Every employer wants workers with baseline or soft skills, but how difficult are they to find? Since soft skills are inevitably hard to define, one way of finding out if there is a skills gap is to look at how frequently a skill is requested in job postings. It may seem counterintuitive, but when crafting job ads employers are more likely to mention skills they’re worried they won’t be available to get.
For example, basic mathematics is ranked highest as a baseline skill in hospitality and manufacturing jobs. People in these roles need math proficiency – typically for basic finance in hospitality and taking measurements in production roles – yet many otherwise well-qualified applicants may be missing these skills. By contrast, mathematics skills are rarely mentioned by employers looking to hire candidates into technical roles in Finance and Engineering. The ability is just as crucial, but it’s also assumed that someone trained in the complex equations of engineering has already mastered basic math.
In our report, The Human Factor: The Hard Time Employers Have Finding Soft Skills, we measured the skills gap in these areas by comparing how frequently a skill was demanded in job ads to how important it was ranked in the objective job profiles in the O*NET database sponsored by the federal Department of Labor. If a skill is mentioned in job postings at a rate that is out of of proportion with their importance in the O*NET description, that likely represents a shortage in the market.