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Planning a better future
Planning a better future

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4 Getting the job

4.1 What do employers look for when recruiting?

In its 2011 report, Building for Growth, The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) identified seven core employability skills that most employers value:

  1. Self-management:
    • readiness to accept responsibility
    • flexibility
    • resilience
    • self-starting
    • appropriate assertiveness
    • time management
    • readiness to improve own performance based on feedback/reflective learning.
  2. Team working:
    • respecting others
    • cooperating
    • negotiating and persuading
    • contributing to discussions
    • an awareness of interdependence with others.
  3. Problem solving:
    • analysing facts and situations
    • creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions.
  4. Communication and literacy:
    • producing clear, structured written work
    • oral literacy
    • listening and questioning.
  5. Numeracy:
    • manipulating numbers
    • general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts.
  6. Application of information technology:
    • basic IT skills
    • familiarity with commonly used IT programmes.
  7. Business and customer awareness:
    • understanding the key drivers for business success
    • innovating
    • taking calculated risks
    • providing customer satisfaction
    • building customer loyalty.

According to the report, four out of five employers value these skills. Underpinning them all is a positive attitude and enthusiasm. We have categorised them into four broad areas:

  1. self-reliance skills
  2. people skills
  3. general employment skills
  4. specialist skills.

Table 5 shows the skills that employers want and how they can be developed.

Table 5
Type of skill Examples of how the skills can be developed through interests, work and education

Self-reliance skills


Self-awareness: purposeful, focused, self-belief, realistic, assessing your own performance

Pro-active: resourceful, drive, self-reliant

Willingness to learn: inquisitive, motivated, enthusiastic

Self-promotion: positive, persistent, ambitious, accepting responsibility

Networking: initiator, relationship-builder, resourceful

Problem solving: how you approach problems, finding and implementing solutions

Planning action: decision-maker, planner, able to prioritise, identifying areas for improvement


Study: carrying out self-directed projects

Roles within work

Involvement in community groups or charities

Roles within the home: planning, coordinating others


People skills


Team working: supportive, organised, coordinator, deliverer, reliability, adaptability

Interpersonal skills: listener, adviser, cooperative, assertive

Oral communication: communicator, presenter, influencer

Leadership: motivator, energetic, visionary

Customer orientation: friendly, caring, diplomatic, respect

Foreign language: specific language skills

Caring responsibilities

Work responsibilities in a team

Fund-raising for charity

Voluntary work

Member of orchestra or drama group


Guide/Scout leader



General employment skills


Problem solving: practical, logical, results orientated

Flexibility: versatile, willing, multi-skilled

Business acumen: entrepreneurial, competitive, risk taker, customer service

IT/computer literacy: office skills, keyboard skills, software packages

Numeracy: accurate, quick thinker, methodical, dealing with data

Commitment: dedicated, trustworthy, conscientious


Roles within the home: budgeting

Roles within work: use of IT, work experience

Project work through study

Membership of local clubs, committees and societies



Specialist skills


Specific occupational skills: specialist relevant knowledge, e.g. languages, IT

Technical skills: journalism, engineering, accounting, sales



European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL)

Language skills

Web design skills: use of programming or coding languages

Using social media tools

First aid at work qualification

NVQ qualification


The requirements that an employer sets out in a job advertisement are likely to be much more specific, but it’s worth bearing in mind that candidates who apply for jobs are also expected to demonstrate at least some of these skills.