Job seekers: identifying your skills

Employees speaking to each other


A skill can be defined as expertness, ability or proficiency which comes from training, practice etc. Potential employers will want to determine what skills you have in order for them to evaluate whether you are able to fulfil the duties and responsibilities of the role. Therefore skill identification is an extremely important exercise for any jobseeker to undertake. You will most likely be asked some questions during an interview or on an application form in relation to your skills, and you will also need to include a section on skills in your resume.

Identifying your own personal skills can be quite a difficult task. However, it is important to remember that all people have skills, whether they are abilities you have gained from work experience, or those you have gained from your everyday experiences of life.

Below are some examples of the different types of skills, guidelines on how you can successfully identify your own unique set of skills, and how you can present these to any potential employer.

Types of Skills

Self-Management Skills

Self-Management skills are really your personality traits, those skills you use to interact with others in your everyday life. Examples of these include patience, tactfulness, tolerance and reliability, to name but a few. These types of skills are the specific abilities the employer will be looking for to determine whether you will be able to get along with your co-workers, and also whether you will be able to interact well with clients, customers and other business contacts.

Job Content Skills

These are skills which are specific to a job, those abilities you have learned in your current or previous occupations which are used to perform the duties/responsibilities of the job. For example, a person who has to deal with customers as part of their job may have good customer service skills, or someone who is in charge of a project or a team of people may have good management skills, a secretary will have typing and word processing skills, etc. People may also develop job skills through experiences outside of the work environment, such as from hobbies, education etc.

Skill Identification

In order for an employer to be able to hear what you can do, you will firstly need to identify your skills, and then find a way to describe them. It will be easier for you to convince the employer that you are the ideal candidate if you can demonstrate that you have all the skills required in order to do the job well.

Don’t get confused between duties and skills – this is a mistake which is commonly made. Remember that a duty is an activity and skills are the tools required to enable that activity to take place.

Guidelines on Identifying your Skills:

  • List all the major duties and responsibilities you have had in your previous jobs or in any voluntary work you have done, and write a detailed description of each of these duties.
  • List also all your hobbies or extracurricular activities.
  • Use these lists to determine what skills are required to accomplish these duties or activities. You will have a long list of skills by the end of this process.
  • Remember to look for both job content and self-management skills.
  • Pick out those skills which match your job goals.
  • Keep these key skills at the forefront of your mind during the interview. You should elaborate on where, when and how you have used these skills when presenting these to potential employers, whether this is in your resume, on an application form, or in an interview setting.
  • You can highlight different skills according to the position you are applying to. By determining the duties or responsibilities of the job you are applying for, you will be able to determine what skills the employer is likely to be looking for in a candidate. If these are skills which you think you may have then you should highlight these in the interview with examples of work you have done where you have had to utilize these skills.

There is a good list of example skills here.

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