Knowing what your core skills are and how to market them will help you impress potential employers and improve your chances of landing the job you want.
Employers look for 2 sets of skills when hiring: technical or work-specific skills and core skills.
These are the skills you need to do the tasks that are part of the job. A dental hygienist needs to know how to clean teeth. A computer programmer must know how to create computer code. A carpenter has to know how to solve math problems quickly and accurately. These types of technical skills can be learned at school, in training programs, or on the job.
Employers usually screen job applicants for work-specific skills. This means that when you’re invited to a job interview, the employer has probably already decided that you have or can learn the necessary work-specific skills.
During job interviews, employers are often looking for signs that you have the core skills they need.
Core skills are also known as soft skills. Because you can carry these skills from one job to another, they are often called transferable skills. These are the fundamental, teamwork, and personal skills you need to succeed in almost every job. Examples of core skills include teamwork, time management, problem-solving, and communication skills.
Even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, you have developed core skills at work, in school, and while volunteering that can help you get a job. Your challenge is to show a potential employer that you possess these skills and have used them in the past.
What are your core skills?
Core skills are grouped into 3 categories: basic or fundamental skills, teamwork or interpersonal skills, and personal skills. The following are some of the skills that an employer or industry may be looking for:
1. Fundamental skills
These are the basic skills that can be the stepping stones of your career. They include being able to:
- Communicate verbally or in writing so others pay attention and understand. This includes giving presentations, asking questions, and writing clear reports, emails, or other documents.
- Use numbers to observe and record data, take measurements, make estimates, and verify calculations.
- Gather, analyze, and apply information from a variety of sources.
- Solve problems by assessing situations, identifying issues, and making decisions using good judgment.
- Use computer software (like email, presentation, or spreadsheet programs), online information sources, and social networking tools.
2. Teamwork skills
These are interpersonal skills that can help a team achieve its goals. Some of these skills are also referred to as people skills. Teamwork skills include being able to:
- Get along with others by making sure the team’s goals are clear and by co-operating to reach these goals
- Respect differences in opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds
- Be flexible when new ideas, information, or requirements are presented
- Support the group, or provide leadership when it’s appropriate
- Resolve conflict with your team members in a way that is best for the group
- Avoid gossip
- Accept and offer constructive feedback
- Communicate the successes of the task or project to the team
- Identify and present ways to improve the task or project
- Ask for help when you need it
- Listen carefully to your co-workers
- Be considerate of other people's points of view
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3. Personal skills
These skills, behaviours, and attitudes will help you succeed not just at work, but in life. You use them every day. They allow you to live in harmony with yourself, your work, your community, and the world in general. They also make it easier for you to adapt to life changes.
Employers know how much the success of their businesses depends on finding employees who have good personal skills. That’s why you need to let employers know that you have the personal skills they are looking for. And to do that, you have to know which ones you have.
Not sure if you have these skills? Ask the people closest to you. You can find lots of resources to develop these skills and attitudes. These skills include being able to:
- Maintain a positive attitude by showing interest, initiative, and effort. You feel good about yourself and can deal with other people and problems with honesty and integrity. Take this positive attitude quiz to see how you’re doing.
- Organize tasks and set goals so your workday has structure and balance.
- Adapt to different situations by working alone or as part of a team, dealing with multiple tasks, and learning from your mistakes.
- Learn continuously by accepting feedback, assessing your strengths, determining where you should improve, and finding ways to learn what you need.
- Work safely by knowing and following the personal and group health and safety rules.
- Manage your well-being by coping with challenges and dealing with stress effectively. Eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest and relaxation are considered personal management skills.
- Respect and manage time by meeting start times and deadlines and handling personal problems outside of working hours. Time management means setting priorities—deciding what is most important and when it needs to be accomplished.
- Take responsibility for your actions and your work group’s results.
- Manage your money effectively by carrying little or no debt and maintaining a good credit rating. This makes it easier for you to get a loan, lease a car, and so on. In turn, these advantages will open up more work options to you.
- Manage yourself as a business by knowing how to market your skills and services, having clear goals, and building working relationships and networks with others inside and outside your workplace.
Keep track of your core skills as they grow
A good way to keep track of your core skills is on your master resumé. Remember to include examples of the situations where you used these skills. Keeping a master list of your skills means you don’t have to remember them each time you apply for a new job.
Keep in mind that you can transfer skills you have developed in other jobs, in school, as a volunteer, or in other situations. For example, leading your school’s graduation committee—planning the theme, setting up the venue, and organizing volunteers—develops many skills. These include communication, interpersonal, time management, and organizational skills.
Market your core skills
Now that you have identified your core skills, you need to showcase them so prospective employers can appreciate them and want to hire you. Simply listing your previous job responsibilities probably will not be enough to highlight these critical skills. This is especially true if you’re applying for work that is different from what you have done before.
To make it easy for employers to see the core skills you bring to a position, follow these 2 steps:
1. List your core skills on your resumé and job application forms
You can learn what skills this job needs by checking out occupations, researching employers, and reading the job posting. If the employer is looking for good interpersonal skills, write down how well you get along or work with others, respect differences, and stay flexible.
If good communication skills are required, you might include your ability to write effective reports, give clear directions, or handle customer inquiries with polite efficiency.
2. Demonstrate your skills in a job interview
Once you’re face to face with the hiring manager or team, introduce your high points.
A good way to demonstrate your skills is to use the STARS technique. These 5 prompts will help you clearly describe how you used your skills in specific situations and the results you achieved:
- Situation—Describe the circumstances and the problem you faced.
- Task—Explain what you needed to do, why you needed to do it, and the challenges involved.
- Action—Describe the actions you took.
- Results—Explain what happened as a result of your efforts.
- Skills—Highlight the skills you used to accomplish what you did.
Even if you have little or no paid work experience, you already have some of the core skills employers are looking for. Identifying these skills will build your confidence—and selling them will impress prospective employers.