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Tips for selling your skills to potential employers

It can be hard to know what an employer is looking for


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in employment


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When applying for a job straight out of school or college, your CV might look a little bare because you’ve been busy getting an education; there wasn’t much time for part-time jobs or work experience. With this in mind, it can be hard to identify what exactly your skills are or how you show them in a CV, but don’t worry, you’ve definitely got skills!

Things that employers like in a potential job applicant can include a positive attitude, the ability to communicate, time management skills, problem solving, teamwork, adaptability and the ability to work under pressure. Everyone will have gained at least some of these skills from sitting school exams, giving presentations or from playing with your local sports team.

These types of skills are often referred to as ‘soft skills’ and are just as important to include on your CV as your second language or exam results. Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to present your skills to a potential employer:

  • Prepare examples. From a job description you will probably get a few buzzwords or skills listed that make you a suitable candidate for the job. In order to demonstrate that you have these skills it's important to have an example of a time and situation where you used the skill or learned the skill. This could be anything from explaining how you stood out in a team project or worked well under pressure. These are things that can be prepared in advance of any interview, which in turn will make you feel more confident and equipped.
  • Explain these examples clearly. Having examples is a good start but really knowing how these skills apply to the job you want is key. So be familiar with the organisation you are applying to and how you fit with what they are looking for. 
  • Keep it relevant. Sometimes you can be tempted to throw down every buzzword under the sun on your CV or list off a lot of skills in an interview when really there is no need. Everything should link back to the role you're going for, so while you may be very confident working on your own, it might be better to stress your great communication skills if you're applying for a team-orientated job. Also, remember that you've only got a limited amount of space within those two pages, so make it count!
  • Custom CV. If you're applying for several jobs, don't just send the same old CV to every employer. Every role is different so you should take the time to edit your skills for each application, that little bit of extra time and CV customisation could be the difference between getting the job and your CV getting the bin.
  • Be confident. If you are not feeling confident about your chances in an interview, then the chances of convincing an employer that your capable is probably slim, so if all else fails fake it til you make it. Smile, keep eye contact and remember if you've made it to this stage, they obviously think you're worth interviewing so act like it.

If you want to get a job that you don't feel qualified for or need a new direction, take a look at our info on reskilling

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Published April 16th, 2014
Last updated December 1st, 2016
Tags work skills employment
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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