Job applicant having interview in office

Skills, Not Ills

Most of us are pretty coy when people ask what we’re good at. That’s not just because we’re modest. It’s often because we have never stopped to think about it or because we tend to dwell on the bad and overlook the good. There is a trick, though, which is to stop and do some thinking out loud.

This is an important thing to think about when jobhunting. It’s a standard question at interview and it’s a key part of most CVs. As an employer, there is nothing less inspiring than a list of skills that anyone could have written down. A CV that has what I call ‘clear vision’ comes alive because this section includes examples that make it sound real.

To start, it’s worth having a chat with someone you know – or even better, a stranger. Talk through some of the things you’ve achieved in your life. What are you proudest of having done? What was the most rewarding thing? Ask whoever you’re talking to what they think that says about you. Create a list of the words they use to describe you. You could easily have around 20 skills and qualities you’d never thought of yourself.

Now think about the five or six you identify with most. You need to back them up on a CV, so which ones can you describe in context? For example:

IT skills: Very confident with computers, I am regularly on social media and help friends and relatives to make use of them

But take care to choose ones that fit the job, that will interest the employer you’ll be sending your CV to. So if it’s a gardening job you’re applying for, your online experience is not relevant… unless it’s tending plants for a tech firm and you want to sound like you’ll fit in.

By giving an example of when you have put your hand-picked list of skills and qualities to use, it brings your CV to life. Not all CV workshops bother to tell people this and often jobseekers leave with CVs that all look the same, so clearly do not tell your story

Two or three carefully selected skills and qualities can be included in a personal statement at the top of your CV, which is your elevator pitch to sell yourself from the start. This short paragraph of around fifty words is the seed of how you will sell yourself at interview too. You will almost certainly be asked about your skills and if you know what’s in your personal statement and remember what you included in your CV, you will hit the ground running.

You may not be a natural show-off but at interview, it’s the name of the game. There is no point playing down what you are good at, it will just look like you don’t want the job.

Jeff Mitchell is editor of Quids in! money management magazine and author of I’m Ready – 7 signs that show you’re right for the job.

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