February 2, 2015 : Gillian Anderson

Moving on up: Identifying job skills

How to help CJS employees to identify their skills and feel confident talking about them in job applications and at interviews.

It can be incredibly hard to think about what you’re good at and most of us cringe at the thought of daring to tell someone else. At the back of your head is a little voice saying “look at her, she thinks she’s something special – who gave her ideas above her station” and plenty of other reasons to make you resist blowing your own trumpet. And when you’re just starting out in the world of work it can be even more difficult to feel confident about telling someone what you’re brilliant at, especially if you’re staring at a blank sheet of paper. That’s a situation facing lots of young people finishing up their Community Jobs Scotland contract. Here are some tips on how you can help your employee identify their skills and feel more confident talking about them.

Make a list

Set aside some time to have a chat and help them make a list of things they enjoy doing – not just at work. Ask questions like “what do you like best about X?” and “what makes you good at this?”. If they enjoy gaming, is it mastering their character that appeals to them, is it developing a strategy, or is it just the burning desire to crush the opposition and win? These are all things that translate into qualities that employers need: thinking logically, problem solving, paying attention to detail and ambition, not to mention computer skills!

Make it relevant

It’s the hardest thing when you’re interviewing someone you know has potential, but they just refuse to tell you

Show them how to relate their skills to the job or course they’re applying for. They might want to tell their prospective employer all about their circus skills, but if they’re applying for a job as a receptionist it’s probably not going to help them get an interview – unless you can show that it translates to an ability to learn quickly.

Help them to tailor their answers and think of it from an employer’s point of view. You must have seen potential in them when you offered them the CJS post, so tell them what it was that made you offer them the position and give them the confidence to see their skills.

State the obvious

In my experience, it’s the hardest thing when you’re interviewing someone you know has potential, but they just refuse to tell you. You can see that they have work history or qualifications that support their application, but when you ask them what they excel at or to expand on it, you might as well have asked them to stand up and sing karaoke for you!

Encourage them to think about how they’ll answer that question about skills. Explain that the interviewer will have a set of criteria they are scoring every applicant against, so even if they think they are stating the obvious or repeating themselves, say it anyway. If you don’t say it out loud, it doesn’t count.

Swot up for the interview

Guide them to do some research about the company or course they are applying for – I really can’t stress this enough, and it will probably become a recurring theme in these blogs. Even if they don’t have all the skills for the job they’re applying for they can win it by being better prepared than the candidate who does and takes it for granted. It also demonstrates their ability to research and summarise information.

Finally, remind them that the whole purpose of an interview is to sell their skills to an employer. There’s no point being shy or embarrassed, because the person who’s next in line won’t be.

  • This is the first blog in the Moving on up series where Gillian will share hints and tips on how to support your CJS employee prepare for the end of their contract.
  • My World of Work
  • My World of Work is an online careers service form Skills Development Scotland, which includes a toolkit to help jobseekers to identify their skills, brush up their CV and build interview skills. As a CJS employer you are responsible for encouraging your employees to use the website and setting aside some time to help them through the tasks. Check out our step-by-step guide on helping your employee to make the most of the website.
  • Get Moving competition
  • My World of Work has teamed up with Young Scot Extra to give 16 to 25-year-olds living in Scotland the chance to win up to £1000 of travel prizes to get their career moving in the right direction. Help your CJS employee to create a My World of Work account and they could be in with a chance of winning. Closes 31 March 2015.


Important: Opinions expressed by bloggers are their own and don't represent those of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

by Gillian Anderson