Careers and Employability Service

Employability Skills

What are employability skills?

  • The selection criteria for graduate opportunities often asks for evidence of employability skills or competences - sometimes called transferable skills, as they can be developed in one context (such as extra-curricular activities or volunteering) but transfer into the workplace.
  • Employability skills are the broader skills, which largely apply to a greater or lesser extent to most jobs and are indicators of potential.
  • Employers argue that someone can study a subject, such as Human Resources, but it does not necessarily mean that they have the skills to work in Human Resources. However, if they have good communication skills, influencing skills, organisational skills and team-working skills, these are stronger indicators of their likely ability to work in Human Resources.

Which employability Skills do employers want?

The skills employers ask for vary depending on the job, and what it involves, but the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) in partnership with Universities UK, identified the following skills as those employers seek from graduates:

Self-management – readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, resilience, self-starting, appropriate assertiveness, time management,readiness to improve own performance based on feedback/reflective learning, ability to set priorities and make effective plans and achieve objectives in spite of obstacles. (*reflection and self-development)

Leadership skills - as defined by recognizing opportunities, providing evidence of responsibility for others and ability to motivate others, comfortable working with other people, using a variety of resources effectively, creating a good first impression, appearing self confident, enthusiastic and responsive.

Initiative - gets going on important priorities, overcomes obstacles, keepsmoving towards goals, finds improved ways of getting results.

Problem solving – analysing facts and situations and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions, ability to sort through complex data, obtains others' viewpoints, identifies important issues, thinks through alternatives, learns from successes and mistakes to better solve problems, makes realistic/practical decisions.

Communication skills and literacy – application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work. organises and expresses thoughts clearly and concisely both verbally and in writing, expresses ideas so as to gain commitment to them, involves and informs others to share the whole picture, recognizes cultural differences and communicates in ways that work.  Also includes listening and questioning.(critical and independent thinking), negotiating and persuading. (inter –personal communication)

Team working – has played a key role in groups/teams, demonstrates integrity and high personal standards, respects others, co-operates and works effectively with a diverse range of people and enables all to contribute, builds productive working relationships, gets the best results, sensitive to cultural and political issues. Listens. contributing to discussions, and awareness of interdependence with others

Application of numeracy – manipulation of numbers, general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts (e.g. measuring, weighing, estimating and applying formulae).

IT Skills – basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and use of internet search engines. (digital literacy and knowledge management)

Business and customer awareness – sometimes called 'commercial awareness' – a basic understanding of the key drivers for business success – including the importance of innovation and taking calculated risks – and the need to provide customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty.

Enterprise, creativity and innovation: broadly, an ability to demonstrate an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking- taking a broad view, translates new ideas into workable solutions, goes beyond the accepted ideas to find new opportunities and generates ways to get better results, searches out and reapplies proven ideas/methods to new situations, uses logic and intuition. Demonstrates a positive attitude: a 'can-do' approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make these happen.(creativity, enterprise and innovation)

Underpinning all these attributes, the key foundation, must be a positive attitude: a ‘can-do’ approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make these happen.(creativity, enterprise and innovation)

Frequently mentioned by both employers and universities is entrepreneurship/enterprise: broadly, an ability to demonstrate an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking.

 * In brackets are the skills from the Hull Graduate Attributes Framework. In addition to those listed above, the University's Strategic Plan includes Global citizenship & civic and social responsibility.

Source: CBI 'Future Fit: Preparing Graduates for the world of work. - download from

How do I demonstrate that I have these skills?

You can demonstrate that you have these skills by providing an example of an occasion when you used these skills. Online application forms often steer you towards providing evidence, by asking questions, such as:

  • Tell us about an occasion when you worked as a member of a team.  What was your role in the team, and what was the team working towards?
  • Give us an example of when you have solved a problem, what was your strategy and what was the outcome?
  • Use C-A-R to structure your examples.

Other resources

View information about applications and interviews, and how to prepare for such questions.

Applications and CVs



PDP badge Use your e-portfolio to record evidence of the skills you have gained.

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