We’ve looked at the typical top-10 employability skills, so we now look at others that commonly or occasionally appear in lists of skills which are considered desirable in a work place:
11. Working under pressure and to deadlines
Within the workplace many employees will often be under a great amount at pressure to meet certain deadlines. Making sure that projects or contract work are completed on time, letters having to go out by a certain time of day, responding to customer queries within a defined timescale, all puts pressure on an employee, as well as the business itself as it needs to satisfy its customers if it is to stay in business.
Often organisations will have a customer service statement that will include one or more statements that indicate how long they will take to respond to enquiries, complaints or the turning around of orders. Productivity is often measured by how well deadlines are met, or not.
If you are able to show that you can plan well and prioritise tasks to make the best use of available resources then the need to work to tight deadlines and under pressure can be reduced because of this insight. Forward planning helps to alleviate and mitigate potential problems that are the cause of many reasons for having to work under pressure and working to deadlines.
12. Decision making / Using own initiative
Can you make decisions or do you have to rely on others to help you all the time?
Being able to show that you can make decisions within the right context is a good signal to send an employer. Good decision making skills are also needed for being able to learn effectively. We are often faced with many choices throughout life, most are fortunately not life threatening or life changing, but will often be minor decisions that just helps to give some sense of order and structure to everyday life – whether at home, work or during a learning process.
If you haven’t had much opportunity to make decisions then start at a basic level; how about deciding on what’s on your weekly (or monthly) food shop (maybe basing your decision on calories, healthiness of the food, locality of the food etc.).
Maybe you want to reduce your energy use and save some money; decide how you might go about this, which might involve rationing lighting and heating at certain times and limiting the number of rooms that may be heated during the evening. If there is more than one person going to be affected by your decision it is important that everyone is involved and consulted to make sure it is a reasonable solution that you come up with.
Wording that is often used to illustrate this transferable skill is “The ability to use own initiative and know when to seek advice”, so watch for that on a person specification.
If you can think of an example of using your own initiative that also includes other employability skills then this would provide a good demonstration of what an employer seeks from an employee. For example can you explain how using your initiative involved either:
- considering how it impacted on others (consideration of team working),
- the process of how you made the decision (consideration of problem solving),
- how you discussed this with others (consideration of negotiating),
- how it was communicated to others (your communication skills) and,
- how well it was received (consideration of your leadership skills).
If a recent school or college leaver, or graduate, was to demonstrate initiative then a good example might be to explain how a project or assignment was planned, delivered / implenmented (carried out) and then evaluated, with particular emphasis being made on relevant employability skills at different stages of the project. Being able to think through these ideas before either completing a job application form, but especially an interview for a job, will also demonstrate that you also have good planning skills.
13. Leadership skills
Teams will require some direction and guidance from others. Leadership involves being able to gain the respect of others and the ability to motivate them, for example through appropriate praise, to achieve a successful outcome.
Leadership skills mean more than being able to lead others. Employers require employees who can take ownership of activities and lead on them within their own area of responsibility. For example, an employee will have a line manager who provides the general guidance and direction needed to achieve a satisfactory outcome.
However, within the tasks that an employee carries out there might be part of a process or procedure that they are particularly interested in and which they feel they can offer a valuable contribution. They might like to take a lead on this area of interest, which raises the awareness of others who then increase their respect towards the individual for their contribution and which also acts a motivation to a successful outcome because an improved and easier way of working has been identified.
If you are able to provide examples of how you may have demonstrated leadership skills then this will show to an employer that you could become a valuable member of a team that might currently lack someone with this skill.
Developing and then being able to demonstrate leadership skills can provide someone with a springboard into a supervisory or management role if the opportunity arose. Within many businesses the activity of succession planning forms part of their business plan; if a potential employee can demonstrate leadership qualities they will have stolen a march on potential competitors for the job role they are applying for.
Attributes that a good leader will often have, include:
- A vision for their organisation,
- Charisma to build relationships,
- An ability to positively influence others to achieve a common purpose,
- Being decisive (not indecisive and unable to make their mind up; dithering),
- Responsive to change (solving the problems associated with change).
14. Negotiation skills
There will typically be some requirement to negotiate for something within a workplace. This might be which resources people use and when they can use them, for example printers or access to the Internet. You will want to be able to show that you can agree with others and this will probably involve demonstrating your ability to compromise and also how you can inject some influence into the negotiation process.
Your personal qualities will have a significant impact on how well you are able to negotiate and compromise with others.
Higher level of negotiation skills could involve dealing with customers to get a satisfactory resolution to their queries; negotiating with suppliers to get the best price for some goods; negotiating with others over system processes and the extent of responsibilities over new processes within an organisation.
Preparation is an important starting point to negotiating, whilst having an appropriate strategy to help deliver a successful outcome will demonstrate that you have an understanding of the art of negotiating.
Additional reading: Sanibel, M. (2009) ‘The Art of Negotiating’, Entrepreneur web site,
15. Valuing diversity
This is a fairly recent attribute that has been added to employability skills, however, it was previously considered under headings such as respect for others and treating people as equals.
With the increase in awareness of diversity of the workforce (gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, learning difficulties, disabilities and age groups in particular) it is important that an individual has a good understanding and respect of other people in the work place.
If an organisation is to succeed and prosper they do not want to employ individuals who are prejudiced because besides alienating potential customers there can also be legal implications if discrimination is proven.
If you are able to show that you are a very reasonable and respectful person who values human diversity, and if most people are being honest they would probably agree that the diversity of human, animal and plant life is quite wonderful.
Businesses can encourage diversity within a workforce by having inclusive and flexible working policies. This can have the effect of increasing innovation and profitability because a workforce who is diverse and values diversity is able to understand the requirements of a greater range of actual and potential customers.
16. Analytical skills
This type of skill would be more appropriate to graduate type jobs, however, analysis can take many forms and levels of detail. An employer would typically aim to train a new employee on the types of analysis required, but this would require good numeracy and literacy skills as a starting point.
Business reports that include competitor information often need analysing, as does research reports from which suitable information might be able to be extracted to help the organisation in their business strategy.
17. Technical ability
To be employable in most roles an individual will also need to possess some technical ability. This might be academic knowledge, specialist ICT knowledge and skills, or a vocational skill that is relevant to the job role.
General labouring jobs will not require specialist, or even vocational, skills but will require good employability skills.
18. Foreign language skills
With the amount of international trade that takes place between UK businesses and those that are based in other countries, the ability to be able to hold a conversation with people that do not have English as a first language can be very beneficial.
Whilst most people will not be fluent in other languages, being able to talk confidently in another language can positively influence non-English speaking customers. A large amount of goodwill can be demonstrated where an effort is made to talk to others in their native language; the gesture of trying is a sign of respect for the other person and their language.
The lack of foreign language skills within UK business has been attributed to having lost a significant amount of business, reduced exports and restricts the potential market place for some products and services as the organisation is unable to penetrate the foreign market.
19. International Cultural awareness
The world is an interconnected place and with the globalised economy there is often a need to have an understanding of the many different cultures. The way people from one culture undertake business can be very different from that of people from a different culture. Incorrect gestures or mannerisms, whilst being acceptable in some cultures can be offensive in others, even though no intent to offend is meant.
Being able to offer an employer a skill which brings an understanding of different cultures can be especially beneficial to those organisations that trade internationally.
20. Presentation of self
This can be a tricky one because there are so many possibilities as to what is suitable attire for work.
How should an employee present himself or herself within the workplace?
This will depend upon the business environment and whether there is a need to conform to that environment. On the whole, you will find most employees conform to a typical dress code within their workplace, including formal business (e.g. jacket and tie for men), smart casual, casual as well as suitable clothing for the outdoor and warehouse environment.
Along with dress sense, there is also the delicate issue of personal hygiene.
Clean and generally tidy would be expected from most employers, especially at the start of a day. If you are working in the outdoor environment then it is likely that your clothes will become dirty during the day; a good wash and freshen up after work would be required; don’t think that turning up for work the following day without having made an effort would be well received by colleagues.
Unpleasant odours will not be well received by others, especially if you are working in close confinment, such as a small office, with them. Common sense and a respect for othersneeds to prevail. If you are prone to perspiration, consider either a change of shirt, or top, during the day, and/or carrying a deodorant with you so that it can be applied occassionally.
21. Customer Care Skills
Gaining and looking after customers is a key task for any organisation, especially those wishing to consistently maintain and improve profits and financial viability of an organisation.
This is really where the ‘soft skills’ elements come into their own: The ability to engage and get on well with others, to ensure a satisfactory outcome is achieved.
- Listening to a customer – so you can understand what the issue (which may be an enquiry or a complaint, for example) is;
- Empathy with a customer – so you can understand their perspective and why they may be making an enquiry or complaint etc.
- Being calm under pressure – you don’t want to ‘fly off the handle’ and aggravate or annoy a customer as this isn’t really going to be all that helpful; Consistent calmness can help to diffuse a potentially volatile situation;
- Assertiveness (this doesn’t mean being aggressive, but rather confident and positive in your dealings) – to show that you can take control of the issue and are able to manage it effectively to resolve it appropriately; This won’t always mean that the customer is satisfied with the outcome, but you may gain respect from them where you have shown it to be a reasonable approach that you have taken;
- Communication – especially spoken – so that you can convey that you understand the issue and can explain what is happening at each stage of addressing the issue. If it is a general enquiry then this will most likely be a lot easier than dealing with a complaint. You will also need to be timely in any response.
- Making connections with a customer – being able to personalise an issue can
- Being approachable – this is where customers interact in the same physical space (such as a shop) – giving off positive / friendly ‘vibes’ so a customer is more likely to make an enquiry about a product, and make a purchase.
- Product, Process, Service knowledge – understanding the business you are in so you can answer most general queries and so that you do not have to keep passing a customer onto someone else.
- There are numerous other features of customer service skills, but the above capture the core ones.
Hopefully my brief look at employability skills is of help and assistance in being better informed on either getting that first job role, for moving between jobs – whether with the same employer or to another one.
Chris Gray, 31st March 2019