Employability skills

Identify and value your employability skills

Employers favour candidates with a wide range of employability skills to complement their job-specific skills and study. Learn what these skills are, how to identify those you have to offer, and how to build upon them.

Employability skills (sometimes called ‘soft’ skills) refer to a set of transferable skills and key personal attributes which are highly valued by employers and essential for effective performance in the workplace. Unlike professional or technical skills, these employability skills are generic in nature, rather than job-specific, and are common to all work roles and workplaces across all industry types - for instance, communication and teamwork.

Academic qualifications and good marks are not the only way to successfully engage at university. You should also gain experiences to enhance your employability skills, as these experiences will also provide you with skill examples for your job applications.

While at university:

  1. Make the most of opportunities within your studies to develop employability skills, eg, through group project work, presentations, student exchange programs, internship subjects, industry and community project units and mentoring programs.
  2. Get involved in extracurricular activities such as clubs and societies, sport, public speaking, special interest groups, or community activities, as these experiences will also provide you with evidence of skills for your job applications.
  3. Gain work experience through internships and vacation work, voluntary work for not-for-profit organisations, casual work and paid part-time work relevant to your field where possible.
  4. Maintain a record (or portfolio) of your work experiences, volunteering roles, and activities. Make a note of skills gained and qualities demonstrated. Gather evidence of achievements and outcomes, including positive comments made by supervisers, peers and customers, and include these in your portfolio.

Why identify your employability skills?

Knowing how to speak about your skills is an important skill in itself! Incorporate relevant examples of your skills into job applications and interviews to increase your chances of success when applying for jobs.

Taking the time to identify your employability skills can help you to:

  • identify skill gaps and plan your skill development to build a portfolio of skills valued by employers
  • recognise the value of your skills and build self-confidence
  • write effective job applications including resumescover letters and selection criteria responses
  • perform well in behavioural interview situations by clearly articulating skills you can bring to the job.

How to spot your employability skills

1. Start by listing all the activities you have been involved in through study, work and extracurricular opportunities.

If your studies involved work experience, clinical placements, internships or field work, draw examples from these experiences. These may include ‘devising a business plan’, ‘developing a site survey’ or ‘conducting and analysing client evaluations’.  Remember to also include skills developed via research, projects and assignments undertaken during your studies.

Your work and extracurricular activities can also offer practical examples of employability skills such as training staff, event organisation, team sports and customer service skills.

2. For each activity, list the responsibilities you had, the skills you used and qualities you demonstrated. Be specific and avoid vague or general claims to skills.

3. Use this information to compile a list of the employability skills you have developed that are relevant to your field of expertise.  

Examples of employability skills

Skills sought by graduate employers include teamwork, communication, planning and organising, problem solving, and so forth. Some skills overlap with one another. Leadership, for example, encompasses a number of other skills including decision making, verbal communication, planning, organising, and collaboration.

Personal attributes that contribute to overall employability include commitment, adaptability, honesty and integrity, reliability, ability to deal with pressure, motivation, and cultural fit with the employing organisation.

  • listening, understanding, and speaking clearly
  • writing appropriately for different audiences
  • persuading and negotiating effectively
  • demonstrating empathy, assertiveness and tact
  • understanding the needs of customers/clients
  • establishing relationships and using networks
  • sharing information and proposing ideas
  • fluency in English and other languages
  • logically summarising information or data
  • chairing a meeting.
  • working effectively with people of different ages, gender, race, religion or political persuasion
  • identifying the strengths of team members
  • recognising own strengths and limitations
  • clarifying team roles and performing agreed tasks
  • demonstrating leadership as appropriate
  • coaching, mentoring and motivating others
  • giving and receiving constructive feedback
  • resolving differences of opinion
  • collaborating and contributing to team results.
  • analysing facts and testing assumptions
  • defining the problem and contributing factors
  • developing creative, innovative and/or practical solutions
  • showing initiative in identifying and solving problems
  • solving problems independently and in teams
  • applying a range of strategies to problem solving
  • designing contingencies
  • developing and evaluating a range of options
  • making realistic decisions and action plans
  • using mathematical skills, including budgeting and financial management, to solve problems
  • resolving customer concerns in relation to complex issues
  • implementing and monitoring solutions
  • evaluating processes and outcomes.
  • identifying opportunities not obvious to others
  • assessing the competitive advantage of ideas
  • identifying customer or client requirements
  • developing strategic goals
  • being creative, initiating ideas and innovative solutions
  • determining the commercial viability of ideas
  • translating ideas into action
  • demonstrating sensitivites (political, commercial, environmental, cultural, and so on)
  • liaising with stakeholders and sponsors
  • using a range of business communication methods
  • marketing and selling a product or service.
  • establishing clear and attainable project goals and deliverables
  • defining specifications and quality standards
  • planning the use of resources, including time, people, finances and materials
  • risk management and contingency planning
  • managing time and priorities – setting milestones
  • managing tasks – delegating, coordinating, monitoring
  • managing people – training, developing, motivating, giving feedback, supervising
  • collecting, analysing and organising information
  • being resourceful, taking initiative and making decisions
  • establishing evaluation criteria and participating in continuous improvement
  • reporting on progress and outcomes
  • understanding basic business systems and their relationships.
  • managing own learning
  • sharing knowledge and experience in the workplace
  • contributing to the learning community at the workplace
  • using a range of mediums to learn – mentoring, peer support, networking, information technology (IT), courses
  • applying learning to ‘technical’ issues (eg, learning about products and ‘people’ issues and interpersonal/cultural aspects of work)
  • having enthusiasm for ongoing learning
  • being willing to learn in any setting – on and off the job
  • being open to new ideas and techniques
  • being prepared to invest time and effort in learning new skills
  • acknowledging the need to learn in order to accommodate change.
  • having a range of basic IT skills
  • applying IT as a management tool
  • using IT to organise data
  • being willing to learn new IT skills
  • having the occupational health and safety (OH&S) knowledge to use technology in a safe and healthy way
  • having the appropriate physical capacity.
  • having a personal vision and goals
  • being able to evaluate and monitor your own performance
  • having knowledge and confidence in your own ideas and vision
  • articulating your own ideas and vision
  • taking responsibility
  • working ethically
  • working under pressure
  • demonstrating resilience.