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Know Your Employability Skills and How to Sell Them

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Knowing what your employability skills are and how to market them will help you impress potential employers and improve your chances of landing of the job you want.

Employers look for 2 sets of skills when hiring: technical or work specific skills and employability skills.

Work–specific 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. What employers are often looking for during job interviews are signs that you have the employability skills they need.

Employability skills

Employability skills are also known as transferable or soft skills. These are the fundamental, teamwork, and personal skills you need to succeed in almost every job. Examples of employability skills include teamwork, time management, problem-solving, and communication skills. Because you can carry these skills from one job to another, they’re also called transferable skills.

Even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, you’ve developed employability 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. 

Identify your employability skills

Employability 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 the ability to give presentations, ask questions, and write effective 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 such as spreadsheet, presentation, and email applications to locate and manage a variety of online information sources.
  • Manage social networking tools

2. Teamwork skills

These are interpersonal skills and 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 cooperating with the team 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’s best for the group.
  • 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.

3. Personal skills

These skills, behaviours, and attitudes will help you succeed not just at work, but in life. 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.
  • Be adaptable 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.
  • Respect and manage time by meeting start times and deadlines and handling personal problems outside of working hours.
  • Be accountable for the actions you and your work group take.

List all your employability skills

A good way to keep track of your employability 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’ve 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 employability skills

Now that you’ve identified your employability skills, you need to showcase them so prospective employers can appreciate them and want to hire you. Simply listing your previous job responsibilities probably won’t be enough to highlight these critical skills. This is especially true if you’re applying for work that is different from what you’ve done before.

To make it easy for employers to see the employability skills you bring to a position, follow these 2 steps.

1. List your employability skills on your resumé and job application forms

You can learn what skills this job needs by checking out occupations, researching employers, and by 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, include, for example, your ability to write effective reports, give clear directions, or handle customer inquiries with polite efficiency.

2. Show-off your skills in a job interviews​

Once you’re face to face with the hiring manager or team, dazzle them with your high points.

One way to demonstrate your skills is to use the STARS technique. Using these 5 prompts you will learn to 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’ve had little or no paid work experience, you already have some of the employability skills employers are looking for. Identifying these skills will build your confidence and selling them will impress prospective employers.

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