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Published: Aug 03, 2017 6 min read

There's no shortage of career advice out there and everyone from your favorite self help gurus to your least favorite in-law thinks they're an expert on the subject.

Good advice — useful, nuanced, and proven — is harder to come by.

After all, it's tough to suss out what employers value in their workforce, or their applicant pool, without asking them directly. So we decided to do just that.

Below, 14 CEOs reveal the skill they're most excited to see in an employee these days. Take note: Some of these will help you stand out at your current gig; others will give you an edge when you go to look for your next one.

The Approach

Courtesy of Birchbox

"Resilience is a super power. When I look at my team, I see a group who has met every challenge with strong willpower, fearless execution and unparalleled collaboration. Staying in the game is such a huge part of winning the game—so many people tap out." — Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox




Courtesy of Apartment List

"The most successful people crave constant feedback and will go out of their way to create a platform for it to be communicated to them." — John Kobs, Apartment List






Courtesy of Highground

"This characteristic doesn’t appear on a job description, but employees who frequently check-in with managers on their performance and put that feedback (both negative and positive) into action." — Vip Sandhir, HighGround




Courtesy of Manta

"Curiosity is the number one skill I look for in new hires and current employees. People who are going to drive our business forward and challenge others to do the same.

Over the years, I’ve found that people who are inherently curious ask good questions, search for creative ways to accomplish tasks, and are strong team players. They seek out knowledge from different parts of the business, and apply what they learn to their daily responsibilities." — John Swanciger, Manta


Courtesy of Insureon

"There is a huge difference between people who really want to help the company improve and those who treat it like a job. At [my former company] McKinsey, we often used a simple framework to assess talent. On one dimension, skill; on the other, will. You need both." — Ted Devine, Insureon




Courtesy of Evite

"Knowledge and information is exploding at an exponential rate. It’s impossible to keep up if you’re not a self-directed learner." — Victor Cho, Evite


The Hard Skills

Courtesy of Podium

"Whether or not your job function is within the sales org, you need to have the ability to sell. At Podium, nearly every employee reads How to Win Friends and Influence People. We aren’t reading the book to hone our sales skills. We’re reading it to learn to communicate and sell ideas, projects, or whatever else move the business forward. The better we are at selling internally and externally, the more we accomplish." — Eric Rea, Podium


Michael O'Donnell/Smule

"Data science. Smule has a community of 50 million users, and stores over 2 billion recorded songs per day. Identifying, predicting, and modeling this massive data set drives the core growth insights for the company." — Jeff Smith, Smule




Courtesy of Startup Institute

"Technical fluency. I don't mean having the skills to be an actual developer, but understanding the basics of how software development and the web work. It's critical in SaaS sales, UX Design, Marketing, and even in high-level strategy. If you can talk the talk, it will take you far, even if you never need to actually walk the walk." — Rich DiTieri, Startup Institute


Gary Parker/RiseSmart

"Validation engineering, accounting, and full stack developing are the most sought after skills in 2017. Those with a combination of essential soft skills and these difficult to find hard skills will be able to work at the most prestigious companies and demand the highest pay and benefits." — Sanjay Sathe, RiseSmart

The Intangibles

Courtesy of Freshworks

"Identify your natural strengths and maximize their use in your day-to-day job responsibilities. Whether it’s a salesperson that inherently loves the art of conversation or a UX researcher with a curiosity of the human psyche, the best employees leverage their passions to excel in their roles." — Girish Mathrubootham, Freshworks



Courtesy of Peanut

"Now more than ever, the most valuable skill is the ability to turn your hand to tasks across the business. It’s no longer acceptable to say “that’s not my area, I do X.” That’s not to say that a discipline or specialty is not necessary, it is, but you have to understand how the rest of the business feeds and responds to it." — Michelle Kennedy, Peanut



Courtesy of Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center

"How are your communications skills? How do you handle conflict, stress, differences of opinions, challenges with customers, and shareholder interaction? Personality is a key driver to selection of talent and potential leadership development. This is one of the most important characteristics any employee can have." — Nicola Corzine, Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center


Amy Herndon Photography

"The skill of adapting to what is changing, right now, preserves and drives a career. A career professional with the mindset of remaining adaptive expects the workplace and the customer to change tomorrow. So when the change occurs, they’re already prepared. Those are the people I want working for me." — Mike Whitaker, tech CEO, author of The Decision Makeover