Not sure what is meant by 'employability skills'? Find out what employers are really looking for.

Employability Skills – what employers want

Are you struggling to find a permanent job, internship or voluntary position? Do you know what employers are looking for on your CV and during the interview process? In the current climate, competition amongst job applications is fierce. Beyond traditional certificates and qualifications, employers are looking for transferable skills and personality traits when deciding who to hire. But what do ’employability skills’ actually include?

It’s very difficult to show employers you’ve got what it takes if you don’t know what they’re looking for. We take you through the top 5 ‘employability’ skills employers and recruiters will want to see when you’re applying for your next job…

#1 Teamwork

Teamwork is all about being able to get along with others – be it friends, class mates or colleagues. You’ll need to show your ability to work together to achieve a shared goal.

Examples of team working could be from group assignments at school or college or extracurricular activities like sports clubs or dance groups. During the coronavirus outbreak, you may have worked with others in your community to help out or volunteer, or even found new ways of working with your siblings to help around the house!

As long as you can provide a relevant example to showcase your skills, employers won’t mind the setting it comes from. Demonstrating humour and originality in your answers can also show them more about you as a person.

#2 Communication

Essentially this comes down to your ability to be clear about what you mean when you talk or write. Communication skills involve listening, as well as being able to understand someone else’s point of view. Many employers will also look at non-verbal communication, such as the body language you use.

You can highlight your communication skills in an interview by displaying good levels of eye contact, not interrupting, asking questions, giving detailed and enthusiastic answers, and being succinct in your response.

You can use examples of how you may have demonstrated great communication skills in your written assignments as part of your studies, oral presentations as part of your class work or any service work experience (face-to-face or on the phone). You could also talk about any blogs or social media accounts you may have, your involvement with social clubs or volunteering, or even the innovative ways you’ve kept in touch with friends and family during lockdown!

#3 Self-Management

This skill means being able to work on your own without someone having to check up on you. It’s about being relied upon to get things done, follow instructions and staying on top of deadlines. In a workplace setting, an employer will want to be able to show you what to do and then leave you to work independently so you’ll need to be able to show them you’re confident in doing just that.

Examples could include doing work experience or a placement or having a part-time job where you’ve had your own set of responsibilities. Equally you could talk about how you created your own study schedule to organise your revision or coursework, how you’ve independently worked towards a fitness goal or saved money for an event or gift for example. You should be confident in talking about how you’ve managed your own time and achieved personal goals during COVID-19.

#4 Problem Solving

During coronavirus, we’ve all had to find new ways of solving problems and being flexible! This skill is about just that, how you’re able to overcome challenges when faced with difficulties and set-backs. It involves being logical to find solutions so remember to talk about the positives outcomes and not just what went wrong in the first place.

Talking about your problem-solving abilities will also highlight your resilience and judgement skills. You could give examples of how you adapted to studying online, additional courses you took to develop yourself, how you kept busy or took up a new hobby. You might also talk about how you’ve found new ways to socialise online or had a positive approach to something you’ve missed doing.

#5 Initiative

Initiative is all about using your intuition and own ideas to think creatively and make improvements to how things are done. This is vital in a workplace environment as it shows you can spot mistakes, think for yourself and come up with new concepts that might help the business to be better.

Employers are always on the look-out for examples of how applicants have been enterprising and inventive. You could talk about how you’ve done things around the house without being asked, got involved with a community art project or volunteer group, how you’ve set-up fundraisers or online quizzes or perhaps you’ve set up your own online business!


Don’t worry if you feel you’re lacking in any of these core employability skills. There are plenty of other things employers will take into account and you can use the time that you’re out of work to work towards learning new skills and developing your existing ones.

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