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Home > Students > Getting a Job > Employability skills > What are employability skills?

What are employability skills?

What are employability skills?

These are the skills, attributes and strengths that are needed for specific job roles. Whether you are looking for a part-time job or a graduate scheme you will be expected to have at least some of the skills, or the potential to acquire the skills needed to do the job.

Increasingly employers expect students to have experience of the workplace and be work ready upon graduation.

How can I get employability skills?

The good news is you probably have more than you think! You will gain skills through:

  • Your course: Check the course handbook to see what skills you should gain as a result of your studies. Talk to a coursemate and compare notes. What skills do you think you have gained so far? How and when did you get them?
  • Work experience: Includes part-time and vacation jobs, internships and placements, working for a family business, volunteering, work shadowing, insight days and employer visits.
  • Extra-curricular activities: Sports, clubs and societies, hobbies can all count but you need to be actively involved. University commitments like peer mentoring, business games competitions, prizes and awards are also great.

Develop your skills

Find activities and opportunities to develop a range of the most sought after skills while at university.

For each skill on the list there are examples of typical application form and interview questions you may be expected to answer, plus an insight into assessment centre activities.

  • Adaptability

    What is adaptability?

    Adaptability is the skill of anticipating and responding to changing circumstances and coping effectively with the transition. Being adaptable requires you to fit into a new environment quickly and easily.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test adaptability:

    • What challenges did you face during your first two weeks at university?
    • Describe a time when you have had to adapt to new environment. How did you cope with this change?
    • Describe a situation when you had to change the way you worked because of changing circumstances. How did you adapt?

     

  • Analytical skills

    What are analytical skills?

    Analytical skills are the thought processes required to evaluate information effectively. Examining a problem thoroughly requires attention to detail, perseverance and maintaining your focus.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test analytical skills:

    • Describe the last time you had to analyse a lot of information or data. What sort of information did this involve? What did you learn from the analysis?
    • Critically analyse the effects of the credit crunch on our sector.
    • Demonstrate how you have developed your analytical skills whilst at university.

     

  • Commercial awareness

    What is commercial awareness?

    Organisations operate in a competitive marketplace and need graduates who can quickly grasp the internal and external challenges facing them, understand their customers and make good decisions on how best to develop their businesses. Commercial awareness is understanding what is happening in the world from a business perspective and questioning if activities add value to the business.

    Commercial awareness can be termed: 'commerciality', 'business focus', 'client focus' or 'passion for business'.

    Many recruiters say that students and new graduates lack this important competency.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test commercial awareness:

    • What do you know about this company?
    • What do you know about the competitors in this business?
    • How would you sell our company to a potential customer?
    • Tell me about a recent business story that took your interest?
    • What are the greatest challenges facing our sector in the next five years?
  • Communication skills

    What are communication skills?

    Communication is the ability to communicate orally, in writing, or via electronic means. It also covers interpersonal communication, presentation and negotiation skills.

    In an employment context, communication skills are used in team meetings, and are the key to developing positive working relationships with colleagues and clients.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test communication skills:

    • Can you give an example of where you have persuaded someone to your way of thinking?
    • Describe a situation where you communicated technical information to a non technical audience.
    • What experience have you had of designing and delivering presentations or writing business reports?
    • Give me an example of a situation where you had to manage conflict and reach a satisfactory conclusion
    • What do you think is the key to effective communication/negotiation/presentation?

     

  • Decision making

    What is decision making?

    Decision making is a process which involves analysing a problem, researching the options, weighing up the pros and cons, and reaching a logical conclusion. You may need to be creative in your approach, and it may be appropriate to take advice from others.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test decision making skills:

    • We all have to make unpopular decisions that may affect others. Describe a situation when you have had to make such a decision. What did you learn from this experience?
    • Tell us about a time when you took responsibility for making a key decision.
    • How would you describe your preferred decision making style?
  • Flexibility

    What is flexibility?

    Flexibility is your willingness and ability to take on new responsibilities. It is not just a 'can do' attitude but a 'will do' approach. To be truly flexible, you need to change your priorities according to organisational need.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test your flexibility:

    • Describe a university situation when you needed to manage your time effectively due to multiple priorities.
    • Tell me about a time when you have had to change your plans due to unforeseen circumstances.
    • Why is an ability to be flexible important at work?
  • Initiative

    What is initiative?

    Initiative is the ability to be resourceful and to introduce a new course of action. It requires you to be resilient, tenacious and determined. You will need to be able to demonstrate that you can think for yourself and take action when necessary.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test your initiative:

    • Tell me about a time when you spotted an opportunity to suggest a change. How did you put this forward and what was the outcome?
    • Give me an example of when your initiative and quick thinking stopped a problem escalating.
    • When have you had to use your initiative to cope with a change in circumstances?
  • Innovation

    What is innovation?

    Innovation is all about having new ideas. It is the ability to identify new opportunities, generate solutions, make improvements and to think creatively and enterprisingly in order to produce an effective outcome.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test innovation:

    • Are you someone who typically comes up with new ideas or build on existing ones? Give examples.
    • What do you consider the most pioneering thing you have done at work and why?
    • If appointed, what changes would you want to make to the business / service, and why?
  • IT skills

    What are IT skills?

    IT skills are required in most jobs, and you will be expected to be familiar with the basic functions of the Microsoft Office suite, such as Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint. You will need to demonstrate that you have the ability to accept, learn and adapt to new technology as required by the job.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test your IT skills:

    • Describe your experience of using computers on your degree course.
    • Give me an example of how you use computers in your spare time.
    • What do you think the impact of future technology innovations would be on our sector?
    • Detail your level of competency and familiarity with IT packages.
  • Leadership

    What is leadership?

    Leadership is the ability to take control of a situation and to lead by empowering others into an effective team. Inspiring and energising others to carry out tasks and achieve goals by displaying a clear sense of direction and values.

    Leadership qualities are important for everyone, even for those who are not in managerial/supervision positions. Leadership skills mean that you can manage people and are able to take initiative. Being able to see and plan ahead, acquire knowledge and have people look up to you are all leadership qualities.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test leadership skills:

    • Describe a time when you had to co-ordinate the work of other people.
    • Describe a time when you successfully helped someone to carry out a task independently.
    • In what past situations have you been most effective in providing leadership and direction?
  • Negotiation

    What are negotiation skills?

    Negotiation skills involve being able to bring about agreement on a course of action through discussion, in order to achieve mutually beneficial results. Your skills of persuasion would influence a positive outcome. In order to negotiate effectively you will need to communicate with impact and listen to the other parties' objectives.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test negotiation skills:

    • Give a recent example of when you negotiated a successful outcome
    • There are times when no-one is prepared to listen to or agree with your point of view. Give an example of when this happened to you.
    • Tell me about the last time you won someone over to your point of view
    • Tell us about a situation when you had to modify your plans or actions to take account of other people's views.
  • Networking

    What are networking skills?

    Networking skills involve the ability to make contacts and build relationships in person or via web based tools, such as LinkedIn.

    In order to network successfully, you will need to be proactive and get involved with different activities, so that you can meet lots of people! Building your network will help your personal and professional development.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test networking skills:

    • How would you define networking?
    • Name three benefits of web based networking.
    • Your manager asks you to find two new customers, what is your strategy?
    • Tell me about a time when you have made effective use of a new contact, what was the end result?
  • Numeracy skills

    What are numeracy skills?

    The ability to handle numbers, including the basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and percentages. Recruiters may also look for the ability to gather and compile statistical data in various formats, and analyse, interpret and present the data in a clear way.

    Application form and interview questions

    There are instances where a question requiring mental arithmetic is sometimes asked at interview, especially for trading positions in the banking sector or as part of officer selection for the armed forces. These questions are usually very specific in order to ensure that you can think on your feet and meet the job requirements.

    Some numeracy questions may be deliberately vague such as: How many light bulbs are there in the country? The purpose of this question is to ascertain the candidates' ability to think laterally by considering all possible objects that require light bulbs.

    The majority of recruiters will assess numerical ability via aptitude tests.

  • Organisation

    What is organisation?

    Organisation is the ability to be systematic and efficient.

    Strong organisational skills are demonstrated by planning your time and your workload effectively. An ability to meet deadlines will provide recruiters with the evidence that you possess good organisational skills. Organisational skills are vital to be effective and efficient in the modern workplace.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test organisation skills:

    • Give an example of when you had to organise a piece of work, project or event.
    • Even the most organised individuals may find that they overlook some of the activities required in planning new activities / initiatives. Tell us about a time when this happened to you.
    • What is the key to effective organisation skills?
    • Tell me about a social event that you have organised, what lessons did you learn?
  • Problem solving

    What is problem solving?

    Problem solving is the ability to think laterally, research, analyse and evaluate information to develop informed solutions. You will need to demonstrate that you can think creatively and apply a logical approach to solving the problems you face.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test problem solving skills:

    • Tell me about a complex problem you have faced and the steps that you took to solve it.
    • Describe a time when you demonstrated creativity in solving a difficult problem.
    • Give me an example of when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
    • Describe a difficult problem that you have solved, what were the critical issues?
  • Research

    What are research skills?

    Research skills encompass the abilities of identifying data sources, gathering information and investigating the facts, based upon agreed objectives and following a clear methodology.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test research skills:

    • Give me an example of when you have had to research a new topic. How did you approach this, and what obstacles did you need to overcome?
    • How have research methods changed in the light of technical innovations?
    • Tell me what you know about our organisation and our key competitors?
    • What is the key to effective research?
  • Teamwork

    What is teamwork?

    Teamwork involves working collaboratively with others, in order to achieve a goal. As an individual you will need to take a on a role within the team, sharing responsibility and contributing ideas.

    It is important to be flexible to changing demands, keeping communication lines open and staying positive in order to meet the deadline.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test teamworking:

    • In what past situations have you been most effective as a team worker?
    • Tell us about the last time you worked as part of a team. What did you like about working in the group?
    • Tell me about a time when you had to get people to work together more supportively.
    • In which situations were you least effective as a team worker?
  • Time management

    What is time management?

    Time management involves the ability to plan and prioritise your workload.

    You will need to set yourself realistic and achievable targets in order to meet deadlines and develop strategies to work under pressure if deadlines are looming. Strong organisation skills are vital, as is the ability to respond to changing demands. Your goal should be to achieve a balance between your study, work and leisure time.

    Application form and interview questions

    Some examples of application form and interview questions which are designed to test time management skills:

    • Describe a situation in which you had to work under pressure.
    • How do you balance your time between your studies and your spare time?
    • You are sat on reception, answering the telephone when a visitor arrives at the office and your manager hands you a note to see them straightaway. How do you respond?
    • Tell me about a time when you had multiple deadlines to meet, how did you cope with this situation?