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Guide to Working in Health and Social Care Sectors

Transferable Skills and Qualities

Entry requirements for jobs or university courses are not just about formal qualifications, like degrees and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). Whilst there are many skills that are highly specific and require specialist training, employers often talk about ‘employability skills’ (or ‘transferable skills’). These are the general skills and abilities that enable people to get, keep and do well in any job. Jobs in the health sector rely heavily on the personal qualities of individuals, on their practical skills and previous experiences gained at work or in life generally.  Different employment sectors are developing their own set of employability skills which individuals may find useful as part of making job or career decisions.

There are certain skills and qualities that most employers are looking for as they are general skills you can use in many jobs. You gain these skills from previous jobs, projects, voluntary work, sport, your home life, hobbies, and interests. They enable you to be adaptable and flexible in case you need to change your job.  See an example of a completed NHS application form to see how you can demonstrate these qualities to an employer

Personality – How understanding your traits can help you

Increasingly employers at all levels, but especially graduate employers, want you to have a range of skills in addition to your academic qualifications.  Understanding more about your personality will help you to recognise the way in which you are likely to approach different situations and those where you might have to change your preferences to work more effectively.  You will need to be able to demonstrate and give examples of your skills and qualities when completing application form and answering interview questions. 

Psychometric tests

You might not have considered it but finding out what career will suit your personality can be the first step to securing the perfect job. If you choose a career that doesn't suit your personality you can become confused, unhappy and no one wants a job they hate. So instead of choosing a career based on what you think you should do, try finding a career that fits your personality. A personality test can give you an indication of which jobs match your personality type and which careers you may have an aptitude for. You do need to remember that the test results are only an indicator and should not be relied on as an absolute assessment of which career is best for you. Some sites to visit are:

  1. BBC Careers
  2. Career Test
  3. Prospects Career Site

The types of traints that university admissions tutors and employers are looking for can be broken down into those classes as ‘Skills’ and those classed as ‘Attributes’.

The below list gives the definitions to many of the tranferable skills, qualities and attributes that most employers are looking for when recruiting to a post.  Depending on the role some will be more important than others but see how many you think you could demonstrate:

Skills Definition

1. Taking and Using Initiative

Ability to take action unprompted (Higher Education Academy 2007).
The ability to act independently and with a fresh approach (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

Employer's definition:
'Initiative is something you take on yourself. A conscious decision, to "do" day by day: it's an attitude of mind.'
'Initiative begins with attunement that facilitates awareness and analytical and systematic thinking.'

2. Interpersonal skills

Skills relating to relationships or communication between people (Oxford English Dictionary 2007). Skills that a person uses to interact with other people. Interpersonal skills are sometimes also referred to as people skills or communication skills. Interpersonal skills involve using skills such as active listening and tone of voice, they include delegation and leadership. It is how well you communicate with someone and how well you behave or carry yourself. (Wikipedia 2010)

Employer's definition:
'Credibility in communication, how you express yourself, if you can understand what is being said, show interest and listen, articulate.'
'Interpersonal skills are about communication, listening and awareness of body language.'

3. Emotional intelligence

Sensitivity to others' emotions and the effects that they can have (Higher Education Academy 2007).

Employer's definition:
'Composure under pressure.' , 'Anticipates impacts of emotional situations.'

4. Open-minded

Willing to consider new ideas (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

Employer's definition:
'The graduate must show a willingness to have a go.'
'Open to fresh challenges; new techniques, new roles. A willingness to do things neither obvious, or familiar.'

5. Problem Solving

Selection and use of appropriate methods to find solutions (Higher Education Academy 2007).

Employer's definition:
'Breaks down a problem and identifies both potential causes and outcomes in order to draw logical conclusions.', 'Tests alternative solutions.' , 'We want solution-focussed people: always looking for solutions!'

6. Team working

Can work constructively with others on a common task. Can work constructively with others on a common task (Higher Education Academy 2007).

Employer's definition:
'Acts to promote good working relationships and takes steps to resolve areas of potential conflict or dispute.', 'Values others' input and expertise.'

7. Independent Working

Ability to work without supervision (Higher Education Academy 2007).

Employer's definition:
'The need to get a balance between knowing when to ask for assistance and when to be independent.'

8. Communication

Imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium or the means of sending or receiving information, such as telephone lines or computers: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

9. Time Management

Time management refers to a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals. This set encompasses a wide scope of activities, and these include planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing (Wikipedia 2010).

10. Decision Making

the action or process of making important decisions (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Decision making can be regarded as the mental processes (cognitive process) resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternatives (Wikipedia 2010)

11. Ability to Multi-task

A persons ability to deal with more than one task at the same time (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

12. Organisational Skills

The action of organizing something or the quality of being systematic and efficient: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

13. Working to Deadlines

The ability to complete a task by the latest time or date by which something should be completed. (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).  A time limit or deadline is a narrow field of time, or particular point in time, by which an objective or task must be accomplished (Wikipedia 2010)

14. Project and People Management Skills

An individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).  The ability to successfully Project manage which is the discipline of planning, organizing, and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives (Wikipedia 2010)

15. Calm Under Pressure

The ability to remain calm, which is the mental state of being free from agitation, excitement, or disturbance even when situations might be getting out of control (Wikipedia 2010).

16. Attention to Detail / Thoroughness

Complete with regard to every detail; not superficial or partial: performed or written with great care and completeness: taking pains to do something carefully and completely. (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

17. Self Awareness

Conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

18. Computer and ICT Literacy

Having sufficient knowledge and skill to be able to use computers; familiar with the operation of computers. (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

19. Ability to Influence Others

The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself: a person or thing with the capacity to have an influence on someone or something: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

20. Willingness for Continued Learning

The willingness for the continued acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

Attributes Definition

1. Motivation

The reason or reasons behind one's actions or behaviour (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).

Employer's definition:
'Motivation comes from belonging - an awareness of what you belong to - and where you can progress to.', 'Passion for the job.'

2. Confidence

Self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one's abilities'(Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Self-confidence: confidence in dealing with the challenges that employment and life throw up (Higher Education Academy 2007).

Employer's definition:
'the ability to work outside comfort zone, say when you don't understand, and ask questions.'
'This is about the difference between the presented persona and the underlying competence.'

3. Resilience

Ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions (Oxford English dictionary).

Employer's definition:
'Bounces back from failures or personal knocks. Copes positively with setbacks.', 'Determined endeavour in a pressurised environment.'

4. Empathy and Caring Manner

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
The capacity to, through imagination rather than literally, share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being. (Wikipedia 2010)

5. Trustworthiness and Honesty

Able to be relied on as honest or truthful: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Refers to a facet of moral character and denotes positive, virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness along with the absence of lying, cheating, or theft. (Wikipedia 2010)

6. Supportiveness

Providing encouragement or emotional help: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Moral support is a way of giving support to a person or cause, or to one side in a conflict, without making any contribution beyond the emotional or psychological value of the encouragement. (Wikipedia 2010)

7. Leadership

The action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this:(Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
Leadership has been described as the "process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task." (Wikipedia 2010)

8. Creativity

The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).
The ability to generate innovative ideas and manifest them from thought into reality. The process involves original thinking and then producing (Wikipedia 2010)

9. Patience

The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious: (Oxford English Dictionary 2007), the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast. (Wikipedia 2010)

10. Flexibility and Adapability

A person’s willingness to change or compromise or to be able to adjust to new conditions. (Oxford English Dictionary 2007).  the extent to which a person can cope with changes in circumstances and think about problems and tasks in novel, creative ways. (Wikipedia 2010)


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