As a graduate fresh out of university and still riding the high of graduation, there’s a tendency to focus on sector-specific and academic skills – hey, you’ve spent years building and refining these skills in school, and now you want to apply them to your first job!
There’s nothing wrong with that, but here’s the thing: recruiters are looking beyond those specific skills. Employers are always on the lookout for non-academic soft skills – or, “transferable skills” – that’ll make you stand out from the other applicants.
Transferable skills are portable skills that can be easily imported from one sector to another with little difficulty. Some examples of such skills include communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Although it sounds straightforward enough, many new applicants are left stumped when it comes to showcasing these skills in their resumes and during interviews.
Here are five transferable competencies that most recruiters want in successful candidates, along with tips on how you can demonstrate each of them effectively in your applications!
#1: Teamwork and team management skills
Work today largely involves team-based work. Which is why almost every employer out there will specify, in the job description or otherwise, that they want graduates who can work well in teams. Effective teamwork means knowing how to operate smoothly and efficiently with other personalities as a collective group towards a common goal.
So, during your interview, detail how you used your skills in communication and negotiation to encourage and inspire your team members, whether in your internship, student club, or part-time summer job!
#2: Commercial awareness
In essence, commercial awareness is the intersection between two areas: familiarity with a company’s mission, vision and products and services, and an understanding of current industry trends.
Commercial awareness takes time and research to build, so graduates who’re able to display it are highly sought-after! The best way to call attention to your commercial awareness during the recruitment process is to include a sentence like “I noticed this trend in the industry, and did some research on it. Due to the company’s history and mission, I believe you can take advantage of it and consider moving in this direction”. Your initiative will certainly help you to be noticed!
#3: Problem-solving skills
Job applicants are expected to display problem-solving skills, even if they’re not explicitly stated in the job description. Candidates with problem-solving skills generally have superior analytical and logical thought processes, along with the capacity to think out-of-the-box to find solutions to problems they encounter.
During the recruitment process, describe situations where you relied on level-headedness and resilience to keep yourself calm when you faced new problems to resolve. Recount your experiences clearly and step by step, as most employers want to get an idea of your thought process. One method to help you keep your responses on track is the STAR method, where you describe the Situation, elaborate on the Tasks involved, the Actions you took and the Results you achieved.
#4: Emotional intelligence
No matter how gifted or bright you are, if you can’t get along with your colleagues, perceive their emotions, or control your own, you’ll never get anything done! That’s why recruiters keep an eye out for emotional intelligence (or EQ) in applicants. Employers don’t want to hire someone who doesn’t know how to deal with others, or – even worse – be abrasive and disruptive in the office!
Recounting anecdotes such as “When I had to choose between two team members for a particular role, I did my best to make sure that both felt valued no matter what the decision was” will go a long way to indicate your EQ. In that one sentence, you showed that you got things done and also made sure that the team wasn’t affected by unnecessary conflicts!
#5: Managing ambiguity
At work, there will be times when you’ll have to make decisions even if you only have uncertain or incomplete information. That’s where the ability to manage ambiguity comes in – recruiters want to see if you’re bold and flexible enough to take action in uncertain situations, instead of sitting around and waiting for help.
So, if you have examples of when you were able to weigh the risks and make relatively accurate decisions in your studies, internships or extracurricular activities even without the whole picture – and then adapt to the changing environment as the plan progressed, you’ve managed ambiguity! During your interview, take the initiative to relay these instances to your prospective employer.
Transferable skills are an advantage for you to leverage on, no matter where you choose to pursue a career. Take note of these vital skills, continuously develop them and watch as they help you land your dream job, and maybe even secure your career progression in the future!