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What are employability skills and why are they needed?


Employability skills are also known as core or transferable skills. These abilities are valued by employers and developing them can help you get a job or advance your career. Learn more with edX about 10 employability skills you can use to get ahead.

What are employability skills?

Employability skills are not specific to one job, like technical skills are, but can be transferred across different industries and occupations. For example, a skill like flexibility shows employers that you are able to adapt to new environments and tasks. Working well with others displays an ability to collaborate to complete projects. Critical thinking allows you to ask the right questions to get a fresh view of a situation. These skills can be developed and enhanced through learning, experience, and practice.

10 employability skills to boost your job prospects

Develop these employability skills to help propel your career forward: 

1. Communication skills

Communication skills are relevant and critical in every stage of your career, from your job search to delivering presentations as part of your role. Employers want to know that you are able to convey ideas, information and instructions clearly to ensure that everyone understands what is needed and conflicts can be minimized. Strong written and verbal communication skills allow you to express yourself effectively to build positive working relationships and boost productivity. If you need to communicate in another language, online language courses can help you build and improve those skills.

2. Computer skills

Basic computer knowledge in word processing and spreadsheet programs, like Microsoft Word and Excel, are useful for almost every job these days. While knowing how to program a computer isn’t always necessary, understanding simple HTML programming can be helpful in some situations and will let an employer know that you have technical aptitude. Explore introductory computer science courses like Harvard’s CS50 to build or advance your computer skills.

3. Leadership and management skills

Strong leadership skills allow you to inspire and guide others towards a common goal and shared vision. Leaders can bring people together to promote collaboration, productivity and innovation by drawing on their experiences and influence. If you are an excellent planner who can make sound decisions, as well as lead projects and teams, your management skills can be an asset to a range of roles across industries. Strong employee management skills can be used to help you identify strengths and weaknesses in processes and allow you to offer insight on how to leverage resources and staff, with the goal to complete projects and meet deadlines.

4. Organizational skills

Organizational skills involve the ability to plan, prioritize, and execute tasks in a timely and efficient manner. They are important across a variety of industries, from marketing and advertising to finance and engineering, because they help to manage projects, streamline processes, and meet deadlines. Organizational skills can help you achieve goals effectively and efficiently.

5. Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking involves objectively analyzing information, asking insightful questions, and gaining a fresh perspective. It can help you avoid common pitfalls, and make smarter choices for your business. You can hone your critical thinking skills through online math courses which require deep analysis and thought.

6. Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills enable you to identify challenges, develop solutions, and take action to resolve the issues. These skills can be useful in manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, retail, and other industries – wherever problems may arise. People with problem-solving skills have the ability to think analytically and creatively, as well as the capacity to work collaboratively with a team.

7. Self-motivational skills

Self-motivated people drive goal achievement, enhance productivity and foster resilience. Employers value this skill because these individuals usually take initiative, persevere through challenges, and continuously seek to improve. This skill is especially useful in hybrid roles where employees combine expertise from multiple domains to fulfill their job responsibilities effectively. Building this ability can help you achieve both personal and professional success. 

8. Collaboration skills

Collaboration skills allow you to foster effective teamwork, encourage diverse perspectives, enhance problem-solving, build trust and relationships, and fuel innovation. When you can collaborate effectively, you can leverage the group’s different strengths and expertise to achieve better outcomes in a supportive and cooperative environment. 

9. Flexibility skills

Flexibility allows you to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and seize new opportunities. Flexibility skills show employers that you can adapt and grow when difficult situations arise and that you can effectively respond to new demands. This can help you stay relevant and competitive in dynamic business landscapes. 

10. Time management skills

Time management skills help you stay organized, focused, and productive. In a remote or hybrid work environment, time management skills can be even more important because employees are often working without the structure and support of an office environment. When you are able to manage your time effectively, you feel more in control of your work and your life, which can reduce stress and increase job satisfaction.

How to use employability skills in your job search

As you conduct your job search, you can showcase your employability skills in your résumé, cover letter, and CV, as well as during interviews. Here are some tips to emphasize those skills:

Résumé, CV and cover letter

  • Include the relevant employability skills in the “skills” or “competencies” section. Make sure they align with the requirements of the role you are applying for. 

  • Provide specific examples of how you've utilized these skills in previous roles or projects.

Job Interviews

  • Highlight which employability skills you have.

  • Describe how you used certain skills, with real-life examples, to solve problems or facilitate progress. 

When discussing your employability skills, remember to show rather than just tell. If collaboration skills are relevant, describe how you successfully worked with others to deliver a presentation, or met routinely with colleagues to improve processes.

By effectively communicating your employability skills, you can enhance your chances of securing your desired role.

Employability skills FAQ

Why are employability skills important?


Employability skills are some of the skills that employers look for in job candidates. They include, but are not limited to, abilities in these areas: communication, computers, leadership and management, organization, critical thinking, problem-solving, self-motivation, collaboration, flexibility, and time management.

What general communication skills are most employers looking for in their employees?


Employers seek team members who can express ideas clearly and avoid jargon. You should be able to listen actively and ask questions when needed, take initiative to avoid mistakes and address problems as they arise. You’ll need to apply these skills when communicating with supervisors, coworkers, and clients to ensure that work goes smoothly.

How can I develop basic employability skills?


You can develop employability skills through volunteering, taking online courses, participating in extracurricular activities, networking, attending workshops and gaining work experience. Analyze your strengths and identify areas for improvement, then put in the effort to learn and practice as many of these skills as you can to help you stand out from other job applicants.

Last updated: July 2023