Career Competencies Most Valued By Employers

Posted: February 25, 2020

The results are in… and for the past few years, critical thinking, teamwork, professionalism, and communication have been consistently rated by employers as the four most desired competencies according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Engaging in activities, projects, and experiences that develop these competencies will not only enhance your resume, but will also provide strong examples for upcoming interviews.

Most employers use behavioral based interviewing questions to learn from your past experiences and understand how you might approach a similar situation in the future. These questions require a specific example and often relate to a competency or personal characteristic. As a step in your interview preparation, reflect on the eight keys to career success and recount stories that show your mastery of the competency. This will help you anticipate question topics and recall the specifics of the situation. Using the STAR format to respond to questions ensures you deliver a concise response without omitting important details.

Below, we’ll cover the most sought after competencies and an interview question to help you think about a time when your skills were put to the test.

Critical Thinking

The ability to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems by interpreting facts and exercising reason make up your critical thinking. The solution to a challenge is not always black and white, so companies want to trust their employees are able to use problem solving skills effectively.

  • Practice interview question: “Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information. What did you do?”


Collaborating with individuals of diverse background and effectively managing conflict are essential when working as part of a team. As you’ve likely experienced, not all group members will approach a problem in the same way—and having a variety of perspectives at the table often leads to innovation.

  • Practice interview question: “Give me an example of your favorite experience working on a team. What was your contribution?”


Professionalism is not simply in how one appears. True professionalism is a demonstration of personal accountability, integrity, and ethical behavior in the workplace. It encompasses time management, reliability, and the desire for continuous growth.

  • Practice interview question: “When was the last time you asked for direct feedback from a superior? Why?”


Individuals who are effective when articulating their thoughts and ideas (in written and oral forms) to a variety of audiences are highly sought after. Breakdowns in communication can occur, but the ability to adapt your communication style based on your audience is key.

  • Practice interview question: “Tell me about a time when you were communicating with someone and they did not understand you. What did you do?”

For more information about interview preparation tools and resources, visit Handshake > Resources > keyword search “Interview”.

“Each job requires a conscious choice of career path, and a different plan of development.” - Oscar Auliq-Ice