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Interview Questions About Your Skills

Can you do this job?

That’s the basic question behind much of what you’ll be asked in a job interview. In fact, one of the main reasons an employer invites you to an interview is to assess whether you and your skills are a good match for the position.

To make a strong impression in a job interview, you’ll need to describe situations that demonstrate your:

  • work-specific or technical skills, such as using a software program, repairing a piece of equipment or teaching a class
  • employability or transferable skills, such as the personal, teamwork and fundamental skills you need to succeed in every work situation.

If you have limited work-specific skills, don't worry. An increasing number of employers are willing to hire employees with transferable skills and train them to do the technical tasks the work requires. If you’ve been called to an interview, the employer may have already decided that you have or can learn the necessary work-specific skills.

To prepare for interview questions, be sure you identify your skills and then practise describing situations in which you’ve used them successfully. Follow these suggestions.

Identify your work-specific skills

To identify your work-specific or technical skills:

  • list all the tasks you perform in your work
  • break down each task into the skills you use.

Be specific—the more detailed the list, the better. If you’re having trouble coming up with skills and descriptions, check out:

Use the Your Accomplishments and Skills  (link required) worksheet to help you identify and keep track of your work-specific skills.

Identify your employability skills

Employability or transferable skills are vital in every kind of work:

  • Personal skills include:
    • maintaining a positive attitude: e.g. feeling good about yourself, maintaining high ethical standards, showing initiative and interest
    • being responsible: e.g. organizing your work site, setting goals and priorities, following through, accepting responsibility
    • being adaptable: e.g. working alone or on a team, accepting change, managing several projects at the same time
    • learning continuously: e.g. knowing your strengths and where you need improvement, using learning opportunities, planning for and achieving goals
    • working safely: e.g. being aware of health and safety practices, managing stress.
  • Teamwork skills include:
    • working with others: e.g. getting along, being supportive, respecting differences
    • participating in projects and tasks: e.g. doing your part, being timely, initiating, planning, coaching.
  • Fundamental skills include:
    • communicating: e.g. reading and understanding information, writing, speaking, listening, questioning, negotiating, using technology effectively
    • managing information: e.g. following directions, maintaining records, organizing information
    • using numbers: e.g. counting, calculating, measuring, estimating, budgeting
    • thinking and problem-solving: e.g. assessing situations, identifying problems and solutions, investigating, analyzing, innovating.

For a tool that will help you identify your employability skills, visit the Conference Board of Canada and download the Employability Skills 2000+ checklist (requires link).

Describe your skills

Develop clear descriptions of your skills to prepare to answer interview questions effectively.

  • Ask yourself some questions:
    • On the left half of a sheet of paper, list the work-specific and employability skills you’ve identified.
    • For each skill ask yourself the questions journalists ask—who, what, when, where, why and how.
    • Write the answers beside the skill. For example, if the skill is teaching, ask yourself who you teach, what you teach, where you teach and so on.
  • Look through your portfolio:
    • Choose two or three items in your portfolio that are most closely related to the position you’re applying for.
    • Write a point-form description of each item, including the skills you used to achieve the result that the item represents.

If you don’t have a portfolio, check out Document Your Accomplishments in a Portfolio to learn more about the advantages of creating one.

  • Use the STARS descriptive technique:
    • Analyze your accomplishments by looking at each component involved: Situation, Task, Action, Results, Skills.
    • Check out Analyzing Your Accomplishments (link required) to help you get started.
  • Practise talking about your skills in your own words, using the descriptions you’ve developed.

Know your skills for interview success

When you identify and practise describing your work-specific and employability skills, you’ll feel better prepared to answer interview questions about your ability to do the job. As a result, you’ll communicate more clearly and feel more comfortable in the interview, making a stronger impression on your prospective employer.

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