Many job adverts will list professional skills that they expect job hunters to have — but what are professional skills and how can you develop them? Making sure that you know what job-based skills you have and including them in your CV can really boost your chances of getting interviewed for a role, so it's important to know everything you can. In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know, from the top professional skills that employers want to including these skills in your CV and cover letter.
- What are professional skills?
- Top 20 professional skills
- How to develop professional skills
- How to include professional skills in your CV
- To sum up
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What are professional skills?
Professional skills are attributes and competencies that will help you succeed in your career. These include both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are measurable and are usually technical in nature, for example, foreign language fluency. Soft skills are more difficult to measure, but they are just as important. Soft skills include things such as team working or organisation.
Many soft and hard skills are transferable skills. This makes them useful in a wide range of different job roles and in vastly different fields. That means that these skills are highly sought-after by employers in all sectors.
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Top 20 professional skills
There are many different examples of professional skills that you can develop. Here are our top 20 professional skills that employers will want to see on your CV:
Definition: This can cover a lot of tasks, including keeping track of your workload, filling in paperwork properly and always being on time for meetings, client talks and more. It can also include planning and prepping things for big projects as well as taking notes and records appropriately.
How to demonstrate organisational skills at a job interview: Great examples of organisational skills are to do with staying on top of complex logistical situations and large projects, and always having information to hand when needed.
Definition: Adapting to change and being flexible is vital when difficulties or unexpected issues pop up, or just when you have to turn your attention to something else. This includes thinking quickly, staying calm and being able to plan how to deal with changes.
How to demonstrate adaptability skills at a job interview: Talk about any times when you have had to deal with a significant change — maybe you had to do a co-worker's tasks when they were sick, or maybe a project brief changed near the deadline.
Definition: This includes keeping abreast of your schedule, being on time, and handling instructions without supervision. Employers love this because it means that managers can focus on more than just helping other employees.
How to demonstrate self-management skills at a job interview: For this one, talk about any projects where you have been given an outline and were asked to do it by yourself. This could include setting up a window display without full instructions or handling a client's brief by yourself.
Definition: Employers are always looking for workers who do not need prompting to undertake their tasks. Having good motivation and dedication for your work means you get your work done on time and are a real asset to a company.
How to demonstrate motivation skills at a job interview: To show your motivation, you can talk about times when you have taken on extra work, or times when you have gone above and beyond your job description without being asked to.
Definition: This includes written and spoken communications with other workers, clients, suppliers and anyone else. Communication is vital for improving productivity and avoiding misunderstandings.
How to demonstrate communication skills at a job interview: Hopefully your CV and interview will showcase your ability to communicate for you. Be sure to keep your answers clear and concise to show your verbal communication skills.
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Definition: Leadership means working to organise and motivate a team of people and guiding them to complete a certain job role or project. This includes using soft skills such as active listening and conflict resolution.
How to demonstrate leadership skills at a job interview: Talk about any project where you have been in a position of leadership. This could be in work, education, or even something from your hobbies, like if you were the main person organising a local hobby group.
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Definition: Being able to use a computer, troubleshoot basic problems and learn new software are all important skills in most job roles now. It is expected that most workers can handle basic web use, document creation and other simple tasks.
How to demonstrate digital skills at a job interview: If you have any particularly strong digital skills it can be good to mention these, especially if you have more experience with technology. Also, be sure to mention your familiarity with software that is particularly common in your field.
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Definition: Taking initiative means solving problems or finding new ways of working and it can often mean making snap decisions when there are urgent issues to deal with.
How to demonstrate initiative skills at a job interview: Talk about any specific times when you have taken initiative and helped improve the way of working, dealt with a problem, or come up with a new helpful idea for the company.
Definition: Working well with others is vital for most larger projects in companies. This includes communication with team members, analysis of skills and delegation.
How to demonstrate team working skills at a job interview: When talking about teamwork and team projects at an interview, you should focus on the team's success as a whole, as well as your role within the team.
Definition: Unexpected problems are a part of life and being able to think critically, analyse problems and solve issues is very important. This often includes a lot of quick thinking as well as good planning skills.
How to demonstrate problem-solving skills at a job interview: The easiest way to demonstrate this is by talking about a problem you had to solve. Be sure to talk about the steps you went through to solve the issue, as employers will probably want to know your thought process to see how good your critical thinking skills are.
Definition: This means having an awareness of how the industry works. This can be in a general sense how customers, economics and market trends move, or it can be more specific to the field you are in.
How to demonstrate commercial awareness skills at a job interview: Talk about how your knowledge of the commercial scene has helped in previous job roles. For example, highlight when you knew how the industry would move and suggest the implementation of a new policy to use this change.
Definition: This means being aware of your own emotions and those of your co-workers, clients and anyone else you come into contact with. This includes empathy, active listening and conflict resolution. This is vital to ensure a healthy workplace and to build relationships with others.
How to demonstrate emotional awareness skills at a job interview: Try to talk about how you have used your emotional intelligence to help deal with issues in the workplace or to improve working conditions.
Definition: Being on time and finishing work for deadlines is vital. This includes planning skills, organisation and self-motivation.
How to demonstrate reliability skills at a job interview: You can mention this when talking about projects that you have successfully completed on time.
Definition: Decision-making means analysing a situation and weighing up potential options. This involves a lot of critical thinking and awareness of the implications of your actions.
How to demonstrate decision-making skills at a job interview: The best way to highlight your skills here is to talk about an example of when you weighed up between different options and chose the right one. Be sure to say why this worked out well for the company.
Definition: This means thinking outside the box to come up with new ideas and includes creative thinking, analysis of new ideas and confidence.
How to demonstrate innovation skills at a job interview: You can talk about any time when you have been able to come up with a new idea or a new way of doing things. Your example might not seem creative at first thought, but it probably is! For example, coming up with a better layout for paperwork is still an innovation.
Project management skills
Definition: This means planning and overseeing a project, which includes critical thinking, organisation and analysis. This is important to employers since a lot of fields have projects that need completing.
How to demonstrate project management skills at a job interview: Talk about any project that you have been in charge of. This can be in your employment, education or even hobby projects. This is best if you can give examples of projects you've managed where you've worked with others.
Definition: This is a hard skill relating to programming, advanced software use and more advanced troubleshooting. This is useful in a wide range of fields.
How to demonstrate software skills at a job interview: Talk about your experience and highlight any qualifications you have in the field. You can also talk about how you have learned these skills in the past — employers like workers who actively learn new skills.
Definition: This is another hard skill and it can include foreign languages, dialects and sign language. This is useful in any field where companies work with people in different countries, regions and more.
How to demonstrate language skills at a job interview: The best way to show your competency is to highlight qualifications or fluency ratings you have in your chosen languages. If you are applying for a job with a language requirement you might be asked to speak in that language in the interview as well.
Definition: This includes more than just writing emails or messages. It means being able to tailor your writing to the audience and the purpose of the piece. For example, this can be journalism, long-form pieces, publications, marketing and more. This is another hard skill which is useful in a wide range of fields.
How to demonstrate copywriting skills at a job interview: If you are being asked about this skill you can cover different types of writing you have done and have examples to hand.
Definition: Looking at situations and data and gathering conclusions. This includes critical thinking, planning, reading data and preparing reports.
How to demonstrate analytical skills at a job interview: The best way to bring this up at an interview is to discuss a time when you have had to analyse a dataset or a situation to plan ahead. You can also mention times when you have had to analyse data to write reports for others.
Other useful professional skills
Of course, there are plenty more skills that are useful in the workplace. You probably want to focus on the main skills above, but it's always worth making sure that you bring up any relevant skills that you have as they will still help you get a job. Some of these are more suited to specific roles, but you can apply the same mindset to most roles. Other useful professional skills include:
- Customer service skills
- Presentation skills
- Marketing skills
- Public speaking
- Ability to work under pressure
- Conceptualisation and visualisation
- Creative thinking
How to develop professional skills
Building on your professional skills is a great way to boost your CV and improve your employability. Here are our top tips for how to improve your skills:
- Find your weaknesses - You need to properly asses your strengths and weaknesses before you can work on improving your skills. You can do this with self-assessment or skills assessments online.
- Attend workshops and courses - There are plenty of courses, workshops, seminars and conferences that can help you work on skills. The great thing about conferences is that you'll usually find seminars or workshops on multiple different subjects so you can maximise your learning.
- Ask for feedback - If you ask people around you for feedback you can see where you are doing well and areas that you could improve on.
- Listen to other professionals - You can learn a lot just from seeing what works or doesn't work for other professionals around you. You can also ask co-workers for help on how to better handle certain situations and how to boost your skills.
- Practice - As with anything, practice is key. Find things that help you work on the skills you need outside the workplace. For example, if you want to work on your team working skills, you could join a sports club or a community organisation.
How to include professional skills in your CV
If you are wondering how to write a CV and want to make sure your skills are properly displayed, here are our top tips:
- Check your skills against the job description - Include lots of your skills, but focus on the ones that are listed in the job description first, as these are the ones that the employer most wants to see. If you've still got space, feel free to add in more.
- Add a skills section - One of the simplest ways to include your skills in your CV is to have a section where you list your main ones. This is a great way to help employers quickly and easily see what you offer.
- Use your employment and education history - Employers also like to see how you gained skills, as it helps put it into a more real-world framing. Include skills gained in your education and employment history where relevant. This also helps focus on your strengths rather than the routine tasks of entry-level jobs.
To sum up
- Professional skills are any competencies that can help you in your job and career, so building skills is important when you are job hunting.
- These career skills include hard skills such as software, alongside soft skills such as organisation.
- Some of the key skills that employers look for are communication, teamwork and reliability.
- You can build your skills with courses, seminars, and through practice.
- It's important to include your skills in your CV, such as in the skills section or in your employment history where relevant.
- The best way to prepare for an interview regarding skills is to be ready to show real-life examples of how you have displayed those skills.
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