Employability skills

A person starts a new job


Employability skills are the 'soft' skills employers want candidates to demonstrate to show that they can work well in the organisation. These skills are also essential to become a successful entrepreneur or if you plan to work freelance on projects with clients.


Employability skills

What are employers looking for?

Employers will be looking for a range of skills when you apply for their jobs. Some skill requirements will be job specific but many of the desired skills will be ‘general’ or ‘soft’ skills that you gain from academic and other life experiences. You may have heard the phrases ‘Employability skills’ or ‘Transferrable skills’ being used when the topic of gaining employment after your studies comes up.

Employability or transferrable skills are the core skills and attributes needed in almost all graduate jobs. They are also vital if you are going to be self-employed, for engaging with potential investors and customers. The good news is, much of the ordinary, everyday activity that you undertake as a student can help you develop your employability skills (e.g. working in groups, planning projects, undertaking part time work, giving presentations) so from year one of your degree programme, you are starting to build these essential skills.

It is therefore important for you to be aware of what employers are looking for and know how you can identify, develop and demonstrate your employability skills.

Salford employability skills

From our own labour market research, we have identified ten employability skills most valued by employers across many different sectors. Whatever you are studying you'll develop many of these skills through your course, and the more you get involved with the many opportunities on offer at Salford, the more you will enhance your employability. Start to consider whether you already have evidence of using these skills, and if not, how might you go about developing them.

Employability image

These Employability Skills will look different depending on your subject and your future plans: if you want to be a graphic designer, creativity and communication will involve different things than for an engineer or a counsellor. So below, we ask you some questions to help you think about which skills you already have, which are most relevant to your possible future career, and how you can further develop them.

1.      Critical Thinkers & Problem Solvers

Someone who looks at all of the information available to them, then analyses and evaluates this in order to make a rational decision. Critical thinkers rarely accept things at face value and often question ideas in a logical way.

Reflect: Are you curious and questioning? Can you analyse complex problems?

2.      Innovators & Creatives

Always searching for new ways of doing things. Innovators and creatives have open minds, they are flexible and adaptable to ensure that they make things happen.

Reflect: How can you showcase your creativity? How do you turn your ideas into reality?

3.      Communicators

Those with strong communication skills can confidently, clearly and professionally express their ideas. This could be through the use of language or visuals, always making sure that they adapt their style to different audiences.

Reflect: Are you an active listener? Are you able to build professional networks online or in person? Can you present information confidently?

4.      Organised & Effective

Being organised means managing your time effectively so that you can meet deadlines and make progress towards your goals. Those that are effective, motivate themselves to persist in achieving results.

Reflect: How do you meet deadlines and get things done? Are you self-motivated and resilient when faced with challenges?

5.      Team Workers

Positive members of a team, that make use of personal strengths to move the team toward a shared goal. Team workers collaborate, listen to one another, are flexible and make sure those around them feel respected, valued and able to participate.

Reflect: What individual strengths do you bring to a team? How do you adapt to work with different people? Do you listen to and respect others?

6.      Proactive Leaders

Those that are proactive leaders assess the team goals and members strengths to ensure success. This could be anticipating problems and putting in strategies to overcome them, rather than waiting and reacting afterwards. Proactive leaders are always on the lookout for new opportunities to improve their leadership ability.

Reflect: Have you positively influenced others to make a change? How do you bring people together?

7.      Digitally Literate

Technology is all around us and being digitally literate is as important as ever. This means confidence to use technology in all aspects of our life. Digitally literate people communicate with others using technology, use specific programmes / software confidently or simply embrace the range of technology available to them.

Reflect: Do you know what digital skills are required for your future career? How do you use technology to communicate successfully?

8.      Data Literate

Throughout our life, we will encounter data all of the time, this could be facts, figures, details and information that forms a ‘collection of data’. Being data literate is our ability to read, understand, analyse and communicate this data.  

Reflect: Can you find and analyse data? Are you confident using numbers?

9.      Industry Aware

Employers want candidates and employees to have developed knowledge about their specific industry. This is a key area to show case during an interview process! Being industry aware means demonstrating your understanding of the priorities, values and ethical issues within your chosen field.

Reflect: Do you research the employers you are interested in? Can you explain your awareness of the industry? Do you know what competitors are out there?

10. Reflective Lifelong Learners

Having a commitment to continually revisit and develop your skills is extremely important. The world of work is constantly changing and as individuals we need to be able to adapt and continue to be employable.  Being a reflective lifelong learner means challenging yourself to access learning and development opportunities and taking time to assess what you took from that experience.

Reflect:  How have you developed through your studies? Are you committed to continually learning?


Each Employability Skill can be interpreted in different ways. Now you have read through them, identify the skills that are relevant to your possible future career options. In the next section you will see how you can identify, develop and demonstrate your employability skills.

Employability skills

Make the most of them

You gain employability skills through your everyday activities as a student. You therefore need to be able to identify them and demonstrate you have them in your CV, job applications and interviews, and be able to apply them in the workplace.

Identify your employability skills

Conduct a skills audit on yourself, using these online assessments:

Once you have completed your audit, recognise the skills you feel most confident in and highlight the skills that you need to develop. By doing this, you can create a plan of how to address any skill gaps.

Develop your employability skills

The University of Salford provides services and opportunities inside and outside of your studies, that enable you to further your Employability Skills. Some ideas are:

To learn more about employability and how to access opportunities to help you develop in this area, take a look at our employability booklet (aimed at new students) which provides all you need to know.

Demonstrate your employability skills

You will be asked to provide evidence of your skills through the job application and interview process – you can talk about where, when, why and how successfully you have used your employability skills. We would recommend keeping a record of evidence of the skills you have developed so that you can refer to them when submitting applications or preparing for interviews.

What employers want

Further support

Gain tips and ideas about how to complete successful applications by attending one of our live ‘Making Graduate Applications’ Masterclasses or using our Graduate Applications Linked In Learning Pathway.

Speak to a careers adviser

Our Careers Advisers are on hand to help. Book an appointment on Advantage or by calling 0161 295 0023 (option 5).

Appointments are available for current students and graduates of the University of Salford only.