What do employers really want? If the headlines are anything to go by, it's employability skills. Bosses are always banging on about how too many job candidates just don't have these employability skills. But what are they?
A survey of members of the Institute of Directors - the organisation of top bosses - came up with the following top ten employability skills.
- Honesty and integrity
- Basic literacy skills
- Basic oral communication skills, such as telephone skills
- Being hardworking and having a good work ethic
- Numeracy skills
- A positive, ‘can do’ attitude
- The ability to meet deadlines
- Team working and co-operation skills
Other skills that did not make it into the top ten, but were valued by employers included business acumen, IT skills, leadership, decision making and influencing or negotiating skills.
Certainly most, if not all of them, should be second nature to anyone with a forces background. Teamwork, honesty, punctuality and reliability, for instance, are essential in the forces if you are not to put the lives of others, and yourself, at risk in theatre.
The problem is that many of us assume we need not mention them in our CVs because everyone has them. But they don't - only just over half of the employers in the IOD survey were satisfied with candidates' employability skills. Almost a fifth were very dissatisfied with them.
So, make sure you demonstrate these skills on application forms, in your CV and covering letters. Ensure they are spelled correctly, demonstrating your literacy.
Don't just claim to have skills like teamwork and leadership - give brief real-life examples of situations where you have used these skills to solve problems, improve situations or overcome obstacles.
If a vacancy gives a telephone number, always 'phone beforehand, to check more details of the job - not only will you be better informed but you will have demonstrated oral communication skills, confidence and enthusiasm.
At interviews turn up on time (it shows punctuality), dress smartly, and be enthusiastic, which shows a can-do attitude.
Remember, many employers think employability skills are even more important than the technical skills the job requires. They reason that given someone with the right attitude they can teach the technical stuff.
So don't overlook your employability skills. As a member of the forces you are likely to have them in spades, so shout about it.