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How to describe skills in your CV

How to describe your skills in your CV to match the skills employers are looking for.

Find out what skills you have for your CV - video


Matt helps you find the skills you already have that employers want (Video - 2:49)

Matt: Need some help getting some skills down, eh? Don’t worry your magical guide Matt is here to help!

All jobs will expect you to bring some skills with you. Your skills are kind of what make you who you are and they’re also your biggest advantage. Skills are what employers are most interested in.

Student: But I don’t know what to put down here.

Matt: That’s ok. Don’t freak out, even if you don’t think you have the skills – you do. Let’s go see.

So you got a licence? Well, that’s a skill – it’s a technical one, like knowing a language or a computer program – like Photoshop. There’s a whole range of other skills like this that you probably have that you didn’t even realise.

Hold on, wait for me!

So, let’s have a look at some of these other types of skills that we can see in this job description, skills you can transfer from other areas of your life.

Student: Hmmm…must be able to work in a team.

Matt: Hey, heads up! Netball! You show up every week to the game, don’t you? You train hard, you work as a group.

Student: Yeah, but..

Matt: Well, this is teamwork! This is dedication! In order to find out what skills you do have, you need to look at all areas of your life.

Student: Mmm.

Matt: And don’t be shy, promote yourself! Everyone else does. You gotta put your best foot forward. Ha!

Thank you.

Awesome! This volunteer work shows us how well you can manage your time in your weekends, by balancing sport, study and volunteer work. And hey, you’re a natural at talking to people, and that shows you’ve got great communication skills as well! Here you go.

Student: So the trick is to think about different areas of my life: being in a young enterprise scheme at school, volunteering, after-study activities, sports…that kind of thing?

Matt: Exactly. Think about the skills the employer is looking for and an example from your life that demonstrates that. Then, describe the activity on your CV and the skill it taught you. It doesn’t have to be perfect at this stage, the important thing is you get something down and give it a go.

Student: Thank you. Bye! You may think you don’t have any skills, but you do – you just need to know how to spot them. Letting people know what those skills are lets them know just how good you are.


Types of skills for CVs

You have three types of skills that employers want:

  • employability skills – qualities and attitudes that employers say are essential for their workplace
  • transferable skills – general skills that you can take to any workplace
  • specialist or technical skills – skills that relate to a specific job or group of jobs.

Skills examples

Employability skills

Employability skills are skills such as communication, willingness to learn, problem solving and resilience.

Communication: presented a seminar for a university project.

Problem solving: designed a new system for the volunteer staff roster.

Transferable skills

Transferable skills are skills such as customer service, maths and writing reports.

Customer service: sold pizzas for school fundraising.

Maths: managed accounts for my partner's business.

Specialist or technical skills

Specialist or technical skills are skills such as driver's licences, knowledge of particular computer programmes, languages, teaching and medical skills.

Top 5 skills listed in job adverts

The infographic describes the top five skills listed in job adverts which are passionate, communicates well, organised, flexible, motivated. It lists experiences that match this such as planned a scout camp, worked in a fast food restaurant, coached a sports team, supported and environmental group

You can get the top five skills listed in job adverts from everyday life, not just work experience.

How to talk about skills in your CV

1. Find the skills listed in the job advert

Your CV should list the skills from the job advert that match your skills.

A job advert might describe skills like this:

We are looking for a conscientious self-starter, proficient in Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, who works well with others and can learn new computer systems easily.

The skills from this advert are:

  • conscientious 
  • self-starter
  • proficient in Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop
  • teamwork
  • willingness to learn.

These skills are key words you should put in your CV.

2. Give examples of how you used these skills

List your personal skills, with examples of how you used them from your work experience or volunteer experience.

Conscientious

In charge of collecting and managing money from the school's 24 Hour Famine fundraiser.

Self-starter

Ran a coffee kiosk – managed and counted the till takings, opened up and closed.

Teamwork

Worked with the school trustees team to make decisions about Ferndale School.

Willingness to learn

Updated Microsoft skills such as Excel and Word through online courses.

3. List technical skills

List your specialist and technical skills such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop knowledge.

Updated 1 Feb 2019