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Know Your Core Skills and How to Sell Them

Your success in a job interview depends on many things. One of the most important is how well you can sell yourself and your skills. To impress an employer, you need to know what skills you’ll bring to the workplace.


Take the time to learn which skills you have and which you need to develop. Then learn how to market your skills to prospective employers.

Jump to:

  1. Identify your core skills
  2. Keep a master list of your skills
  3. Market your core skills

Identify your core skills

Core skills are the 9 basic skills you need for success. Core skills help you learn. They help you get along with others and make positive moves in your career.

Core skills are also called transferable skills. This is because you’ll continue developing them and will use them throughout your career—in every job you hold.

Identifying your 9 core skills gives you a foundation for building other skills and knowledge:

1. Adaptability skills

Skills for Success: Adaptability (1:04)

Major changes in society are affecting how you work, live, and learn. Changes in society mean that you have to change too. Strong adaptability skills help you deal with change effectively. They help you learn the new skills and behaviours you need. They help you stay focused on your responsibilities and goals. They help you stay positive and not give up when things get tough. And they help you manage the stress that can come from changes in your workplace, your community, and your life at home.

Having adaptability means you can change when you need to.

To highlight your adaptability skills in a job interview, talk about times you:

  • Adjusted your goals and expectations. You may have had to do this more than once during a project.
  • Stayed positive and kept going even when something went wrong.
  • Learned from mistakes.
  • Found ways to keep improving.

2. Collaboration skills

Skills for Success: Collaboration (1:03)

Many jobs require you to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Collaboration skills help you support and value others, no matter who they are or where they’re from. They help you perform better in a team. They help you work with people of all ages to complete tasks and solve problems. Strong collaboration skills help you manage difficult interactions. They help you build positive relationships with others—at work, in school, and in other parts of your life.

When you have collaboration skills, you know how to work with other people.

To highlight your collaboration skills in a job interview, talk about times you:

  • Contributed to a group project.
  • Valued other people’s ideas, abilities, cultures, and beliefs.
  • Worked through difficult situations in ways that kept your team working together.
  • Supported your co-workers.
  • Helped others feel included and valued.

3. Communication skills

Skills for Success: Communication (1:09)

Communication skills are important for developing good working relationships with co-workers and clients, including those from different backgrounds and cultures. Strong communication skills help you work effectively in a team. They help you understand a variety of viewpoints. They help you gather and share information to solve problems—whether at work or in your daily life.

When you have communication skills, you can understand and share information.

To highlight your communication skills in a job interview, talk about times you:

  • Described things clearly, so listeners knew what you were talking about.
  • Used language, gestures, and a tone that worked best for the people listening to you.
  • Listened respectfully, without bias or judgment. You didn’t just try to get your own message across. And you were willing to change your mind about things.
  • Asked questions to make sure you understood what others were saying.
  • Checked facts to make sure what you were hearing was correct.
  • Made people feel comfortable about talking to you.
  • Watched your listeners’ body language to understand how they were feeling.

4. Creativity and innovation skills

Skills for Success: Creativity and Innovation (1:02)

Creativity and innovation skills help you come up with new ideas and approaches—both at work and outside work. They help you think about things differently than in the past. And they help you change things for the better. People who are creative and innovative have curious minds. They find inspiration from a broad range of experiences and perspectives. They think of mistakes as learning moments. They inspire others to innovate and support them in developing their own creativity.

When you are creative and innovative, you can imagine new ideas and apply them in new ways.

To highlight your creativity and innovation skills in an interview, talk about times you:

  • Took a risk.
  • Treated a mistake as a learning experience, not a failure.
  • Used your imagination to think up a new idea.
  • Asked questions that helped you find new and better ways to do things.
  • Experimented with new approaches.
  • Shared information that helped others be creative.

5. Digital skills

Skills for Success: Digital Skills (1:01)

Digital technology has changed the way you work, find information, solve problems, and communicate. Most jobs now require digital skills to support skills such as reading, writing, and numeracy. Digital skills help you keep up with changes in the modern workplace and in your daily life.

When you have digital skills, you know how to use digital tools and technology to manage information and solve problems.

To highlight your digital skills in an interview, talk about times you:

  • Used different digital tools to do your work.
  • Analyzed information you found on the internet. And judged if the information was credible.
  • Protected your personal information and data.
  • Stored online information safely.
  • Used respectful language online.
  • Updated your skills using digital tools.

6. Numeracy skills

Skills for Success: Numeracy (1:08)

Numeracy deals with understanding numbers. That’s a critical skill in today’s society. But the modern economy requires numeracy skills that go beyond basic arithmetic. Many jobs require the ability to work with numbers and math. Everyday life requires numeracy skills too. You need numeracy skills to manage your finances, make sense of statistics in the news, figure out your share of a restaurant bill, and more.

When you have numeracy skills, you know how to work with numbers and mathematical information.

To highlight your numeracy skills in an interview, talk about times you:

  • Used math to prepare an estimate, take a measurement, or manage a budget.
  • Used graphs or symbols to analyze numbers or data.
  • Helped someone understand a math problem. Explained why the results were important to them.

7. Problem solving skills

Skills for Success: Problem Solving (1:14)

Problem-solving skills are important for everything you do in life, from managing your time to meeting your career goals. Good problem solving starts with the ability to think and make decisions. You learn these skills with practice and experience. The stronger your problem-solving skills, the faster and more effectively you can adapt to change.

When you have problem-solving skills, you can analyze information and come up with solutions.

To highlight your problem-solving skills in an interview, talk about times you:

  • Gathered information to help you learn about an issue.
  • Figured out if something was fact or fiction.
  • Broke an issue down into smaller parts to learn about causes and effects.
  • Planned different possible courses of action.
  • Thought about the short-term and long-term impacts of your solution.
  • Measured how well your solution was working.
  • Made adjustments to improve your results.

8. Reading skills

Skills for Success: Reading (1:06)

Reading helps you understand and interpret the meaning of written words. That’s important for all sorts of day-to-day activities—like interpreting bus schedules or understanding travel advisories. Strong reading skills help you manage your time and do your job safely. Reading skills also help you learn other skills. For example, you can learn to use social media by reading online resources.

Reading skills help you understand information.

To highlight your reading skills in an interview, talk about times you:

  • Learned something new from a report or news article.
  • Found information in a document, table, or chart.
  • Connected information from different documents.
  • Used the main messages in something you read to compete a task.
  • Understood if information you read was trustworthy. And knew if it would help with your work.

9. Writing skills

Skills for Success: Writing (1:02)

Writing helps you communicate ideas and information to other people. In today’s world, your writing skills must be adaptable for many different situations—including digital platforms. Knowing what to write and how much to write is important. It’s also important to know what writing style is suitable for your purpose and your intended reader.

Writing skills help you share information.

To highlight your writing skills in an interview, talk about times you:

  • Explained something clearly, in words that were easy to understand.
  • Used accurate information to convince people of something.
  • Wrote concisely and stayed on topic to communicate a new idea.
  • Used bullets or subheadings to organize your ideas and make it easy for readers to find information.

Keep a master list of your skills

You’ll continue to develop and improve your core skills throughout your life. You’ll do this at school, at work, as a volunteer, and through your experiences.

It’s a good idea to keep a master list of the skills you have as part of your master resumé. A master list will help you to remember every skill. When you apply for a job, just check your list. Then pull out the skills you need to emphasize.

When you create your master list of skills, take time to think about your life experiences. You will have developed many core skills as a result of these experiences.

Market your core skills

Make it easy for employers to see the core skills you bring to the job. Follow these two steps:

1. List your core skills when applying for work

List your core skills on your resumé and on job application forms. Tailor your list to emphasize skills the employer is looking for. Here are some ways to find out what skills an employer is looking for:

For example, say the employer is looking for digital skills. Note that you can use spreadsheets to create budgets. Mention that you learned to share online files safely as part of your school work. Say that you are active on social media.

Perhaps the employer is looking for communication skills. Point out that you are polite. Say that you can give clear directions. And say you are a good listener.

2. Showcase your skills in a job interview

In job interviews, employers look for your core skills.

Market yourself by showcasing these skills. This tells the employer why you’re the best person for the job. Strong core skills will impress potential employers and help you get the job you want.

How Do I Prepare for an Interview? (2:57)

Prepare for a successful job interview using the Four Ps: Prepare, Practice, Participate and be Positive. Get information and referrals about career and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Talk about the skills you’ve developed in previous jobs or outside the workplace. And give examples of when you’ve used your core skills.

Let’s say you helped organize your high school grad. You planned the theme, set up the venue, and organized volunteers. These tasks required core skills like the following:

Using the 5 steps in the STARS method can help you describe how you’ve put your skills to use.

Remember: you have core skills to offer even if you don’t have a lot of work experience. Identifying your skills will help you feel confident.

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