Filling out job applications is all about advertising your skills to potential employers. You might have a wide skill set built up over many years, or you might have had a more focused career, but the trick is in working out which of your talents would be of the most value to an employer and placing more emphasis on them in your application. Of course, this might mean that each application form or speculative letter will have a different emphasis depending on the company you’re applying to.
But within the specialist skills that each of us has is a set of skills that are almost universally valuable in the workplace. We’ve listed the most crucial here.
No matter what field you’re working in, you’ll have to be able to communicate instructions, reports and opinions to colleagues. Clarity of speech, a mature, professional manner of speech and confidence to express yourself are all of value. It’s also important to be able to tune your voice to fit the purpose – you’ll communicate with clients differently than you would with suppliers and colleagues, for example. You could be the first voice a potential client hears when they contact your company, so they’ll be placing great importance on how well you can pull it off.
Written Communication Skills
It’s the same with the written word. If you can express yourself on the page and on the screen you’ll be an asset to any company. If you’re prone to spelling mistakes, make sure you get someone to proof your application forms, CVs and speculative mail. Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors are a huge turn-off and could be the difference between getting the job and missing out.
It’s not all about talking to other people. Communication is a two-way street, and listening is key to successful navigation of it. After all, the excellent talking skills you’ve cultivated might not be gifts of those who communicate with you, and you might find yourself having to not only listen intently to what they are saying but also to interpret subtext and make sense of it all.
It’s hard to show good judgement in an application form or a CV, but a shrewd employer will be able to see evidence of it in your past actions. They’ll be able to judge the career path you’ve taken so far and discern whether your judgement has ever been rash or immature. That’s not to say failure is a detrimental factor; most employers will recognise the value of an entrepreneurial spirit when applied to a promising project, even if the situation doesn’t quite work out. Indeed, failure is an important part of character-building.
Above Average Computer Skills
Nobody wants to take an employee on and spend the first weeks teaching them how to use Windows, Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, or popular but specialist solutions such as Photoshop, Digital Publishing Suite or MySQL if they’re appropriate to the task. You might be fine with a good working knowledge of the main solutions, but all of them feature hot keys, advanced workarounds and uncommon features that can greatly enhance your productivity.
Ability to Absorb Knowledge
All jobs will require a blend of the skills and knowledge you bring to the company and the specific skills that are unique to the job. You’ll be expected to treat your existing knowledge as a base on which to add the skills of the new job, and the quicker you can do that, the better it is for the company. If we take your existing skills as a given (assuming you haven’t overworked them on your application), it is a good idea to give evidence of times in the past when you’ve picked up new skills and put them to good effect.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Companies taking you on are investing in you, and if you can show you’ll be able to give a long-term return on that investment, so much the better. We’ve all seen how quickly technology has moved along in the past decade, and there’s no reason to suspect it has stopped. Anyone who has proved unable to adapt to the new reality will have fallen by the wayside, but to employers, that represents a big expense if they aim to replace them. It’s far preferable to companies to have people who know their jobs and how to adapt them when change comes – as it always will.
Charlie Reynolds has over 10 years’ experience working in HR and been a writer for the past 12 years. Charlie now uses his field expertise as a copywriter for Skills Arena.