Transferrable skills: Why are they important and how can they be identified?

image of group meeting

The all-important qualities that can be applied across jobs and sectors, transferrable skills are as essential as they are attractive. Unsure what yours are? Here's how to find out...

Throughout your life, your time at school and the variety of jobs you’ve worked, you’ll have garnered a range of transferrable skills. Honed over time, these are the qualities and attributes you’ll have used, perhaps unknowingly, across a range of different sectors and industries to help you complete all manner of tasks, duties and challenges.

Because of their utilitarian applications, transferrable skills are valued by employers. That means it’s important to emphasise these qualities in your CV, applications and during any interviews. Their value can be a large part of persuading a potential employer the perfect fit for their company, even if you may lack experience in other areas the role requires.

Even if you aren’t sure how to identify them, you probably have more transferrable skills than you first realised. If you’re updating your CV, it’s crucial that you know the skills in your arsenal and highlight them accordingly.

In this article, we’ll demonstrate different kinds of transferrable skills, why they’re so important, and how you can identify those you already have and those you want to equip later down the line.

What are transferrable skills?

Transferrable skills are any skills you have that can be used across a range of industries and professions, such as organisation, adaptability, strong teamwork and good communication, among many others. These are all qualities that employers will be looking for in their ideal candidate, and when applying for new jobs, can all be emphasised to contextualise your previous experience when facing hiring managers and interviewers.

workers holding their hands up to ask questions

Why are transferrable skills important?

Organisations often use some form of testing in their interviews or selection process to measure such skills. These tests are designed to assess a candidate’s personality type, skills, talent and ability, measuring their potential rather than their experience. That means that if you’re looking to change career, then transferrable skills are a highly valued part of the repertoire you have to offer.

You might think it’s difficult to swap sectors entirely if you lack the relevant experience, but this is where your transferrable skills come in. Employers and recruitment consultants are looking to get more for their money as much as ever. People with a wider skill set who can work across different areas are attractive to those making the final hiring decisions.

How to identify your transferrable skills

The thing about the transferrable skills you have is that they may not always be apparent. In fact, they’re probably more recognised by others. And though it’s always good to get some approbation from your peers, it’s worth knowing these skills yourself so that you can improve them and be prepared for any new opportunities on the horizon.

Use some of the below methods to help you identify your transferrable skills:

Put yourself in situations that you can use as a learning experience

Sometimes when you’re faced with a new opportunity, it’s tempting to say “I don’t have the skills to do that”. Say your boss approaches the team with a project that requires someone to lead. Your gut reaction might be to think “I’m not a leader”. Instead of staying silent and carrying on with regular duties, think back to a time you lead the team in the past. Perhaps there was a new process you were well versed in that you taught to everyone else on your team. You did it with ease because it came naturally to you.

man working on laptop

So how is this new opportunity any different? You may already have the skill in your wheelhouse, so in situations such as this, it’s possible to develop and advance such pre-existing attributes or even learn new ones simply by stepping up when a new challenge presents itself.

Reflect on your highlights

Sometimes it can be easy to downplay your achievements and be modest about positive feedback you’ve received. To better identify your transferrable skills, take the time to pause and reflect on the praise that others have given you, and write down your thoughts.

What skills did you use in the specific situation? Maybe you showed your empathetic side when working with a colleague, demonstrating your understanding of their side of an issue? Perhaps your critical skills came to the fore, analysing a problem and coming up with a creative solution that wasn’t apparent. You might have demonstrated your strong communication skills in dealing with a difficult client, allaying their worries with your excellent written abilities.

Whatever you may have demonstrated, it’s important to reinforce the skills you have at your disposal after a job well done.

Look at past and current job descriptions

Write down all the skills and responsibilities required from your past and current job roles. It provides you with a picture of your abilities, and shows just how diverse and varied your skill set is.

If you’ve been required to proofread important documents and company communications, then your attention-to-detail is probably second to none at this point. Managing your workflow is a sign of great time management and organisational skills, while looking after a team of different personalities has probably meant you’ve had to flex your conflict management abilities once in a while.

This also helps when looking at job descriptions for roles you’re looking to apply for. Instead of casting aside certain openings because you lack experience, you can match your transferrable skills to what’s required when you come to send off your application.

woman working at her desk

Demonstrating transferrable skills on CVs and at interviews

When it comes to refreshing your CV, there are several different options you can use to highlight your transferrable skills, whether it’s on your resume summary, your job history, or a skills list.

Resume summary

Because your resume summary should be a brief snapshot of your abilities, it’s worth marking out your most relevant, valuable transferrable skills. For instance, if you feel as though communication is your forte, your resume summary may read something like:

“Hard-working project manager with 3 years’ experience using strong communication skills to oversee a range of B2C projects across different teams”.

Employment history 

If you choose to use your employment history to highlight such skills, then select 2-3 relevant accomplishments rather than listing your duties. Employers will be able to read between the lines of these accomplishments, identifying the skills you used to reach your goals. For instance:

“Established more competitive quotas and bonuses for the sales department, greatly improving revenue over the most recent fiscal year”.

This shows the employer your ability to lead, negotiate and communicate with relevant parties.

Skill lists

When using a skill list to show your attributes, be sure to tailor what skills you have to the requirements mentioned in the job description, rather than making an exhaustive list of skills that don’t apply to the role in question.

At interviews

During your interviews, it’s important to show instead of tell. If you’re telling the interviewer about a transferrable skill, remember to back it up with specific instances of when these skills were used. You have to prove what you’re claiming with tangible evidence, and by proving your skills and talents are exactly what they’re looking for.

hand holding document

Click here for the latest news and features from SEFE Marketing & Trading or visit our homepage to find out about our latest career opportunities.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of SEFE Marketing & Trading. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. SEFE Marketing & Trading accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.