We have plenty of openings. The problem is, we can’t get enough people with the right skills to fill them.

Have you ever heard that one before? You spend hours scouring job boards for solid opportunities. Just when you think you’ve found a winner, you get stuck trying to figure out what the job ad is really asking for. After staring at it for far too long, you still have no idea what the company is after, nor do you understand the skills they really want an applicant to have.

But something still intrigues you about the opportunity. So you spend another hour (or more) wordsmithing your resume. And another hour (or more) goes by trying to keyword engineer it. That’s when you realize you are throwing good after bad. All you really want is a fair chance to communicate who you are and how you fit, plainly and naturally, without the charade.

New research published by LiveCareer in its 2018 Skills Gap Report shows that job seekers often do have many of the skills employers want. But the study also reveals a void between the skills job seekers say they are offering on their resumes and the skills employers say they require in their job advertisements.

And that’s the real skills gap that keeps good employers from finding good candidates like you.

The hard currency of the job market

LiveCareer analyzed several thousands of resumes and job ads across 12 separate occupations. All combined, those 12 occupations account for one-quarter of all occupational categories in the U.S. labor market.

Natural Language Processing was used to drill into the actual language job seekers and employers use to transact, at the very point where they start talking business. This is the hard currency used in the job market. The idea was to determine what the two sides say and mean with their job market language and whether there is a disconnect between the two. That represents the value of the currency. If there is any discrepancy in the value of the currency either uses, the end can only be a bad deal or no deal at all. That is, bad hire or no hire.

And that’s just what the study found. Neither jobseekers nor employers enter the market with the right amount of currency to make a fair exchange. On average, job ads list 21.8 different skills they require of candidates, while jobseekers include only 13 skills on their resumes.

It just gets worse when trying to sync up on value. Jobseekers match only 59 percent of hard skills and 62 percent of soft skills on their resumes compared with what employers list in their job ads. The skills with the biggest gaps were multitasking, retail industry knowledge, positive attitude, and physical demand.

The study also found that employers value soft skills more highly than jobseekers realize. Soft skills typically make up between 25 to 50 percent of skills appearing in job ads. The highest value soft skills across all occupations were customer service and communication skills. 

Make digital business technology work for you

For many 2018 job seekers, the rise of digital business may cause some anxiety. But that same technology is also bringing about the digital job search, which actually gives job seekers more leverage than ever before. Think of technology as clearing you for the job, not keeping you out of one.

The first thing is to switch into the WIIFT mindset: What’s In It For Them? The resume is not about showing how good you are, but rather how good you are for the hiring organization. Everything on your resume must be oriented to their needs. You must show how your skills specifically address those needs, and how your job accomplishments bear that out.

Matching keywords will get you past the ATS, but matching your skills precisely to those listed in the job ad will really help you stand out. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Customize your resume according to the keywords and the skills listed in the job ad. If you lack experience in some key areas, try to customize in terms of leadership or other high-value soft skills that signal high potential
  • In instances when you don’t customize your resume, always attach a customized cover letter
  • Carefully review job ads that you think you might respond to, and mimic the language used in the ad in both the resume and cover letter
  • Always check your resume against the job ad to make sure you are not including too few skills
  • Highlight customer service and communications skills most relevant to the role, no matter what role you are seeking
  • Monitor skills listed in relevant job ads to help identify authentic gaps in your skill set.

Two key takeaways for the 2018 jobseeker

Technology always develops faster than workers can adapt, and so there will always be skills gaps. But like no other technology before it, digital business technology can help minimize negative effects on your marketability. Let your 2018 job search strategy be guided by two key takeaways:

  1. Be very precise in lining up your stated skill sets with employers’ stated requirements
  2. Take charge of finding and overcoming perceived skills gaps through training and professional development opportunities.

To learn more about how to build up your job market currency, and get the most value out of the digital age job search, visit the 2018 Skills Gap Report link at the beginning of the article. A PDF download of all of the report’s findings is available via the link.