Emsi Skills

Published on Nov 20, 2020

Updated on Jun 4, 2024

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

Emsi Skills

Part 1 – Emsi Skills: Our Vision

Problem: everyone’s speaking a different language

Colleges, communities, employers, and students/jobseekers struggle to communicate with each other about education and work. The problem is that everyone speaks a different language.

Institutions speak in terms of degree programs. Employers speak in terms of skills and proficiencies. Communities speak in terms of talent pipelines. Meanwhile, students/jobseekers are caught in the middle, trying to figure out how education and careers relate to each other.

A big mess!

Solution: Emsi Skills

Emsi Skills provides a new common language for these four key groups:

  1. Students/jobseekers looking for work 

  2. Employers looking for people

  3. Colleges/universities looking to connect their programs to the needs of the labor market

  4. Communities looking to connect employers with skilled people

Our vision is that these four groups will use skills as a common language to speak to each other and work together more efficiently.

  1. Students/jobseekers can use Emsi Skills to write better resumes and discover the top skills in demand.

  2. Employers can use Emsi Skills to better understand roles and the people who can fill those roles.

  3. Colleges and universities can use Emsi Skills to design and market work-relevant programs that help students communicate their skills to potential employers.

  4. Communities (workforce and economic development organizations) can use skills to more accurately describe the talent that businesses need (demand) as well as the abilities that local talent has   (supply) and the resulting gaps that need to be addressed.

What are skills and why should we use them as a common language?

A skill describes someone’s knowledge, experience, or ability. Skills are obtained by various means:

  • Learning providers and educational content

  • Workforce training programs

  • Self-study

  • Apprenticeships/internships

  • Work

  • General life experience

Skills make a great common language because skills are the basic units which define the economy. Skills often describe a person’s job much more accurately than the raw job title.

For example, contrast the difference between a software engineer for Amazon and a software engineer for GM:

Amazon is looking for a unique set of skills. So is GM. If you’re an engineer applying for one of these jobs (or if you’re an institution trying to create a program that fits a certain employer’s needs), you must know the skills that each employer is looking for. You have to speak the same skills language as Amazon and GM.

A common skills language will have global benefits:


Emsi Skills library

To help everyone speak the same language using skills, we developed Emsi Skills: an open-source library of 30,000 skills gathered from hundreds of millions of online job postings, profiles, and resumes. We meticulously clean and fact-check each skill, and add new skills (and remove old ones) continuously. 

The Emsi Skills library includes three kinds of skills: 

  1. Human skills (aka soft skills) – These are the basic skills required in nearly every job posting; e.g., communication or problem-solving.

  2. Technical skills (aka hard skills) – These are more specialized skills for a particular job; e.g., Java or financial analysis.

  3. Certifications and licenses – These are certifications or licenses required for a job; e.g., CompTIA Security+ or certified radiological nurse.

Download our FREE Emsi Skills Library

Using our API, we can help you extract and tag key skills in your job postings, profiles, resumes, or learning content. We look at how skills relate to one another and to job titles, O*NET codes, industries, companies, regions, etc. Emsi Skills are tagged across our entire data ecosystem, allowing you to see top skills by job titles, occupations, industries, companies, regions, and even keywords. 

Part 2 – What Can You Do with Emsi Skills?

In the following four sections, we’ll discuss how each of our key groups can use skills.

1. Emsi Skills for students/jobseekers

Students and jobseekers can use Emsi’s Resume Optimizer to write better resumes. Read about the top skills in demand today:

  • Top 10 Skills In Demand at the Top 10 US Companies in 2020: The top skills include communication, management, leadership, customer service, operations, and sales. Many of these skills are considered soft skills, but are crucial in keeping huge companies up and running.

  • Robot Ready: Human Skills for the Future of Work: Some say that STEM skills are the most critical skills in the age of automation. Others think only the uniquely human skills of the liberal arts will survive. We believe it’s both. The most valuable workers now, and in the future, are those who combine technical knowledge with human skills.

  • Resilient Skills: Resilient skills, like resilient people, flourish no matter what. They take a licking and keep on ticking. These are the survivor skills for the class of COVID-19—indeed, for anyone searching for new or better employment. Resilient skills are the skills that graduates should highlight on their resumes and current students should focus on gaining.

2. Emsi Skills for employers

Skills describe work with a detail and accuracy that job titles and occupation codes simply do not have. Skills can also help companies visualize the transferability between careers that titles can’t offer. Breaking down roles by the skill makeup or cluster helps organizations better understand the skills required by each role. So as companies plan for their business needs, they should use skills to define and interpret those needs. 

As Josh Bersin notes: “In today’s world of work, jobs are changing so quickly that the old-fashioned idea of building a competency model and formal job description is not keeping up. Companies need systems that can continuously identify the skills that drive success, organize and arrange these skills so people can find them, and systems that help individuals and managers develop themselves for the skills of the future.” 

Questions companies are asking

  • Should we hire new people, or move the people we have?

  • How do we find the talent needed internally when they are buried in other functional areas and may have adjacent skills? 

  • Where are our skill gaps? How do we know they are gaps?

  • Reskill? Upskill? Who should we reskill or upskill and how?

  • What skills are available in the market? Can we compare our skills?

  • Which skills do our people have? 

How companies can use Emsi Skills

  • Write the perfect job posting using Emsi’s skills analysis

    • Recruiters need to find the perfect balance of skills to attract the best candidates. Recruiters can copy/paste the text of their job posting into Emsi’s Skills-Driven Recruiting Analysis, then extract the skills, see how common those skills are in any region, and find related skills. Once the job posting is finalized, Emsi executes a supply, demand, and compensation analysis for the job the recruiter is hiring for. This workflow allows recruiters to spend less time worrying about their job postings, and more time talking with qualified talent. 

  • Analyze internal job postings and candidate data

    • College graduates are a prime talent pool. Since no student has the same educational experience, their skills are unique, regardless of their degree. Skills give you a granular look at what graduates can actually do, not just what you think they can do based on the programs they completed.

    • When you need to fill a job posting, time is of the essence. Emsi’s College Analyst cuts to the chase by matching employees quickly to jobs based on skills. By understanding the skills needed to do a specific job, you can create pathways to that position for employees from diverse educational and experiential backgrounds.

    • Emsi Skills help you compare hired candidate skills to desired or advertised job posting skills. Now you can create better job postings by auditing desired skills and setting expectations with hiring managers. You can also compare your postings with internal job descriptions, profiles, and competencies, in order to identify your skills gaps. 

  • Analyze internal people data and external talent

    • Mapping your internal workforce allows you to look at regional or departmental comparisons to identify anomalies or advantages. Companies can use this information as a benchmark to competitors or national/regional trends on an ongoing basis. They can also analyze skill combinations (or clusters) listed for specific roles. These clusters tell you which “shapes” are commonly used for different job titles throughout a company, allowing you to better distinguish the differences between roles. This allows you to assess the skill fit of your talent in your roles, and identify potential gaps. These skill clusters can also help companies find talent by identifying which companies, schools, or markets are best to target. 

  • Connect the dots between internal mobility and skill development

    • You want your company to grow, but you don’t want to lose touch with employee-company development goals. Skill ID connects your people to online learning and internal job opportunities. This allows you to compare learning and development course objectives with employees who have skills that match, and those who don’t (who could benefit from this development opportunity).

    • The more you know about your employees’ skills, the better equipped you are to reskill and upskill within your company. Extracting an employees skills straight from their resume gives you immediate insight into underlying skills that might be transferable to different roles. This extraction can also be done with any job posting, highlighting any emerging skills within an industry or occupation. 

3. Emsi Skills for higher education

How can colleges and universities use skills to speak a common language with the labor market? How will that common language help them thrive and help students succeed?  

Among employers and jobseekers, skills are already functioning as a shared language and currency. By viewing academic programs through this same lens, institutions can leverage the unique advantages of skill data to better connect their programs and students to opportunities and needs in the labor market.

It’s time to skillify

To achieve this transformation, institutions should translate their courses and programs into the common skill-based language of the labor market: a process we call skillifying. Here are a few key advantages of having a skillified curriculum in an increasingly skills-based economy:

  • Align programs with market needs – Because skills are a shared language, articulating your curriculum in skill-based terms allows for a more direct comparison with skill-based signals from the labor market. As a result, you’re equipped to develop work-relevant credentials at the intersection of employers’ sought skills and your institution’s taught skills. And the unparalleled recency of skills data means you’ll be equipped to adapt as new jobs and in-demand skills emerge in the future.

  • Engage employers – It’s easier to be on the same page when you speak the same language. With a skillified curriculum, you’re better equipped to collaborate and proactively engage with industry partners. For example, you can quickly parse employer job postings to see where the skills needed for a particular role are taught in your curriculum. Insights like these highlight to industry partners how your curriculum can prepare future employees or provide upskilling and advancement opportunities for their current workforce.

  • Market programs to students – What better way to engage today’s career and skill-focused learners than by clearly articulating the skill-content embedded in your academic programs? Whether it’s simply making taught skills more explicit in course descriptions and program pages, or helping learners see how your courses align with their personal skill gaps and goals, institutions can leverage a skillified curriculum to attract, enroll, and serve learners of all ages and backgrounds.

  • Equip students to market themselves – When colleges and employers are aligned, everybody wins – especially students. Not only is the curriculum itself more relevant to their career (see point #1, above), but they also are better equipped to articulate the skills they acquire through their education. Whether it’s embedding open skills data directly into a credential or incorporating skills into transcripts, institutions can use skill-level insight to help graduates know and show the value of their education in the world of work.

Learn more in our free ebook, Skills Required: How higher ed can meet the needs of learners and employers in a skill-based economy.

Through our Open Skills library and participation in initiatives like the Open Skills Network and T3 Innovation Network, Emsi is helping higher education embrace a new era of skill-based education. See how other institutions are adopting the language of skills. Let us know if you’d like to learn more about skillifying!


4. Emsi Skills for communities

The biggest pain point for local economies is lack of talent to meet the needs of businesses, including potential new businesses. To solve this problem, workforce and economic development professionals can use skills to create much-needed connections in the development of their local talent.

Workforce and economic development groups can use skills data to more accurately identify 1) workforce gaps in the market, 2) pathways to fill those gaps, and 3) clusters that make regions unique.

  • Identify workforce gaps in the market – Employers don’t necessarily need people with a certain degree or particular experience, they need people with specific skills. Similarly, jobseekers and employees may have various degrees and job experience, but what they really have are a set of unique skills. By using skills as their language, business can better describe the talent they need and people the abilities they have. Often the result is a better understanding of a role and the gap which exists.      

  • Identify pathways to fill those gaps – Armed with the knowledge of market gaps, workforce and economic development professionals can work with stakeholders to deploy resources and programs to fill the gap and meet employer demand. The end goal here is clear pathways responding to the true labor market demand, which is now skills-based. This may mean auditing the skills being taught by learning providers in a region to make sure they align with what is being sought by employers. It may mean partnering a local industry with the community college to create a much needed program to upskill or reskill workers. Or it could mean leveraging tools to help jobseekers better use the language of skills in their resumes or transfer their skills

  • Identify skills clusters that make regions unique – Skills helps you understand what makes your region unique. While two communities may have a strong profile in the same industry, and look similar, they often have very different strengths and weaknesses on the skill level. A region’s skills coalesce into skills clusters (a set of correlated skills that relate to a particular theme of work) and skills shapes (the unique skill demand associated within a given career field or region). These skills clusters and shapes allow regions to market and match themselves to prospective companies, as well as determine what talent they should attract in order to fill existing gaps.

Emsi Skills partnerships


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