Transferable Skills: Definitions and Examples
Updated 14 December 2022
Transferable skills, also known as “portable skills,” are qualities that can be transferred from one job to another. While you likely already possess many transferable skills, you can work on strengthening them and developing new ones that employers value across industries and jobs.
What are transferable skills?
Transferable skills are any skills you possess that are useful to employers across various jobs and industries. These might include skills such as adaptability, communication, organisation, teamwork or other qualities employers look for in strong candidates. Transferable skills can be used to present your past experience as valuable when applying for a new job—especially if it’s in a different industry.
For example, employers often look for candidates with strong communication skills. If you’ve developed the ability to easily share information with colleagues, you can apply them in any workplace.
Jobs in education, for example, require individuals who can communicate well with students, parents and other faculty members. Meanwhile, people in marketing positions should be able to communicate with team members, clients, managers and others to bring a campaign from idea to production.
Examples of transferable skills
Before applying for new jobs, take time to consider which skills you currently possess that can be transferred to a new role. Each individual’s list of transferable skills will vary, but some common skills employers look for include:
Strong communication is the ability to clearly impart information to others by speaking, writing or via other mediums such as video. Communication skills help you know when and how to ask questions, how to read nonverbal cues and how to talk to people in different contexts. In the workplace, employers value strong communicators for their ability to work with others and move projects forward.
Dependability encompasses qualities that make you a trusted employee. It includes punctuality, organisation and responsibility. Every employer looks for candidates who can be trusted to accomplish tasks well and in a timely manner. They often trust these same people to successfully manage relationships, assignments and goals.
Teamwork skills involve the ability to work with others towards a common goal. Effective teamwork requires several other qualities such as empathy, active listening and strong communication. Providing successful teamwork examples during interviews can help employers understand how you’ll work with others in their company.
Organised employees typically meet deadlines, communicate with others in a timely manner and follow instructions well. Employers can trust organised workers to take notes, remember important tasks and meetings and ensure projects are completed efficiently.
Adaptability skills are used to continue working towards goals even as teams, projects, management or products change. Employers hire flexible candidates who can quickly learn new skills and processes to ensure work is done efficiently, effectively and with a positive attitude.
Leadership skills include traits such as clear and open communication, relationship building and dependability. You can transfer leadership skills to many different industries because most employers value people who can organise and inspire teams to reach shared goals.
Technology literacy is your comfort with and ability to navigate new technology. Almost every position across all industries will require the use of technology at some level. In an increasingly technological world and workplace, employers value candidates who can learn new tools and software quickly to complete tasks.
How to highlight your transferable skills
During your job search, it’s a good idea to include transferable skills on your resume, cover letter and in interviews. To do this, review the job description carefully and identify which of your transferable skills are most relevant to the position.
Featuring transferable skills on a resume
On your resume, there are several options when deciding where to include key transferable skills. You can list these on your resume in the following sections:
Resume summary or objective
Employment history descriptions
In your resume summary or objective, consider including your most valuable and relevant transferable skill. For example, if you have strong communication skills, you might say:
“Tenacious project manager with five years of experience using strong communication skills to complete successful end-to-end projects with several teams.”
In your employment history section, identify which skills you used to be successful in previous roles. But, instead of simply listing your job duties, you should select 2-3 of your most relevant accomplishments to highlight. You likely used several different skills to achieve those goals, so you don’t need to state each transferable skill directly. For example, for one of your achievements in a previous role, you might say:
“Established competitive quotas and bonus program for the sales department, increasing YoY revenue 10% in the most recent fiscal year.”
This tells the employer you used several different skills that will be useful to their company such as creativity, communication and leadership.
Your skills list is also a helpful way to display your strongest transferable skills. Use the job description to decide which skills to put on your resume. These can be found under sections like “job duties” or “requirements.”
Transferable skills on a cover letter
When writing your cover letter, focus on one or two of your transferable skills that the employer has included in the job description. In the body paragraphs of your letter, write about when you’ve used these skills in your past roles. For example, a paragraph in a cover letter for a bookkeeper might say:
“During my previous role at Crane & Jenkins, I was Head Bookkeeper for more than five years and kept an overview of all financial records. During my tenure there, Crane & Jenkins experienced an 18% increase in revenue. I also worked closely with other administrators, and excelled in the team-oriented environment.”
The candidate here explains how their teamwork and organisation skills helped drive success for their company. This helps employers clearly understand how the candidate demonstrated their skills in context, making it easier to see them as a fit for the position.
Transferable skills while interviewing
During your interview, use examples of when you’ve used relevant transferable skills to answer your interviewer’s questions, if applicable. Remember to “show” instead of “tell” when you can, providing specific stories of when you used your skills successfully.
While searching for new job opportunities, you will find that many of your current skills, like interpersonal skills, are transferable to new roles. So it’s important to highlight them during your job search to ensure hiring managers and recruiters can determine whether you would be a right fit for the role and company.
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