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What are important competencies in times of crisis?

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Understanding and matching competencies is one of the biggest hiring challenges especially with candidates at the start of their career. This is because in the first few years after graduation, the professional experience is not yet as pronounced and "soft skills" and cross-professional competences are all the more important. In September 2022, the Bertelsmann Foundation published a study that analyses the skills required in job advertisements and compares them with the years before COVID and other crises. We checked it out to give you a summary on which skills to focus on.


The last two years have certainly been challenging for the global economy. A pandemic followed by war in Europe, the associated supply shortages and high inflation. Nobody could have predicted this in 2018! Due to the ongoing crisis mode, but also due to the megatrends of digitalisation, demographic change and increasingly environmentally and socially conscious lifestyles, companies' requirements for employees' skills are changing.  

To better understand the change in job profiles, the Bertelsmann Foundation analysed 48 million online job ads in Germany from 2018 to 2021 across 37 occupational groups. Now, job ads usually focus on the most important competencies, and some competencies, such as English language skills, may become standard over time so that they are no longer explicitly mentioned. Nevertheless, the analysis gives a good indication of which skills and competences are particularly in demand and poised to give you the best chances on the German labour market, apart from obviously the subject matter knowledge in your chosen profession.

Here are the most important findings:


The "classic core virtues" of commitment, teamwork, working independently and reliability are at the top of the list.

These competencies represent how the work is performed and have a direct impact on the outcome of the work. Increasing complexity requires a conscientious way of working, individual contributions and collaborative problem solving, and these requirements are exactly what employers look for.

With German language skills, foreign workers increase their chances enormously.

This is obvious in professions with direct customer contact such as sales, customer service or even marketing. Surprisingly, however, German language skills are also high in demand in 38% of jobs in computer science and information and communication technology. Speaking a common language supports integration into the team and ensures the smooth functioning of internal processes, and apparently not all companies want to change their company language to English. So with good German language skills, career opportunities increase.  

Frustration tolerance, empathy and a positive attitude become more important.

Can you relate to this: the more you follow the news, the more frustrated you become? It feels like one crisis follows the next. In order not to carry these negative influences over into your professional life, you need special inner strength and more and more resilience, but also compassion when dealing with customers, business partners or colleagues who are just as exposed to these stress factors.

Data security and handling digital identities are gaining in importance.

Digitalisation makes working in the home office possible, but even in a location out of their control, companies must ensure that the principles of GDPR are adhered to and that customer data and other sensitive information are kept safe. Identity theft is one of the biggest IT security risks and employees' awareness of how to handle passwords or secure data transfer must therefore be raised. 

Of lesser important than in 2018 are typical sales virtues such as presentation skills, negotiation skills and self-confidence. The Bertelsmann Foundation suspects that this is a temporary situation due to the decline in business travel, trade fairs and conferences. In the analysed period, the share of purchasing, sales and trade jobs as well as marketing and media job offers has also declined. 

Some typical regional characteristics, as well as differences in different occupational groups, are also visible in the study, but can be logically explained. For example, proficiency in office software is more in demand in the occupational groups of finance, law and management. 

You can download the complete study in German here.

How can you UTILISE this information for your career?

It's simple: make a conscious effort to gain experience in the required skills during your studies, internships or in your private life and continue to develop them. To prepare for a job interview, create a list of practical examples from your private or professional experience that show that you have mastered the skills described in the job advertisement and bring them up at appropriate points in the conversation.  This is how you convince future employers!


Bildquelle: Geralt @ Pixabay