What Are Employability Skills and Why Do They Matter?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Employability skills are non-technical skills that help make you an impactful employee. Explore nine employability skills and discover why it may be important for you to develop them.

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Every job requires some combination of technical and workplace skills (often called soft skills or transferable skills). In other words, you will likely need to know how to perform the work specific to your role and how to do so effectively.

Employability skills refer to the latter—they are workplace or transferable skills that help make you an impactful employee. You can also think of them as skills that employers tend to value. Many employability skills are “higher cognitive skills” that can’t be carried out in automated tasks because they require creativity, critical thinking, and other important social and emotional abilities. According to a skills report from McKinsey [1], they will continue to be in demand.

In this article, we’ll review nine skills employers seek in candidates they’re interviewing and how you can integrate your employability skills into your CV and cover letter. 

9 valuable employability skills 

Beyond looking for specific technical skills when hiring for a role, employers typically seek qualities such as how candidates manage their time, collaborate with others, and think critically about problems. These are known as employability skills and are highly valued because they can bolster your technical know-how and overall impact. In building this list, we looked at reports forecasting important non-technical skills from Pearson [2], the World Economic Forum [3], and McKinsey [4]. 

It’s worth noting that many employability skills are related. For example, being a strong collaborator often means being a proactive communicator with good time management skills. 

1. Communication

Communication is a key part of any role. You communicate in various ways at work, including offering solutions to an ongoing problem, updating the status of a project, sharing the latest data in a visual report, and emailing coworkers. Being an effective communicator is a prized skill because of how wide-ranging it tends to be. 

2. Critical thinking 

There are usually ways to improve workplace processes, strategies, or even teamwork. Thinking critically and creatively—being an observant individual who asks questions and draws insights that can be used to identify solutions—is a worthwhile skill to hone.  

3. Problem-solving 

Solving problems depends on your ability to think critically and communicate solutions, thus drawing on two other employability skills on this list. Problem-solving isn’t just a managerial task either. It’s a skill you can strengthen at any level. Many workplaces appreciate it when you work to uncover a solution rather than flag a problem. 

4. Time management

Whether you work in an office or remotely, it's important to manage your time effectively. Doing so can help you set and achieve more goals, reduce stress, and stay on track. 

5. Ability to work independently 

Speaking of managing time, you will often need to work independently to complete a task or project. In this case, fostering an ability to work without supervision—or independently—can go far, creating greater trust between you, your team, and your managers. This is especially important for remote work.  

6. Dedication

Dedication may seem like loyalty to a company—and it certainly can be that in many respects—but it also signals to your employer that you value high-quality work and put in the effort to deliver key results every time. Being a dedicated employee means caring about your work and the standard of that work.  

7. Collaboration

Collaborating with others in your immediate team or cross-departmentally is a critical interpersonal skill. As many teams must work together to complete projects or achieve results, it’s important to know how to work well with others by engaging many other skills on this list, such as communication, time management, and problem-solving.  

8. Flexibility 

The nature of work can change over time. In fact, at many start-ups, change is a given. Remaining flexible in the face of change is a valuable skill to develop and continue working on throughout your career. Flexibility often means staying calm, remaining positive, and trying to plan where possible. 

9. Leadership 

You don’t have to be a manager to be a leader at work. Leadership skills show that you’re proactive, take charge, and think critically about the more significant impact of your role. At the managerial level, it shows that you know how to manage a team of employees, ensuring everyone works together to complete the tasks. 

Your application materials, including your CV and cover letter, should detail your employability skills. You may find it easier to list your technical skills on your CV and use your cover letter to expand on how you’ve used employability skills to be an influential colleague. Use the tips below to integrate employability skills into your next job search: 

  • CV: Use action words throughout your CV to highlight your employability skills by showing their impact. For example, mention how you strengthened teamwork or cultivated better communication. You can also use your CV skills section to lay out your unique strengths.   

  • Cover letters: Your cover letter should expand on your CV. Use it to share anecdotes or examples of how your employability skills have impacted a project or team. 

  • Interviews: If you make it to the interview stage, weave in examples of your employability skills when answering behavioural interview questions, technical interview questions, and common interview questions.  

Explore further.

Develop key employability skills with a course on communication from Wharton or interpersonal skills from IBM. Enroll in a free, 7-day trial today. 

You can also check out a Professional Certificate from Google, IBM, or Meta to develop job-ready skills in UX design, data science, project management, marketing analytics, and sales

Give your team access to 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about Coursera for Business.

Article sources


McKinsey and Company. “Skill shift: Automation and the future of the workforce, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/skill-shift-automation-and-the-future-of-the-workforce.” Accessed May 15, 2024. 

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