Finding a Job

12 Employability Skills and How to Develop Them

April 2, 2021

Hiring managers and employers want candidates who have the skills and qualifications for a role. While they aren't job-specific, employability skills are in-demand skills that make you attractive to any employer. In this article, we explain what employability skills are, discuss the essential skills and explain how to present them to employers.

What are employability skills?

Employability skills are general skills that make you desirable to employers. While most are soft skills, employability skills also include hard skills like being bilingual or multilingual. They relate to your mindset, expertise or knowledge of concepts and methods. Recruiters look for these skills because they're a good indicator of a successful, employable candidate.

People also refer to employability skills as transferrable skills and foundational skills. While they are rarely included in job descriptions, showing that you have certain employability skills can convince hiring managers that you are a good fit for a job.

1. Communication

The ability to communicate effectively is an essential part of every role, and employers want applicants with excellent verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Effective communication refers to the ability to exchange ideas clearly and work well with others. It also includes the ability to do the following:

  • listen actively
  • ask relevant questions
  • express thoughts clearly when writing and speaking
  • make logical conclusions

There are several ways to develop your communication skills, including:

  • blogging and interacting with others on social media
  • participating in local clubs
  • speaking or presenting publically
  • using open body language when talking to others
  • writing reports and keeping a diary

2. Learning

Learning is the ability to understand new concepts quickly. It also refers to your ability to do activities like:

  • participate in new tasks
  • adapt to changes
  • update your knowledge of concepts and methods

Employers look for applicants with exceptional learning skills because they can work in fast-paced environments and pick up new skills and retain knowledge. They also know how to overcome challenges at work.

Here are some ways you can develop your learning skills:

  • complete an online course on learning techniques
  • pick up a hobby like playing the piano, fishing or knitting
  • participate in volunteer groups

3. Leadership

Leadership skills are soft skills you use to manage others to reach a goal. Whether in entry-level positions or managerial roles, leaders are an essential part of any organization. They help companies achieve their objectives and keep their team members motivated. Employees with leadership skills also improve practices and develop strategies for an organization.

You can improve or develop your leadership skills in various ways such as:

  • joining leadership training courses
  • learning about leadership styles
  • finding a mentor
  • volunteering to lead a small group or sports team

Read more: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

4. Teamwork

Teamwork is the ability to collaborate with other people to achieve a common goal. Good team players are valuable to an organization because they get along with other people and actively contribute to reaching the organization's goals.

Consider the following activities to improve your teamwork skills:

  • volunteering for community activities
  • contributing to group assignments
  • participating in team sports

Related: Teamwork Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

5. Reliability

Reliability refers to being trustworthy and able to carry out duties consistently. A reliable employee responds quickly and has a good work ethic.

Here's how to develop your reliability skills:

  • setting high performance-levels and working towards achieving them
  • creating work schedules and following them
  • acknowledging mistakes and learning from them

6. Critical thinking and problem-solving

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, reflect, evaluate, interpret and make inferences from information. Whereas, problem-solving involves analyzing, interpreting and finding solutions to problems. Employers look for applicants that have both skills because they can troubleshoot and overcome obstacles. Good problem-solvers can also take on challenging tasks in an organization.

Here are some ways you can improve your critical-thinking and problem-solving skills:

  • taking a course to learn how people solve problems
  • practicing various problems to get comfortable with the critical-thinking process
  • brainstorming on various issues

7. Initiative and enterprise

Initiative and enterprise refer to your ability to be proactive. It involves identifying problems and solving them without instruction. Employees with initiative and enterprise skills think creatively and are self-motivated. Organizations value them because they can offer innovative ideas.

You can develop your initiative and enterprise skills by:

  • performing helpful tasks that your supervisor doesn't ask you to do
  • pitching ideas and inquiring about opportunities
  • proposing new ideas or changes at work
  • setting up a club in your community

8. Organization

You can also be more employable if you have strong organizational skills. An organized employee knows how to plan and prioritize work to achieve their goals. They understand how to create structures that improve the productivity of a hiring organization. Strong organizational skills also foster good habits such as neatness, time management and communication.

Here are some ways to improve your organizational skills:

  • writing your activities in a planner
  • organizing your events
  • setting realistic goals
  • delegating tasks to other colleagues where appropriate

Read more: Top Organizational Skills for Resumes, Interviews and Development

9. Technology

Technology skills are hard skills that refer to your ability to use computers and applications such as spreadsheets, word processors and related software. It also involves being able to operate office equipment such as printers and telephones. Depending on the hiring organization, technology skills may relate to your ability to use hardware like cameras, cash registers and related equipment.

You can develop or improve your technology skills by:

  • taking an online course on how to use the latest technologies
  • attending training sessions at work
  • staying current with the latest technologies

10. Personal management

Personal management means meeting your deadlines and performing tasks with little supervision. It also involves delegating tasks and making sure they are completed on time. If you have good personal management skills, you are productive and know how to motivate yourself to master new concepts and methods. You also know how to build your personal network with other people.

You can use personal management skills at work by planning each day, setting goals, thinking before you speak and coming to meetings prepared. Follow these tips to improve your personal management skills:

  • take care of yourself
  • focus on one task
  • find out what you're good at
  • create work schedules and follow them
  • join volunteer groups

Read more: Self-Management Skills: Definition and Examples

11. Ethics

Ethics refers to your principles, attitude and dedication towards your duties. It includes your ability to follow rules and make good decisions. Employers want to know if you have high moral principles and can be trusted to act professionally.

There are several ways to improve your ethical skills, such as:

  • review your work
  • respect your colleagues and supervisors
  • seek professional development
  • become an ambassador of an organization

Read more: Work Ethic Skills: Top 8 Values to Develop

12. Numeracy

Numeracy skills refer to the ability to use, interpret and communicate mathematical ideas. If you have good numeracy skills, you know how to use mathematics to complete your daily tasks.

Hiring managers look for applicants with strong numeracy skills because they can solve problems and understand numbers, patterns and shapes. Such employees are also creative-thinkers.

You can develop your numeracy skills by:

  • taking an online course
  • practice numeracy tests
  • playing games that involve numbers

Sell your employability skills

Follow these tips to show your employability skills to hiring managers:

List them on your resume.

Including your employability skills on your resume is an easy way to convince hiring managers you are the best candidate for a role. Research employees of an organization and check out similar occupations if a job description doesn't include the employability skills they're looking for. Explain how you used your employability skills in your previous roles and describe how you will apply them to the role you're applying for.

Read more: Here's Everything You Should Include on a Resume

Explain your skills at job interviews.

Explaining your employability skills in interviews is another way to convince employers you're the right candidate. Here's a technique, known as "STARS," that you can use to explain your employability skills.

  • situation: Explain a circumstance and issue you faced
  • task: Describe what you had to do, why you needed to carry it out and the challenges you faced.
  • action: Explain the actions you took to solve an issue or perform a task
  • result: Describe what happened after you took certain actions
  • skills: Outline the employability skills that helped you accomplish the task

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