No matter your professional field, you have certainly accumulated a number of skills that are valued in many jobs and industries. You can seamlessly transfer these skills to your next position, even when making a radical career switch, which is why we call them “transferable”.
In this article, you will learn why employers look for transferable skills, how to identify transferable skills for a resume, and how to explain transferable skills in an interview.
What Are Transferable Skills?
Transferable Skills: Definition & Importance in the Job Market
Transferable skills are abilities to do a job or an activity well that you can apply in any workplace. Such skills are relevant across multiple areas, fields and situations. Also described as “portable skills” or “soft skills”, they bring value to all kinds of professional and social relationships and ensure that you get things done the right way. From leadership to problem solving to flexibility, transferable skills showcase your unique background and personality and unlock your potential in any environment.
Transferable skills are especially valuable in the post-pandemic world, where job switches are on the rise.
The job market is adapting to the new norm: since more and more employees crave career advancement and new opportunities, the focus is shifted towards portable skills, such as excellent communication capabilities, technical proficiency and analytical thinking.
They make transitioning into a new role much easier and can save the day when it comes to unintentional or unorthodox career moves.
Transferable Skills vs. Non-Transferable Skills
When it comes to building a professional skill set, it is essential to strike the right balance. A well-rounded employee is expected to possess an effective combination of soft and hard skills and have experience applying them in various contexts.
Hard skills are job-specific, meaning they can only be utilized in one area. They are non-transferable skills that are gained through education, work, hands-on experience, and training. Also known as “technical”, these skills are tangible and measurable, and including them on your resume is a must when on the job hunt. An example of a technical skill is the ability to fix a car or being proficient in software development.
The technical skills vs. transferable skills debate has been moving to and fro over the years, yet today’s highly competitive job market seems to be leaning towards the latter: 92% of hiring professionals value soft skills equally as or above hard skills, meaning transferable expertise has moved front and center in recruiters’ eyes. Nevertheless, we recommend that you develop strong technical competencies and advanced transferable skills so as to tick all the boxes during the hiring process.
The Top 15 Transferable Skills For Resume: Examples & How to Improve Them
Teamwork means that a group is working together towards a common goal. If you enjoy being part of a team, you are the perfect candidate for many jobs: team players are more than 50% more effective at managing tasks than independent workers, and 75% of employers believe that teamwork and collaboration are very important in the workplace.
As you can see, demonstrating that you can successfully collaborate with others is a sure way to excite recruiters. You are expected to explain how you achieved important goals in a team environment. Here is an example of what the hiring manager would like to see on your resume:
As part of our sales team, I engaged in 3 brainstorming meetings 2 months ago. We succeeded in developing new sales tactics, which resulted in increased bookings by 30%.
As part of our sales team, I engaged in 3 brainstorming meetings 2 months ago. We succeeded in developing new sales tactics, which resulted in increased bookings by 30%.
You need a lot of practice to become an effective team player. Make it a point to always give feedback and receive it from peers, appreciate others’ experience and contributions, and pave the way for group decisions rather than individual moves. Sharing ideas and assisting others will also help you thrive as part of a group.
Being a leader implies that you can supervise and manage a team so that they can reach a shared goal. Your ability to take the lead in certain situations presents you as a valuable hire: 83% of employers need leaders at all levels of their businesses.
If you want to showcase your leadership experience, you can share relevant achievements on your resume. Here is an example:
As a sales lead, I scheduled and organized weekly meetings to ensure everyone reached their KPIs. I also took the lead in coordinating a new campaign, which resulted in our profits increasing by 10%.
To become a better leader, you need to identify your leadership style and learn from experienced leaders. We also recommend taking leadership courses and finding a mentor.
Individuals with solid time management skills can effectively prioritize tasks, meet deadlines and avoid distractions. Unfortunately, a whopping 82% of people fail to manage their time properly. This means that being able to organize your time the right way makes you a promising candidate for any organization. Just make sure to highlight your strengths with something like this:
I optimized my team’s workflow by introducing a planning matrix. This resulted in 30% less downtime.
You can become better at time management by determining your priorities, creating schedules and using time management apps.
Communication is vital in every professional field, so you need to be able to share information effectively and efficiently both verbally and in writing. A good communicator is expected to have strong interpersonal skills, which you can develop by practicing active listening, providing constructive feedback, engaging in storytelling, and conducting negotiations.
Developing people person skills will help you secure your dream job: employers are looking for effective communicators amidst a sea of candidates. You can prove your communication skills by sharing relevant experience with the hiring manager. Feel free to adjust the example below to your needs:
In my previous role, I responded to and resolved over 100 email and phone complaints per day.
Building and maintaining a network of contacts is called networking. To network successfully, you need to create mutually beneficial and strong relationships in your professional environment.
Since networking helps to fill 85% of all positions, proper networking skills are the key to boosting your career. You can improve them by keeping in touch with former and current colleagues and continuously establishing new connections.
It is important that your potential employers know that you seek growth as part of a professional community. On your resume, you can mention your membership in various industry associations or clubs and your participation in relevant events, conferences and expos.
Being adaptable means you can thrive in changing environments. To achieve this, you need a flexible mindset that allows you to embrace change, manage stress and withstand adversity.
In this fast-paced world, employers place a high value on adaptability: flexible candidates are 24% more likely to be hired. Therefore, to stand out from your competitors, you need to demonstrate that you can adequately respond to changing conditions. An example like this will present you as a flexible candidate:
In my previous role, I was involved in creating a new marketing campaign as part of a team. A few days after we got started, the budget for our project was significantly reduced. We managed to reshape our strategy quickly and focus on affordable social media ads. We successfully completed the task, and our campaign generated high ROI.
You can improve your flexibility skills by stepping out of your comfort zone, rearranging your daily routine and working schedule, doing several tasks at a time, and getting more challenging tasks at work.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail is the ability to complete work tasks accurately, thoroughly and consistently. There are different ways attention to detail applies in the workplace, but it all boils down to always producing high-quality work. To achieve this, you can create task lists, develop routines, minimize distractions, and practice self-care.
An excellent way to demonstrate attention to detail as a candidate is to provide a clean and error-free resume. The information on it should be properly organized and relevant.
Problem solving means achieving a certain goal by overcoming an array of issues. In business environments, you need to find and implement the best solutions to handle challenging situations at work.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2022 survey, 86% of employers look for problem-solving skills on resumes. Obviously, you need to highlight your ability to resolve problems efficiently on your resume or at an interview if you want to get hired quickly. Here is a relevant example:
As a QA team leader, I implemented a new workflow to automate several testing processes and thereby increased my team’s productivity by 20%.
To improve your problem-solving skills, you could collaborate with others to resolve issues, document effective and proven solutions, adopt quality control procedures, and learn from mistakes, among other things.
Decision making is all about choosing the best possible option in a given situation. You must ensure your decisions are reasonable and well-informed, and it is essential that you use hard data when developing plans and organizing your work.
To improve your chances of finding a job, you should let hiring managers know that you can make the right choices. You could go over your background and share something like this:
In order to improve mobile responsiveness, I decided to redesign our landing page. This resulted in 80% more leads in two weeks.
To develop your decision-making skills, focus on rational thinking and avoid impulsive behavior. Some decisions require careful examination, so make sure you approach them thoughtfully. Always give yourself time to evaluate all the options and consider alternatives.
Taking initiative means you prefer to approach tasks proactively. It’s about doing more than what’s expected of you, noticing opportunities and taking action before someone asks you to.
Enthusiasm is highly valued in the workplace: engaged employees lead to 21% greater profitability, so hiring managers are on the hunt for motivated workers. To provide the right impression to your potential employer, describe a time at work when you showed initiative. You could share an example like the one below:
While still being a new member of the company’s sales team, I suggested creating a database of available leads. It helped my colleagues to save valuable time and focus on marketing strategies instead of independently searching for new leads online.
To improve motivation, we recommend you to set measurable goals, regularly review your progress, find mentors, and practice mindfulness.
Our world is driven by technology and data, and the right technical transferable skills can open many doors. To keep ahead of the competition, you need to be able to pick up new tech skills, create and share digital information, and use cross-industry software. Certain hard skills, such as general programming, data engineering, and analytics, are also becoming transferable due to them being applied in multiple fields, including fintech and AI.
Technical skills are acquired through structured learning and on-the-job experience. There are multiple ways you can become tech-savvy: you could read books, watch online tutorials, and take courses, to name but a few.
You can pump up your resume by listing your tech capabilities in the skills section of your resume. Another helpful strategy involves providing specific examples that demonstrate your technical knowledge. Here is an example for reference:
I automated routine MS Excel tasks, which resulted in a 30% boost in productivity.
Analytical skills allow you to parse information into digestible units in order to make well-informed decisions. To put it simply, having analytical skills means you can work with data.
Examples of analytical transferable skills are troubleshooting, research, brainstorming, and data mining. You can reflect them on your resume by providing relevant examples. For instance, you can share something like this when describing your work experience:
Analyzed and visualized cross-category data to build a new sales strategy, which resulted in a 10% sales increase.
Innovation is revolutionizing the world, and creativity fuels this process, so there is little wonder that according to LinkedIn Learning, it is considered the most important skill in the world. Creative employees can resolve problems with novelty and from a fresh perspective, thereby rethinking processes and producing breakthroughs.
If you have a spark of creative magic, you should let recruiters know that. A creative thinker could have something like this on their resume:
Undertook a re-design of the company’s website, which increased the number of visits by 27%.
To become more creative, you could focus on your natural impulses, take creative courses, and leave your comfort zone more often.
Critical thinking allows you to look at things rationally and see logical connections. Employers say this skill is growing in prominence, which means now is the best time for you to improve it. To become a critical thinker, make sure to practice self-awareness, consider alternatives, tolerate ambiguity, analyze evidence, and avoid emotional responses.
You can let your critical skills shine through by sharing relevant examples on your resume. Do not be afraid to explain how they helped you achieve success in the workplace. Here is an example you can make use of:
Redesigned our sales strategy by using innovative approaches. The new strategy generated 30 per cent more revenue from existing customers.
According to a study published in IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 10% of workers expressing negativity in the workplace perform 30% worse than other employees. University of Southern Carolina refers to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics’ findings showing that negativity results in businesses losing $3 billion a year. As you can see, negativity costs companies too much, so naturally, employers are looking for hires with a positive attitude. Therefore, it is time to harness your emotions for success and learn how to stay positive even in stressful environments.
To kill the negativity bug, you need to lead a healthy lifestyle, be open to humor, surround yourself with optimistic people, cultivate positive thoughts, and keep vague fears at bay.
Your resume will show that you are a positive person if you add relevant workplace examples. You can portray your positive side with something like this:
In my previous role as an HR manager, I organized regular happy hours for my colleagues. As a result, workers reported 80% less stress and 90% more engagement.
How to Identify Transferable Skills
Whether you are hunting for a new job or updating your resume to ask for a promotion, you need to figure out your transferable skills. Here is our guide on doing that:
- Identify and list the most important transferable skills for a resume in your professional field. You can get inspiration by analyzing relevant job listings.
- From the list, choose 10 skills that you believe you exhibit the most.
- Write down examples of using each of the skills in question. Be as comprehensive as possible and expand on each example.
- Identify the skills that you consider the most impactful based on how you applied them over the course of your career.
- Focus on key achievements resulting from your most prominent skills.
- Based on these achievements, rank your skills from most impactful to least impactful.
Now you know your top transferable skills. When applying for a job, make sure you highlight them properly so that the hiring manager knows you are the best fit for the company.
How to Highlight Portable Skills
Your skills illustrate your suitability for a particular role, so whether you are building a skills-based resume, a reverse-chronological resume or a combination resume, you need to list them properly. When including soft skills on your resume, we recommend that you apply the following tips:
- List only those transferable skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for
The more you tailor your skill set to a specific job, the better. Job descriptions are sure to help you with this: when applying for a role, check the requirements for a candidate’s transferable skills and make sure that your resume’s skills section ticks all the boxes.
Another important point is to embed relevant keywords. They are no secret – you can find them in job listings. Recruiters tend to quickly scan resumes for keywords corresponding to the vacancies they post so as to find the most relevant applicants. Therefore, it is vital that you use the words and phrases hiring managers are looking for in your industry.
- Back up your portable skills with facts and achievements
Your transferable skills will help you stand out from the crowd if you can illustrate them with specific examples of success in previous positions. You can use numerical metrics, like “doubled sales in two months” or “increased average daily website traffic by 10 percent”. Besides, you can provide memorable stories of how your soft skills led to positive strategic outcomes, like “forging strategic alliances”, “expanding professional relationships”, or “improving staff communication”.
- Use action verbs
When displaying transferable skills on your resume, we recommend that you use strong, active words to convey your impact. For instance, sharing that you “spearheaded Company A’s marketing and strategic partnership efforts” will make you look more competent and valuable than mentioning that you were “responsible for Company A’s marketing campaigns”. If you can “manage”, “connect”, and “enhance”, it means you are capable of pushing things forward rather than just getting your job done. We recommend you to search online for lists of action verbs relevant within your professional area.
How to Explain Transferable Skills in an Interview
If invited for a job interview, you will most likely have to discuss your transferable skills with the hiring manager. Here is how you can get prepared to impress the interviewer:
- Write down your transferable skills beforehand
Now that you know how to identify your transferable skills, make sure to go over those that relate to the job you want to get. Write them down along with relevant examples to acquire some confidence and have something to fall back on during the interview.
- Think about what the employer is searching for
If you want the recruiter to see that you and the company are a perfect match, you need to emphasize the right transferable skills during the interview. Focus more attention on skills fit for the role and the organization and offer examples of applying them in similar environments.
- Choose the best moment to share
While there are straightforward interview questions to figure out your soft skills, the interviewer might want to dig a little deeper and read between the lines. For instance, you might hear questions such as “How would your colleagues describe you?” or “What questions have I not asked you that you would like me to ask?” Those are great opportunities to expand upon your transferable skills with explanations and evidence.
How to Add Transferable Skills to a Cover Letter
A cover letter is an excellent place to highlight soft skills and explain how they help you achieve goals and make a difference. You can use the tips below to successfully incorporate your transferable expertise into your cover letter:
- Match your soft skills to the employer’s needs
When writing a cover letter, your goal is to let the recruiter know that your skill set aligns with the company’s needs. Make sure you include skills that show that you can thrive in the position you are applying for. For example, if your potential role involves teaching algebra, you could demonstrate that you are a problem-solver by describing how you figured out a new way of organizing your schedule in your previous workplace.
- Remember to highlight your communication skills
Whatever career you are in, proper communication skills can help you reach great heights, and recruiters know that well. In your cover letter, you should provide examples portraying you as an excellent communicator. To achieve that, you could write something like this:
When working as a complaint handler at Company A, I designed and implemented effective response templates for addressing written complaints. They helped me to regularly exceed the corporate target of resolving 90% of written complaints within set timeframes.
- Describe the impact of your soft skills
Surely, you have professional achievements related to your portable skills. Your cover letter can be extremely helpful in connecting all the dots, so do not be afraid to refer to your transferable knowledge when it comes to describing your successes. For instance, you could explain how your problem-solving skills helped you resolve complex issues or gain recognition. Here is an example of an achievement that a product manager could use in their cover letter:
I introduced my team to new tools for creating email marketing campaigns, which boosted our click-through rate to 1.9 percent.
Job seekers often fail to illuminate transferable skills on resumes or during interviews. According to a LiveCareer survey, a whopping 57 per cent (20.8 million) and 58 per cent (21.1 million) of respondents cannot confidently identify their transferable skills and do not know how to list transferable skills on resumes respectively. We have created this guide to rectify this situation. The tips and examples we have provided will help you gain a competitive edge and land your dream job faster.