The vast majority of employers (93%) say that transferable skills play a key role in their decision-making process about who to hire.
Unfortunately, most job seekers struggle to identify their transferable skills and don’t feel confident talking about them to potential employers, according to a LiveCareer survey.
Does this sound like you?
If so, this article will help you understand what transferable skills are, why they’re important, and how to identify your own transferable skills.
In This Article
- What are transferable skills?
- The top 10 transferable skills
- How to identify relevant transferable skills
- How to highlight transferable skills on a resume
- How to highlight transferable skills in a job interview
- Why are transferable skills important?
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What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are your abilities that can be applied to any job in any field or industry.
That’s why transferable skills are also known as “portable skills.” They are the abilities you acquire and then take with you from one job to another.
Transferable skills can be either hard or soft.
Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that you learn through formal education or training. They include things like data analysis, accounting, and speaking foreign languages.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your transferable soft skills!
Employers are increasingly looking for people who are able to work well with others, handle stress, and think creatively.
“I never judge people by their education and qualifications,” says Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group. “We focus on hiring people with transferable skills – team players who can pitch in and help others in all sorts of situations.”
The top 10 transferable skills
Strong transferable skills show employers that you can perform well in a new role, even if it’s outside of your current field or industry.
While every job requires specific skills and experience, some core transferable skills will help you succeed in any role.
Here are the top 10 transferable skills you should consider adding to your resume:
Communication is the #1 transferable skill that employers are looking for, according to a report by Ziprecruiter.
Communication is the ability to express your thoughts, ideas, and feelings verbally or in writing. This skill is essential for any job, no matter the industry or field.
Good communication isn’t just about expressing yourself – it’s also about listening carefully to others. This can help avoid conflicts at work, improve morale, and strengthen relationships.
Some examples of how you use communication skills at work include:
- Speaking publicly or leading group presentations or workshops.
- Developing relationships with clients, vendors, and other external stakeholders.
- Producing effective written materials, such as emails, newsletters, and reports.
- Creating content that is tailored to the needs of various target audiences.
- Adjusting communication style to meet the needs of different cultures.
2) Time management
Did you know that spending 10 minutes planning your day will save you at least 2 hours later on?
Despite this, 82% of people don’t have a time management system – a key mistake that wastes time, money, and resources.
This is why hiring managers love to see time management skills on resumes!
Some examples of how you use time management skills at work include:
- Setting realistic timelines and prioritizing tasks to ensure deadlines are met.
- Using task-management software such as Hubspot, Trello, Asana, etc.
- Delegating responsibilities to team members or colleagues when necessary.
- Anticipating potential problems and taking the initiative to create solutions.
- Adjusting goals as necessary based on changing timelines or priorities.
“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” -Duke Ellington
No company wants to hire someone who can’t solve problems on their own and instead comes running to the manager every time something goes wrong.
This is why hiring managers are always looking for employees that don’t shy away from difficult challenges and can come up with creative solutions to any problem.
Examples of using problem-solving skills at work include:
- Resolving customer complaints quickly and efficiently.
- Troubleshooting and fixing technical issues.
- Designing processes and systems to increase efficiency and productivity.
- Conducting research to find a new solution to a problem.
- Handling and resolving a conflict with a coworker.
Being able to work on a team and collaborate is more important than ever.
Employees today spend 50% more time collaborating with others than they did only 20 years ago!
No matter what job you’re applying for, it’s likely that you’ll be working with a team in some capacity. This means you must show potential employers that you have the ability to collaborate and contribute to the group.
Examples of how you use teamwork skills at the office include:
- Contributing ideas and solutions to team meetings and brainstorming sessions.
- Acknowledging and celebrating other people’s contributions.
- Meeting deadlines in a reliable way.
- Accepting feedback from others and using it productively.
- Respectfully listening to the opinions of others, even if you disagree.
Some jobs might not seem like they require much creativity, but this skill is a valuable one to have in most workplaces.
In fact, 94% of hiring managers say that it’s important to consider creativity when reviewing job applicants!
Creativity at work means thinking outside the box, seeing things from a new perspective, and coming up with fresh, innovative ideas.
Ultimately, creative employees generate original solutions to help an organization remain competitive in today’s ever-changing marketplace.
Some examples of how you can be creative at work include:
- Reinvigorating an aging customer base through new marketing tactics.
- Creating original content for company newsletters, emails, and websites.
- Successfully negotiating deals with suppliers for better pricing and terms.
- Spearheading the launch of new product lines, thus increasing revenue.
- Using data-driven insights to identify potential areas for innovation and growth.
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Digital skills
6) Critical thinking
The importance of having critical thinking skills will grow over the next five years, according to the World Economic Forum.
Why? Because the world is rapidly changing.
More than ever, businesses need workers who can think on their feet, assess problems with an open mind, and make decisions based on facts and reason rather than emotion or opinion.
Some examples of using critical thinking skills at work include:
- Analyzing customer feedback to identify problems or areas of improvement.
- Monitoring changes in the industry, and implementing new solutions as needed.
- Assessing the risks associated with various tasks before taking on new projects.
- Examining situations from multiple perspectives.
- Evaluating data to identify trends, patterns, and correlations.
“A lot of people never use their initiative because no one told them to.” ― Banksy
Initiative is the ability to take action without waiting for instruction or direction from someone else.
Employees who show initiative take ownership of their work, identify potential problems and solutions, and act on them with minimal guidance from supervisors.
Examples of how to use initiative at work include:
- Working independently to research and develop cost-saving strategies.
- Actively participate in conferences, workshops, and other professional events.
- Offering to lead or participate in special projects that tackle complex issues.
- Looking for opportunities to improve existing systems.
- Developing an online training program for new employees.
Dependability is all about being reliable and consistent. This means showing up on time, meeting deadlines, and doing your job well.
Dependability is one of the most important transferable skills for those working in highly structured environments such as the military, law enforcement, and healthcare.
Regardless of the job, if you can prove to potential employers that you’re dependable, you’ll have a significant advantage over other job candidates based on that one skill alone!
Examples of showing dependability at work include:
- Arriving on time to work, meetings, and other required commitments.
- Maintaining a positive attitude and work ethic, even under difficult circumstances.
- Following company protocols, policies, and procedures.
- Communicating openly and honestly when issues arise or updates are needed.
- Taking responsibility for errors or misunderstandings and offering solutions.
As workplaces become more digital and less in-person, empathy skills have become increasingly important.
Empathy helps us understand how other people feel. It allows us to put ourselves in their shoes and think about how our decisions might impact them.
Empathy is especially important for managers and leaders. In fact, empathy is called an essential quality numerous times in the U.S. Army’s Field Manual on Leader Development.
Examples of how to show empathy at work include:
- Being patient and understanding with colleagues.
- Asking questions to better understand someone’s point of view.
- Sharing relevant experiences or stories that can help build a connection.
- Being respectful and kind when giving feedback.
- Checking in regularly with colleagues to see how they are doing.
10) Digital skills
Nearly one in three workers lack foundational digital skills, according to a report by the National Skills Coalition.
Surprisingly, these workers are not necessarily older adults – many young people are also digitally illiterate. “Sadly, neither watching TikTok videos nor playing Minecraft fulfills the technology brief,” says Ludmila Milla, CEO of an e-learning provider.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have good digital skills in today’s world, your career prospects will be severely limited.
Examples of using digital skills at work include:
- Using common software programs.
- Creating and editing documents,
- Working with spreadsheets and databases.
- Using the internet for research.
- Communicating using email and instant messaging.
How to identify relevant transferable skills
Many job seekers struggle to identify their transferable skills. If you’re one of them, here are four tips to help you out:
1) Make a list of your past experiences
Start by listing all the jobs, internships, volunteer positions, and extracurricular activities you’ve participated in during your career.
What tasks did you perform? How did you go about doing them? What tools, resources or technology did you use and how proficient were you when using them?
2) Identify the skills required for the job you’re targeting
Next, look at the job description for the position you’re interested in and identify the required or preferred skills.
3) Match your skills to the job requirements
Once you’ve identified the relevant skills for the job you’re targeting, look at your past experiences and see if there are any skills you can transfer to the new role.
If there are, make sure to highlight those on your resume and in your cover letter.
4) Highlight your ability to learn new things quickly
In addition to showcasing relevant transferable skills, it’s important to highlight your ability to learn new things quickly. This will show employers that you’re adaptable and willing to take on new challenges.
How to highlight transferable skills on a resume
Most job seekers overlook the importance of highlighting their transferable skills when writing their resume. This is a mistake!
Here are three ways to maximize the impact of your transferable skills on your resume so that you can make a great impression on potential employers.
1) Use specific examples
To demonstrate transferable skills effectively, you must provide specific examples of times when you have used these skills.
For example, if you are trying to highlight your teamwork skills, you could mention a time when you successfully worked on a team project at work or school and another time when you helped with a community service project.
If you are trying to show that you have good communication skills, give an example of a time when you had to explain a complex concept to someone unfamiliar with it.
2) Focus on the skills listed in job descriptions
When figuring out which transferable skills to highlight on your resume, look for skills mentioned in the job descriptions of your desired positions.
For example, if the job description mentions that the ideal candidate should be “detail-oriented,” and “have excellent time management skills,” you should mention examples of times when you have demonstrated both of these skills in your previous experiences.
3) Tailor your resume to each job using keywords
Not only should you focus on the skills listed in the job description, but you should also try to use the exact same words used to describe those skills on your resume.
These are called keywords (keywords can also be phrases).
For example, if a job description mentions that the ideal candidate should have “experience with customer service,” you should include the keyword “customer service” on your resume (don’t lie though).
Keywords are super important these days. Why? Because most companies use computer software to help them in the hiring process.
This software is called an applicant tracking system, or ATS. It’s essentially a database that your resume is automatically sent to when you submit your application.
Hiring managers use the ATS to find suitable job candidates by typing keywords into the search bar. If your resume contains these keywords, the hiring managers will see it.
If your resume does not contain these keywords, it will remain in the database, unseen.
This is why it’s so important to tailor your resume to each and every job you apply to!
For example, in this job description for an accountant, the hard and soft skills required for the job have been underlined.
If you were to tailor your resume to this specific job, it might look something like this:
In this example, Adrian puts the hard and soft skills found in the job description into his resume’s skills section.
He also includes some of the keywords in his resume summary to increase his chances that a hiring manager will find his resume through an ATS search.
Using keywords is one of the most effective ways to feature your transferable skills on your resume.
It might take a little more time and effort to tailor each resume to the specific job opening, but it will definitely help you get more job interviews!
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How to highlight transferable skills in a job interview
Are you preparing for a job interview? Congratulations! Now that you are prepping, it’s essential to identify and highlight all the transferable skills you will bring to the new role.
Here are three ways to showcase your transferable skills during a job interview:
1) Use those skills in the interview itself
When you go into a job interview, the interviewer will ask about your skills, but more importantly, they will be looking to see how you use those skills in the real world.
For example, if you are applying for a job as a customer service representative, the interviewer may ask you to role-play a scenario where a customer is angry or upset.
This is your opportunity to show off your problem-solving, conflict resolution, and people skills – during the interview itself!
2) Make connections to the responsibilities required in the new job
As you answer questions in the interview, make sure to explain what skills you have that could be applied to the new role.
For example, if the job requires excellent problem-solving skills, you could discuss a project or task that required a lot of strategizing and problem-solving to complete successfully.
If the job involves teamwork, provide examples of team projects you have participated in and discuss how you were able to work with others to reach a successful outcome.
3) Be specific
Don’t just list your good transferable skills in a job interview. The interviewer wants to hear specific examples of how you have used those skills in the past.
Examples provide concrete evidence that you can do what you claim to be able to do.
If you can share any hard numbers related to your success, such as increased sales or productivity metrics, be sure to include them!
For example, if you want to highlight your initiative skills, you might say, “I created a process that saved 300 hours of manual labor a month and reduced costs by 10% annually.”
Or if you want to show off your communication skills, you could say, “I worked in customer service for the past five years and was able to decrease customer complaints by 30% within my first year.”
Providing concrete examples of accomplishments will demonstrate that you are an experienced professional who is confident in their abilities.
Why are transferable skills important?
The world is changing. Digital technology and automation are transforming the job market, resulting in a growing demand for transferable skills.
According to a survey of employers, 75% of them said that they considered transferable skills to be equal to or above technical skills when recruiting new employees.
In today’s competitive job market, having transferable skills isn’t just a bonus – it’s a necessity.
Here are four reasons why having transferable skills is important for your career.
1) Transferable skills make up for lack of experience
If you’re applying for a job you’re not quite qualified for, transferable skills can help fill in the gaps.
For example, if you’re applying to a job that requires more experience than you have, you can highlight transferable skills such as your ability to learn quickly or your willingness to take on new challenges.
2. Transferable skills make you more attractive to employers
In general, employers are looking for candidates who are well-rounded and have a diverse set of skills.
By showcasing your transferable skills on your resume, you can make yourself more attractive to potential employers and increase your chances of being hired.
3. Transferable skills help you transition to a new career
Transferable skills can be extremely helpful if you want to make a career change.
By focusing on the skills that are transferable to your new desired field, you can show employers that you have the potential to succeed in the role, even if you don’t have direct experience in the industry.
4. Transferable skills enable you to succeed in your current role
Even if you’re not looking for a new job, developing and highlighting your transferable skills can help you be more successful in your current role.
For example, if you’re looking to be promoted, developing leadership skills is a great way to show your superiors that you’re ready for the next level.
The great thing about transferable skills is that we all have them! It’s just a matter of identifying them and highlighting the relevant ones on your resume and during a job interview.
Remember, the best way to increase your chances of getting an interview is to tailor each and every resume to the specific job you’re applying to. Good luck!
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