O*NET Helps Individuals Make Informed Employment Decisions

by Felicia Bechtoldt

March 4, 2016

Did you ever wonder what skills, abilities and knowledge are required for an occupation? Are you curious about the growth of your occupation and the industries you can work in? Or are you a business owner or a human resources professional that writes job descriptions for employees and identifies the skills required for vacant positions? Then the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is for you. O*NET is the main source of occupational information in the U.S., which is accessible to the public at no cost. It provides detailed information on 974 occupations.

O*NET – A Resource for Everyone

O*NET information is important for a variety of audiences: human resources, hiring managers, business owners, job seekers, counselors, students, researchers and developers. If you are a human resources professional and are wondering what to write in a job description or how to help your employees acquire the skills essential for their career advancement, then Job Description Writer is a useful tool. To find the application, access the website illustrated in the table.

Job seekers and students can learn about occupations they would like to pursue, training opportunities, and different types of careers by exploring the Interest Profiler and Work Importance Profiler. If you don't have an occupation in mind, take a look at My Next Move. Counselors find these tools useful when providing educational and vocational guidance services.

Professionals working in research and development, such as labor market information specialists, job analysts, industry analysts, efficiency experts, software developers, career information delivery systems developers, business forecasters, organizational consultants, workforce researchers, and industrial/organizational psychologists also use the O*NET databases.

Top 15 Skills Employers Seek

Regardless of whether you have a bachelor's degree or just graduated from high school, the top 15 skills employers seek for high-skill, medium-skill and low-skill occupations are similar according to estimates based on O*NET data. For the purposes of this analysis, high-skill occupations are occupations that require a bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral or a professional degree; medium-skill occupations require post-secondary training (non-degree) or an associate's degree; and low-skill occupations require a high school diploma or less.

The top 15 skills employers seek from job seekers are:

  • Writing - communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience
  • Active learning – understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making
  • Active listening – giving full attention to what other people say, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times
  • Speaking – conveying effectively information to others
  • Reading comprehension – understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents
  • Critical thinking – using logic to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions
  • Monitoring – assessing performance, making improvements and taking corrective action
  • Judgement and decision making – considering the costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate solution
  • Complex problem solving – identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions
  • Time management – managing one's own time and the time of others
  • Coordination – adjusting actions in relation to others' actions
  • Service orientation – actively looking for ways to help people
  • Social perceptiveness – being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do
  • Negotiation – bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences
  • Persuasion – persuading others to change their minds or behavior
  • Instructing – teaching others how to do something.

Top 15 Abilities Job Seekers Must Have

Abilities influence an individual's work performance. The second table illustrates the top 15 abilities that are required for most high-skill, medium-skill, and low-skill jobs according to estimates based on O*NET data.

As you may notice, oral and written expression and comprehension, and speech recognition and clarity highlights once again the importance of having excellent communication skills in any job that you might have. Another relevant ability that one must possess independent of their education level is mathematical reasoning, which is important for 935 occupations ranging from accountants, dentists, and firefighters to construction laborers, farmworkers, and cooks.

Top 15 Work Activities

Work activities are job behaviors that occur in multiple occupations. Regardless of whether your occupation is in engineering, retail, or water treatment, your work activities will be similar. According to estimates based on O*NET data, the 15 most common work activities for high-skill, medium-skill, and low-skill occupations are:

  • Getting information
  • Making decisions and solving problems
  • Establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships
  • Organizing, planning, and prioritizing work
  • Updating and using relevant knowledge
  • Monitoring processes, materials, or surroundings
  • Evaluating information to determine compliance with standards
  • Processing information
  • Communicating with persons outside the organization
  • Documenting or recording documentation
  • Resolving conflicts and negotiating with others
  • Thinking creatively
  • Developing objectives and strategies
  • Identifying information by categorizing, recognizing similarities or differences, and detecting changes in circumstances or events
  • Interpreting the meaning of information for others.

If you would like to explore the skills, abilities, occupational interests, work activities, organizational context, wages, education, work styles, work values, tools, and technology used for an occupation, visit O*NET at www.onetonline.org and search for the occupation you are interested in.

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