Describing skills in your CV

How to describe employability skills, transferable skills and specialist skills in your CV.

Three types of skills

Two young male apprentice chefs wearing aprons and hats in a restaurant kitchen being taught to chop vegetables by a chef

Being able to describe your skills on your CV will get you the right job

You have three types of skills that employers want:

  • employability skills – qualities and attitudes that employers say are essential for their workplace
  • transferable skills – general skills that you can take to any workplace
  • specialist skills – skills that relate to a specific job or group of jobs.

How to talk about skills on your CV

1. Find the skills listed in the job advertisement

Ideally your CV should list most of the skills that are in the job advertisement. If you don't have those skills, then the job may not be a good fit for you.

A job advertisement might describe skills like this:

We are looking for a conscientious self-starter, proficient in Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, who works well with others and can learn new computer systems easily.

The skills from this advertisement are:

  • conscientious 
  • self-starter
  • proficient in Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop
  • teamwork
  • willingness to learn.

These skills are key words that you should put in your CV.

2. Give examples of how you used these skills

You can list or bullet point the transferable skills and employability skills with a description of how you used them. This can be before or after your work history.

Conscientious
At school I was in charge of collecting and managing money from the school's 24 Hour Famine fundraiser.
Self-starter
I was in sole charge of a coffee kiosk where I opened up, prepared and made the coffee and counted the money at the end of my shift.
Teamwork
I'm a member of the School Trustees for Ferndale School and we work together to make decisions for the school.
Willingness to learn
I've studied an online course on Excel and Word to update my skills.

3. List technical skills after your work history

Skills such as proficiency in Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, or your driver's licence can go under a technical skills section in your CV. For example:

Technical skills

  • Microsoft Office suite
  • Adobe suite
  • Agile scrum master certificate
  • Heavy vehicle driver's licence
  • Forklift operating driver's licence

Examples of skill sentences

These examples of skill sentences will help you think about what to write on your CV.

Communication

  • I gave a presentation to the local youth council about the need for a youth group in our neighbourhood and was asked to speak at a city council meeting.
  • In my environmental action committee, I helped to mediate between two people in conflict and come to a solution we were all happy with.

Meeting deadlines and resilience

  • In my role as president of the local Plunket committee, I co-ordinated a large team of volunteers for the annual appeal, working to strict deadlines.
  • As a member of the school gala committee, I co-ordinated the school cake stall in a very short timeframe and managed a busy stall on the day, resulting in a profit of $3,000.

Self-management

  • It has been my goal to complete a marathon for three years. After starting out with some 10km runs, I completed four half-marathons and this year ran and finished my first marathon.
  • I have been a member of my school's First 15 rugby team for two years. We won the National First 15 Championship both years.

Updated 14 Feb 2017