Employability Skills and Why You Need Them

By: Andrew Reed | Updated: 6 December, 2018 | Category: Job Search

Employability Skills and Why You Need ThemIt’s not easy trying to match a person to a job role.

Trust us – HR professionals work hard to make sure that the employer and the employee are well-matched and happy together. Everybody knows that there’s more to an application process than formal box-ticking. But once you get past the ‘Essential Qualifications’ stage, what is it that the hiring manager is looking for? Your chances of success are ultimately determined by your employability.

What is Employability?

Your employability, simply put, is your attractiveness from the perspective of an employer. It can encompass almost anything related to your life, and the preferred factors can vary wildly depending on the market sector, job role, and individual organisation. The only common thread is that employability factors are not objectively measured in the same way that exam results are.

It’s worth mentioning that any jobseeker’s employability skills will also be affected by prevailing market conditions or employer preferences outside of their control. To a certain extent, therefore, it is often necessary to downplay or enhance certain characteristics or experiences in order to obtain a job offer. For example, it could be that an organisation is actively seeking candidates from a particular professional background in order to expand their in-house skills. Anybody applying to that business would then be well advised to emphasise the characteristics that they possess which are associated with the named profession.

Examples of Employability Skills

It’s impossible to come up with a comprehensive list of desirable employability skills, for the reasons explained above. However, there are some elements that are almost universally appreciated, no matter what kind of role a candidate is applying for.

Soft Skillssoft skills interview

Soft skills enable an individual to communicate, to persuade, and to work effectively with others. They can greatly enhance the likelihood that a candidate will be successful in a job application, particularly for sales, customer service, or other relationship-based roles. The extent of a candidate’s soft skills is usually determined by means of an interview.


It’s no secret that people who enjoy their job perform better. By choosing a candidate who is passionate about the role or the industry in general, employers are able to generate a better return on their investment. In addition, an enthusiastic employee can help to create a positive working environment for other staff.

Commercial Awareness

Commercial awareness can be described as knowledge of the business, its customers, and its competitors. It can also include awareness of potential issues and difficulties that the organisation or market sector could face in coming years.


When applying for a managerial role, or a position in a business where the applicant hopes to climb the corporate ladder, it is crucial to demonstrate leadership qualities and experience. By showing that they are able to confidently take charge of difficult situations, both through previous experience and through decisive action during an interview, candidates are able to show that they can be trusted to get the best from other employees.

Are you Employable?

Though the concept of employability is quite a vague one, it’s still possible to pick out your most employable attributes in relation to a particular job role. The trick is to carefully consider what sort of characteristics an employer might be looking for, then to go through your life to date and pick out applicable skills, knowledge, or experience. Crucially, it’s not enough to merely list prior jobs that involved, for example, an element of leadership. Instead, you should be thinking about specific experiences that you had whilst you were in that role and relating them to future scenarios. It’s also worth remembering that evidence of your most employable traits could be found in your personal life. Whether personal or professional, these experiences will then need to be carefully expanded upon during your interview.

Demonstrating Your Employability Skills in a Job Interview

Being employable isn’t just about possessing the right abilities and personality traits for the role – that’s only half of the battle. You also need to convince the employer that you have them, which can be more difficult than it sounds. Some factors, such as soft skills, can be gleaned from the way in which you conduct yourself during the interview. The oft-repeated advice to smile, make eye contact, and use a firm handshake always applies. Remember that your attitude throughout the whole process – from the second you step into the building until the moment that you exit – is up for scrutiny. A candidate who charmed the interviewer but mistreated the receptionist is unlikely to succeed in their application.

However, other strengths may need to be explicitly pointed out. Take the example of an employer who is seeking a strong and confident leader. A candidate with prior experience as an officer in the armed forces would be well-advised to emphasise this on their C.V., but should not assume that this is enough to secure the job. Instead, they should take an opportunity during the interview to discuss a particular situation in which they were able to successfully motivate other personnel. It should be remembered in this case that leadership does not always take the form of an authoritative kind of control. Instead, demonstrating a more nuanced approach could be the way forward. The way in which the desirable element is shown is important, and it can take practice to determine the best approach.

About the Author |
Top job Interview Coach with Anson Reed and co-author of the bestselling interview guide Top Answers to 121 Job Interview Questions. With over 20 years experience of recruiting and leading large teams Andrew is well placed to know just what is required to secure a job offer.