How to showcase your skills when looking for a job

7 min read | Harry Gooding | Article | | Job searching

showcase skills job application

There’s been a slow but noticeable shift in employers’ approach to hiring over the last few years, with many now placing value on a candidate’s demonstrable skills over their education, experience or background. This trend – known as skills-based hiring – looks set to continue.

For many, this shift is a welcome development, as it gives prospective applicants access to opportunities that would previously have been out of reach, either because they lacked experience or didn’t have a particular qualification.


What exactly is skills-based hiring?

Put simply, skills-based hiring is an approach to recruitment whereby an organisation places more value on the skills a candidate possesses than their background, work experience or qualifications.


At a glance: how to demonstrate your skills in a job application

  • Consider what to include on your CV
  • Think about what transferable skills you have
  • Support your skills with real-life examples
  • Make upskilling a priority

So why is skills-based hiring on the up? There are a myriad of benefits to skills-based hiring, and some of the reasons employers are increasingly adopting it include:

A shorter time to hire: 91.4% of organisations have seen a reduction in their time to hire through the use of skills-based tests, according to data from Test Gorilla.

Greater financial efficiency: Adopting skills-based hiring practices can help reduce costs towards third parties and expensive CV-screening software.

A broader pool of talent to choose from: When you hire for attitude, skills and potential, you open up a network of undiscovered talent who may be unable to pursue traditional learning and development routes. 

So how do I show my skills when looking for a new role?


1. Consider what to include on your CV

Your CV is usually your first port of call when commencing a job hunt, and when it comes to considering what to include, the skills you possess should be a high priority. You should also be sure to separate these into technical and core skills. If you’re unsure of the difference, technical skills tend to be industry-specific, and you might have picked them up throughout your career or through training. They vary greatly, and could range from long-form copywriting to data analysis or proficiency in programming languages. It’s vital to tailor your CV or cover letter to include any technical skills that you have – use the job description to match key words and phrases as closely as possible.

Core skills, or ‘people skills’, on the other hand, are thought of as mindsets or behaviours that help you excel in your career. There’s no exhaustive list, but key among them are communication and interpersonal abilities, problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, and emotional intelligence.


2. Think about what transferable skills you have

If you lack career experience and are finding it hard to think of skills to include on your CV, then core skills are an excellent place to start. Being both highly transferable and resistant to change, their long-term value is increasingly sought-after by employers. These skills might have been picked up whilst studying, or through any hobbies you have. For example, you may have honed your critical thinking or presenting skills while at university, or your creativity and eye for detail through amateur photography.

These skills are all highly transferable to many job openings and should be highlighted during the application process.


3. Support your skills with real-life examples

Hiring managers are more likely to sit up and take notice if you’re able to back up your skillsets with tangible examples. If you’ve gained a certification or qualification that’s relevant to the position, even if not directly, then make sure you mention it.

If you’ve increased conversion rates or qualified leads at a previous organisation by implementing your technical skills, then it looks much better to quantify these with figures or percentages – either on the cover letter or your CV. These examples show your prospective employer that you can back up the skills you say you have, which helps them envision the value you could bring to the role.


4. Make upskilling a priority

If you’re new to the job market or have been out of it for a while, you may find yourself feeling that you’re lacking some of the skills – whether core or technical – to advance in the career you’re pursuing. Keep an eye out for courses online that are relevant and useful to your direction of travel and set aside time to complete them each week. Adopting a learning mindset demonstrates to your employer that you have the motivation to upskill and improve.

Remember that standing out in a crowded job market can be a challenge, but we expect the trend of skills-based hiring to continue. This means the only limit is your potential – and the power is firmly in your hands.

On the lookout for a new role? Check out our newest vacancies. If you’re thinking about kickstarting a new career, why not read up on our Skills and Learning Academies?


About this author

Harry Gooding, Director, Skills and Learning at Hays

Harry is part of Skills and Learning at Hays, a new business in our portfolio. We help our customer network build skills development programmes that open up employment opportunities to ‘undiscovered talent’ communities. After beginning his career in recruitment, Harry worked in VC backed start-ups and scale-ups for six years across two different portfolios before joining Hays.

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