Employers Say Skills Are Lacking in Employees and New Hires

By Susan Fenner, Ph.D.

Job Skills NeededToday, more than ever before, employers say job candidates are lacking basic skills. They may have a degree or a diploma, but don’t measure up to workplace standards. Several skills areas frequently mentioned include:

  • Speaking skills. Many of us have grown lax and don’t even hear ourselves use phrases like, “he don’t”, “it ain’t right”, “he and me went” and so on. But others do hear it and it will keep someone from getting a job or a promotion.
  • Business writing. With Twitter and texting, it’s easy to fall into the trap of shortcutting and taking liberties with generally accepted writing rules. But, whether it’s a letter, memo, e-mail, phone message, or a report, employers expect employees to write, proof, and distribute proper, clear, and error-free messages.
  • Understanding numbers. Everyone is responsible for the bottom line and the bottom line is defined by numbers. Without being well-grounded in simple and complex math, you won’t have value.
  • Interpersonal skills. Today’s workplace requires teamwork – with people above and below your rank, people inside and outside the company. If you can’t accept feedback, handle emotions, resolve conflict, and work well with others, you won’t be hired and if on the job, could be fired.
  • Adaptability. Change is constant. We all have to adapt – to new things, new people, new ways, new technologies. If you can’t adapt and if you don’t quickly bounce  back after set-backs, you won’t last long.
  • Problem solving and critical thinking. Employers want employees who can innovate, analyze situations, and find solutions to problems. With less people and fewer resources, employees have to be self-directed, work independently as well as in teams, and think on their feet.

These skills seem common sense. But they are not transferring into the workplace. Some of these skills can be measured, some observed, others are harder to assess. But all of them are essential.

One excellent program for assessing skills of job candidates and skill gaps for employees is the Office Proficiency Assessment and Certification (OPAC) program. OPAC can measure Microsoft applications like Word, Excel, PowerPolnt. Outlook, Windows, and Access. It also evaluates clerical functions, such as writing skills and customer service – providing valuable feedback – before you hire or consider promoting an employee. They also have specialty tests for legal, medical, and financial settings.

Using OPAC is like having a competency expert sitting in on your interviews. You don’t have to rely solely on what you see and read about them. You can delve into what they can really do and the skills they bring to your work team.

 Download Making It Work at Work (Issue 1, January, 2014)

About the Author

Susan Fenner, Ph.D.Susan Fenner, Ph.D. has made a career out of following workplace and workforce trends. For more than 25 years, she was the Manager of Education and Professional Development for the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and now serves as the Chief Learning Architect for Speakers You Need (SyN), a consortium of subject-matter experts who provide training to organizations. She was the Admin Support Advisor on Monster, and had columns in Office Solutions and OfficePro magazines. She was also the General Editor for The Complete Office Handbook. Susan has worked with business educators and corporations to prepare office professionals to excel in their roles. She has also worked with educators to develop a business/administrative curriculum used throughout the U.S. and Canada.


3 C’s for Hiring the Right Person for the Job

Hire for SuccessOne of the most difficult and critical responsibilities for a manager or business owner is hiring the right person for the job. Here are 3 C’s to consider as you seek a new employee for your organization: clear, capable and competent


Get clear on the position your hiring for. You need an accurate job description. Do you know in detail what someone in this position actually does? Ask the position’s supervisor and other job incumbents these questions.

  • What are the specific tasks that someone filling this role completes?
  • How critical is each task?
  • How often is each task performed?
  • What knowledge, skills and abilities are needed to accomplish these tasks?


Now that you’re clear on the position and have a detailed job description, you’re ready to find someone who is capable to do the job. By capable I mean the applicant has the knowledge, skills and abilities to accomplish the job tasks. Create a plan for how you will determine job capability. Will you ask specific questions about job history, look at a portfolio, or perhaps use a pre-employment test?


You have a detailed job description and have a plan for measuring capability, now it’s time to consider interpersonal competence. An individual can have all the right skills but still not be a good fit. How will you determine, as best as possible, how well an applicant handles conflict, deals with difficult people, prioritizes tasks, follows through, has integrity and so on? What questions will you ask? Perhaps it makes sense to use a soft skills employment test or pre-employment personality assessment.

Hire the right person for the job by getting clear on what the available position is and determining how you will measure an applicant’s capability and interpersonal competence.