Skills are important, but what details are employers interested in?

Jim RealiFinal Year, First Year, Graduates, Postgraduate, Second Year

Two students looking at a laptop in a park

When you’re applying for a role, it’s likely you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you possess skills relevant to the employer. You will need to evidence these from the outset – either on your CV or in your written application, all the way through to your final interview.

What are skills? summarises this nicely:

Employability skills are the core skills and traits needed in nearly every job. These are the general skills that make someone desirable to an organisation. Hiring managers almost always look for employees with these skills.

If you aren’t sure how skills differ from strengths, you might find it helpful to take a look at this short Strengths and Skills Webinar we recorded.

What skills are employers seeking?

Most job descriptions and person specifications for roles will provide details of what’s important to that particular employer and you can use this information as a checklist when reflecting on what you possess. You can also find many reports online, identifying trends in demand. For example, in 2020 the QS Global Employer Survey polled tens of thousands of employers to create the following overview:


How do you convey your skills?

The chances are, if you’ve spoken with anyone from the Careers and Placements team, or indeed anyone involved in careers in general, they may have mentioned the STAR or CAR acronyms. These are frameworks to help you structure the way you convey examples of your skills. STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

If you would like to find out how to use these frameworks, take a look at the Careers and Placements Competency-based questions web page and also our excellent PDF – Competencies Explained. You might also find it useful to refer to this short online STAR course.

From these, you will soon see that the most important part of the STAR framework is the Action, where you provide details of what you (not “we”!) did in relation to using the skill you’re discussing.

However, this is often the hardest thing to do. Unless you understand what ‘best practice’ is for a particular skill (i.e. how it should be used properly, to greatest effect), then you might find it difficult to know what to say.

Fear not – help is at hand! Our new interactive advanced employability skills workshop takes you through each step and examines how each of the top three skills highlighted in the QS report (communication, problem-solving and teamwork) should be used in the workplace. We look at academic and applied theories for these skills and give you the opportunity to fit your examples to them. We also identify sources of further information, to help you understand the background to other common transferable employability skills.

What should I do next?

If you think that you might benefit from a better understanding of the theory behind key employability skills, the first action for you to take might be for you to register for our advanced employability skills workshop on 30th March 2021.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about skills, please do take a look at the resources linked in this blog post and also feel free to email me, Jim Reali, at

Photo by William Fortunato from Pexels