Be prepared to go into more detail about these projects in an interview.