The top 10 skills employers want you to have

As graduating students’ thoughts turn to finding that first post-uni role, AIIMM manager and final-year student Anna Cavanagh takes a look at what’s important to hirers and how you can get prepared.

Job hunting, we all have to do it at different points in our careers and whether you are like me and are soon to graduate or maybe someone who is thinking of shifting gears and heading to a new place of work, you may find yourself preparing to endure the search. Of course scrolling through jobs can be daunting, especially for those who, again like me, are new to this whole ‘adulting’ life. After all, how do you know you have what it takes to land an interview, let alone a job?

Luckily a Bachelor of Marketing and Media will enable you to pursue a range of careers, and of course each career is going to need a different set of skills. So to make a coherent list (and stick to a decent word limit) I decided to focus on the main types of jobs being offered. After searching, clicking, reading and scrolling through over fifty job applications on four different job search engines, surprise, surprise, the most common positions that I found had one of the following words included in the title, ‘digital’, ‘content’ or ‘social media’.

Focusing on jobs within the digital and social media domain, I took note of the skills and experience which employers wanted applicants to have. Finishing a quick analysis of my data, I have, what I consider, the top 10 skills for which employers are currently looking for. So without further ado, here are my top 10 skills needed for digital and social media marketing roles:

 10. Social Media:

There are no surprises here, especially for positions that involve ‘social media’ in the title, employers are looking for applicants who are familiar with, and regularly use, social media platforms. Of course the types of social media platforms do range depending on the organisation’s target audience, but some of the most common were Facebook, Instagram (including IG story and IG TV), Youtube and Twitter.

How to get better: Go open your account and get familiar with all social media platforms, from the common (Instagram) to the not so common (Twitch). After all, it gives you an excuse to scroll through your newsfeed.

9. WordPress:

So I am guessing by now you have heard of WordPress, if not… You are currently on it. WordPress is an open source publishing platform which allows you to do a range of activities from creating a blog to building a website at ease.

How to get better: WordPress offers an entry level plan for free. It doesn’t include all the bells and whistles, but it will give you an idea of how to navigate and use the platform.

8. Web Coding:

Although there are platforms which take out the technical need to code (see WordPress), having the ability to web program (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Jquery) is a great little trick to have up your sleeve. Not only do some employers prefer you to have experience with it, but having this skill is a great way to impress those who don’t.

How to get better:  If you are still a Macquarie student with a few 200/300 level units to go, the good news is that there are a range of classes to build your skills (I would recommend undertaking MAS240, MAS241 and MAS340). However, don’t fret if these classes aren’t an option for you, there are great online sites such as Codecademy or W3Schools which can walk you through the basics.

7. Knowledge:

So this is no surprise, but many of the job applications I found consistently asked for someone who is knowledgeable in the latest digital and social media trends.

How to get better: Not only do we publish great content to keep you in the loop, but it’s also a good idea to broaden your sources of reading. Try sites such as SocialMediaToday, Digital Trends and Forbes. These are great sites for staying in the know about all things digital or social media related.

6. Photoshop Skills:

Okay, this is a big one I need to work on. It has been a constant request I’ve seen pop up even before doing research for this post. Of course, the level of expertise does range from basic to proficient, but the majority of positions are looking for applicants with experience using Adobe Creative Suite products, (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign in particular).

How to get better: Sadly there is no way to access these applications for free, but if you are a student and do decide to go ahead and get a subscription, the good news is you can get a discounted rate. Another great way to learn is by checking out online tutorials on or Youtube. Otherwise an offline option is to attend a short photoshop course.

5. Online advertising and Social media management tools:  

Many positions do prefer applicants who have some experience using social media advertising and management tools. The most common tools employers wanted applicants to have experience using included, Facebook and Instagram ads, along with such platforms as Hootsuite, Google Ads Manager and Google Adwords.

How to get better: It is a little harder to build up experience in these areas on your own. One option is to gain experience using these tools and platforms through appropriate internships. Another option is to check out the eLearning courses on Facebook blueprint. Once you master these courses you can sit two exams to become Facebook Blueprint certified which is a bonus to put on your resume. In terms of Google AdWords and Google Ads manager, you can make a free account which will allow you to familiarise yourself with the navigation of the platforms.

4. Analytic tools:

Another common request by employers was for applicants to have some form of experience using and/or knowledge on analytic tools such as Google Analytics.

How to get better: The good news is there are many online courses that you can complete to get a little better at using Google Analytics or at least gain some knowledge on how it works. A free and easy to follow course is by Google Analytics Academy. I recommend checking out their Beginners course.

3. Copywriting:

Okay, so I consistently found copywriting skills under the subheading, ‘employee must have’. For those of you who are a little confused on what copywriting is, it’s the craft of writing messages which are able to persuade and prompt the reader to take a particular action.

How to get better: So I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but the best way to better your copywriting skills is to check out some of the online courses and to also practice!

2. SEO:

SEO or search engine optimisation was another very common skill employers where asking applicants to have. Of course there are different techniques, but I would recommend steering clear of black hat SEO and sticking to white hat techniques.

How to get better:  You may be familiar with SEO from some units offered at Macquarie. Another way to better your understanding is by checking out online courses including those offered by

1. Content Creation:

The number one most common skill I stumbled across during my ‘analysis’ was content creation. I have to admit that, even in interviews, I have been asked about my experience in creating content. So having any experience in this area is a must. It should be noted that many applications which I viewed also looked positively on those who had extra skills in video editing and photography, but by even having experience in creating blog posts (like this one) is a step in the right direction.

How to get better: PRACTICE! Practice, practice, practice. Create a personal blog. Record a video and practice editing it!

Notable mentions:

Now, although they may seem a little obvious, these transferable skills are still highly sort after and are, therefore, always worth including in your resume. A good tip is to prepare examples of times you have used/displayed these skills and mention them to potential employers during the interview.

4. Team work:

Having spent time completing a university degree at one point or another, I am sure we are all familiar with participating in group work. If you are like me, group tasks rarely feel like a team effort and more like individual work quadrupled in size. But in the real world, employers are looking for individuals who can contribute equally while working efficiently with their existing staff. Therefore, it is important to show potential employers that you not only have the right skills, but also have the right personality and attitude to work effectively in a team setting. After all, for the employer, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

3. Communication skills (written and verbal):

Good communication skills are vital for any job, let alone one within the digital marketing/social media sphere.  After all, it is an area which requires employees to be able to effectively connect and communicate particular messages to various displaced audiences. Therefore, it’s not only important to be able to clearly verbally communicate to colleges and clients, but you must also have excellent written communication skills which can be utilized to appropriately address and connect with specific audiences.

2. Attention to detail:

It isn’t surprising that employers are looking for individuals who have ‘great attention to detail’.  Having the ability to thoroughly and accurately accomplish tasks equates to an effective worker, someone who all employers want. Therefore, when completing any task, it is always a great idea to keep an eye out for any small changes which you can make that will show off your attention to detail. Why not start with your resume!

1. Creativity:

Having the ability to think outside the box is a great skill to have under your belt. Employers are looking for individuals who are able to bring something fresh to the table. Of course you don’t always have to have drastically inventive ideas, being able to provide a simple twist on a concept is more than enough and can make you very appealing to any employer.

So now that you know what you need to stand out, build up those skills and start applying!

The case for evidence-based marketing

(This article, originally published online in 2010, is excerpted from Ray’s recent book Digital Disruption & Transformation: Lessons from History)

One of the big buzz phrases in healthcare these days is “evidence-based medicine”. In a nutshell, it means relying on a combination of the best research evidence along with the experience doctors have treating patients as a way of achieving the best outcomes when diagnosing and managing illness.

Serious medical research began only in the late 19th century, when healthcare professionals started to collect scientific evidence on the effectiveness of bloodletting, a technique that had been used for centuries to cure a multitude of ills. Of course, once the evidence was collected it was determined that transfusions, the opposite of bloodletting, were a much more effective way to save lives.

Well, a South Australian marketing academic has compared modern marketing managers to medieval doctors, and he’s doing what he can to take marketing out of the dark ages.

Professor Byron Sharp, Head of Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia, has spent his career collecting evidence to support (or refute) traditional marketing theories, and his results stand many traditional beliefs on their head. His new book, How Brands Grow, lays out these theories.

It’s not ‘differentiate or die’

In his book, Byron takes aim at many traditional marketing assumptions. He says most marketers have based their beliefs on untested theories, in the same way doctors believed in bloodletting. “Doctors worked using their impressions, assumptions, commonsense, accepted wisdom and scattered bits of data,” according to Byron. “This is similar to the working practice of marketing managers today.”

“The marketing equivalent of humoural imbalance theory (a discredited theory of the makeup and workings of the human body adopted by Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers.) may be the Kotlerian ‘differentiate or die’ world view, where marketing success is entirely about creating superior products, selling these at a premium price, targeting the most likely buyers and advertising to bring people’s minds around to the product’s superiority.”

Byron’s work at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has been to, as he puts it, “support research into repeatable patterns.” He compares research into marketing today to the study of chemistry in Victorian era, though instead of Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie, the data is coming from Nielsen-type data. It’s setting up, as he says, “Scientific laws for the social sciences, to cut down on the mysticism around business.”

One of the fundamental principles that a careful study of marketing research has uncovered concerns the role of brands. Brands, Byron says, are used to simplify our lives, providing heuristic (experience-based) shortcuts to make decisions on our purchases.

We know some brands, he says and keep buying them, as long as we are reminded by advertising. Advertising’s main role is not to persuade, according to Byron, but to “refresh memories, so we’re not thinking too much, and to signal to people things like ‘this is expensive’.

“Ads are not changing your mind, but catching your attention, to nudge and remind memories that are starting to fade.”

Target at your peril

Byron Sharp also takes aim at the current emphasis on target marketing, particularly as the use of the Internet by consumers makes it harder to get broad reach and easier to reach niche audiences. While targeting, is useful, he says, “Thou shalt target goes too far. More targeting is not necessarily better.”

He says research has shown that the 80/20 rule, where the top 20% of your customers account for 80% of your business, is fallacious. He says the true figure is more like 60/20 – the top 20% of customers account for just over half of your business. Under those circumstances, he says, “Not talking to 80% of your customers is ludicrous.”

He also warns against relying on a specific person as a brand’s target market. “Talking about your customer as one person is not sophisticated – it’s the dumbest way to market. Adopting the idea that your customer is one person, of a particular gender and age, is dangerous thinking.”

Byron holds up the example of Burger King in the US (branded as Hungry Jack’s in Australia), which focused nearly all of its marketing effort recently on its most important target group – 22-year-old men, who were already visiting Burger King seven times a month.

They succeeded in lifting share with that group, but their edgy advertising, such as the Subservient Chicken website, anti-diet rappers and a creepy costumed Burger King character, alienated all its other customers. Meanwhile, during the same period main rival McDonald’s continued to target all age groups, and lifted their overall market share at the expense of Burger King in other demographics.

(As a teacher of marketing, I don’t necessarily agree with everything Byron Sharp says, but he provides great food for thought!)

Find out more about the book and/or buy it here.