When it comes to filling in forms for job applications, you might be left scratching your head over what to include, and trying to second-guess the skills that employers regard highest.
Here we identify five important skillset areas for an application form and for optimising your CV and cover letter.
A people person
One of the key things all employers look for is someone who is capable and comfortable working with others. You might have a subsequent skillset that outshines everybody, but unless you can operate alongside your colleagues effectively then it could count for very little.
It may sound like a basic rule, but listing an aptitude for communication with fellow workers, associates or customers is vital. Can you talk or convey your ideas to others, perhaps possessing the ‘people skills’ to motivate those around you?
Crucially, these skills also suggest teamwork. You should be able to integrate within a group, working towards a common goal while also contributing as an individual. This inevitably requires diplomacy, a skill in itself for dealing with disagreements and compromising to avoid negative conflict.
If you tick these boxes with distinction, it’s likely you also have leadership qualities. Make sure you highlight skills in managing others, fostering junior careers while briefly explaining your management style.
A logical thinker
In our daily lives, we all face adversity and have obstacles to overcome. Professionally, we ideally want to view these ‘bumps in the road’ as challenges that we’ve overcome and learned from. This skill for problem solving is a worthy one, especially if you explain how you perceive them and implement solutions.
Within this you’re likely to exhibit qualities of decisiveness and good judgement in order to progress. Difficult situations call for clear, logical thinking and a level of confidence to push solutions through.
Similarly, don’t be afraid of suggesting elements of risk taking within your character. Employers appreciate more those individuals prepared to take calculated business risks. If you’ve cleverly identified significant reward where others have flinched, mention it!
An agile performer
Employers want the best people in their companies and the best companies are constantly evolving. This means change is inevitable, making your ability to be adaptable and versatile hugely attractive. Have you shown flexibility in the roles you’ve held and what have you done to help others with change?
An ability to go beyond the realms of expectation, especially regarding a sense of collective responsibility, is music to an employer’s ear. Most of all, sensing ways in which you can add value outside your normal responsibilities shows initiative. Individuals who bring fresh ideas and act on them without prompting are worth their weight in gold.
Going hand-in-hand with all these qualities is creativity, again very much about ideas. This skill for ‘thinking outside the box’ might be taken for granted when applying for creative jobs, but more generally it shows an inclination for buying into a progressive business vision.
A big skill that carries weight with employers is the ability to work without constant direction. If you’re someone who takes it upon themselves to be resourceful in a job and show independence then put it on the application form. Pick instances where you’ve perhaps achieved positive things without requiring instruction, rather than doggedly ploughing ahead regardless.
Such self-motivation is also great for demonstrating ability in setting personal targets. This goal setting conveys a personal sense of ambition and perhaps a driven attitude to succeed. What’s more, it goes a long way in telling an employer you won’t give up easily when the going gets tough.
The way you handle such adversity and the pressures associated is of course a skill in itself. Dealing with stress and thriving under difficult, tense conditions can be critical to many jobs and proving you can perform with a cool, clear head is essential.
Even the most impressive business mavericks know how to tow the company line. Organisations live or die by rules of conduct to function smoothly, and so expect their staff to subscribe to them. Acknowledgement of policy and procedure and an ability to stick to them is therefore worth mentioning. By the same token you might flag up instances where a healthy, valid challenge of these rules has proven beneficial.
However, following protocol isn’t all about those rules set directly by the employer. In our working and personal lives we must find systems for getting tasks done efficiently. Ultimately this comes down to sound organisation and planning so we know what to do, when and how.
Business is all about productivity so if you have an aptitude for arranging and following your own organisational procedures then great. Such skills carry extra weight if you’ve occupied senior positions supervising and maintaining the workflow of others.
Put your best skills forward
We have covered quite a few bases overall and the trick will be prioritising those most relevant to you.
Don’t feel compelled to list every single skill, opting for quantity over quality. Remember that the most important abilities are those you have called upon professionally, proving memorable for genuine experiences. It’s far better to quote those few that define you most, providing brief practical context and tailoring them to fit the application.
Need more help with your application? We’ve got loads of CV and cover letter advice here.