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Together, we bring refined knowledge and experience in a range of sectors including accountancy and finance, commercial and office, sales and marketing, human resources, legal, IT, ancillary support, catering and many more. If you are looking to fill a vacancy, you can rely on our professional team to provide qualified candidates for temp, permanent, contract or interim roles. 

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By Carol Johnson 13 Nov, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at….

Information Technology

IT is hard to avoid nowadays as it is used in the most basic of roles, as well as more complex and demanding work. Even if you are not applying for roles that involve sitting at a computer all day, there is no doubt that IT has crept into almost every role, from using electronic point of sales systems or clocking in systems for shifts, to creating spreadsheets and managing several shared calendars and email accounts. IT skills can definitely be taught as a ‘hard skill’ that can only be applied in certain roles, such as coding, but once you understand how to use Outlook, for example, in one role, you can transfer that to any role you move to that uses Outlook.

For example, employers may want to know if you understand, and have experience in, the following IT activities:

  • Using emails and calendar software
  • Understanding how the internet works
  • Knowing how to stay safe online
  • Can use documents and databases
  • Can adapt and learn new IT related products or procedures
  • Can use equipment such as printers and telephones

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when could you have demonstrated information technology skills outside of work. For example:

  • Using emails for personal use
  • Troubleshooting your own IT issues
  • Teaching someone else how to use something

How do these become good time information technology skills examples?

Being comfortable with, and adapting to new, technology is integral to employers, who need to know that you can do the ‘hard skill’ of the job, without needing to be trained on what they might consider to be basic IT skills. They need to be confident that an employee won’t panic or give up when something breaks or a new technology is introduced and that employees feel at ease communicating through technology without training. Emails, internet based phone systems, multi-use printer machines and computer programmes have become so helpful to businesses that it is hard to find a company that does not use them, and if a new employee starts a job, unless it is an IT role, being trained on how to do the job correctly usually won’t include basic IT as employers will expect you to be competent at that already.

What if you do not have any?

It is difficult to fake having good IT skills but easier to be open-minded and flexible about learning the skills and the best way to increase your IT skill level is by practicing them. Dependent on your experience with technology you could be better at using IT than you think. For example, my first interaction with internet connected multi-use printers/fax/photocopiers came at university and I have ended up using them many times in offices since, but it was helpful that I already learnt how to use them. University is also a great time to learn better internet based researching techniques, send emails frequently, submit work electronically and manage an online calendar.

Troubleshooting IT issues, or helping someone with an IT problem outside of a work environment is still troubleshooting and training, if done successfully, and there is no reason why someone with a low level of IT experience, can’t refer to that success on their CV.

Another option, if your skills are very low and you don’t have access to personal IT already, go to your local library and ask for help finding free courses or how to access tutorials online. You will find that library staff are happy to talk you through basics like turning on, and operating, a computer and will show you how to access and search You Tube for videos on thousands of subjects. All you need is a piece of paper and pen to make notes, then you can practice what you learn on the library computers. They might even offer a free course themselves that you can sign up for and you can use information you already have, such as your household budget to learn programmes like Excel that require data input. You can also ask a technically savvy friend to take you through a few things they might use at work or volunteer somewhere where they will give you training on how to use equipment like a till in a charity shop.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good information technology skills are used, let’s look at them in more detail.

  • Using emails and calendar software

Sending emails to colleagues and customers is the cornerstone of many roles as it has become one of the main ways to communicate with people however most email systems are similar so once you have learnt how to use one, it is fairly easy to transfer that skill onto a different system. Similarly, with electronic calendars, which are used so that your colleagues can see your schedule too, managing and accessing them is important but they are not very different from each other.

  • Understanding how the internet works

The internet contains so much information it is actually hard to locate exactly what you need to know sometimes, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Without going into too much technical detail, employers want staff who understand how internet search engines work, what the difference is between email web-clients and email programmes and how the internet can be used as a professional and helpful work tool, not an exciting distraction.

  • Knowing how to stay safe online

Using the internet however, is fraught with issues and concerns that workplaces take very seriously, and employers often expect staff to have a basic understanding of how to stay safe online, and how to protect confidential information, even if they then offer official or informal training on top of that. Make sure you understand the risks with using the internet and how to treat electronic information and data with care and responsibility as employers want to be able to trust staff with the information they handle.

  • Can use documents and databases

Almost every role will require employees to be able to type on a keyboard and many will also require typed information to be presented into word documents as reports or notes which will require an understanding of how to create and save documents on computers or cloud based technology. In addition, employees may need to use databases frequently, to input or find information on and though these can differ wildly in design, they basic principles behind them can be similar. This varies across sectors however; different Relational Databases may be fairly similar, but they are different from Hierarchical Databases and Object-Orientated Databases for example.

  • Can adapt and learn new IT related products or procedures

One of the best transferable skills people can have is the ability to be flexible (which is further discussed in our Problem Solving and Time Management blogs) so demonstrating you can adapt and learn when new IT products or procedures are implemented is a fantastic quality. Even if you are not familiar with the new equipment or programme, employers prefer staff who are open-minded to learning something new and positive about its benefits.

  • Can use equipment such as printers and telephones

IT doesn’t just mean computers; printers, telephones, shredders, laminating machines and all sorts of other workplace equipment have had technology upgrades over the last decade so if you have been out of work for a while, or not come across these kinds of apparatus before, it might be difficult to learn how they all work and what they are used for. The first rule here is not to panic, just ask someone to show you how it works, or make a note of the make and model and look up how to use it on the internet!

  • Using emails for personal use

If you have a personal email account that you use then you probably have the basic functions for using work emails down, you just need to be aware that work based ones will often encompass, additional graphics, web-links, diary management, contacts and task lists too, as well as perhaps having more than one email account to manage and other people having access to all the information. The other difference is making sure you use professional language in your work emails and accept that there may be strict company rules on what you can use emails for.

  • Troubleshooting your own IT issues

If you have ever used technology, no doubt at some point it broke, and you were faced with finding someone who could help you fix it through taking it back to the shop, sending it off for repair, or you used your problem-solving skills to work out what the problem was and fix it. If you then find out it definitely needs to be sent off, then you do that, but your first port of call was to see if you could work out the issue yourself. This is a fantastic quality to have as employers want staff who understand that the printer has probably stopped working because it has run out of paper, and then change the paper themselves when they confirm it, not abandon the printer and hope someone else deals with it, or call IT support unnecessarily.

  • Teaching someone else how to use something

If you are comfortable enough with technology that you feel confident showing someone else how to use it then those situations can be used as slightly stronger examples for demonstrating your IT skills. Examples are always preferred when you can discuss not only how you use IT, but that you are capable of training others on how to use it too and this is because it shows that you are more than confident in your own abilities and might be a good team player which are fab qualities for an employee to have.

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to an information technology skills related question:

  • Don’t exaggerate your skills; if you are perfect for a job in every other aspect but maybe aren’t quite an advanced Excel user yet, don’t say that you are one and hope to “wing it”. Instead, be upfront and give examples of how you are capable of learning quickly and rising to challenges.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate your IT skills to the interview panel; if good typing skills are an essential part of the role, you may be given an assessment to demonstrate your level. Get in some practice on the IT skills mentioned in the job description before you go to the interview so you are more prepared and relaxed.
  • Mention any training you have had, whether it’s formal or informal, and how you have implemented it.
  • Think about the language you use carefully; if you are really good at IT, don’t talk down to your interview panel, over use technical jargon or talk derogatively about people who are not at the same level as you.
  • The internet is full of answers but a good place to start is by using the Which? Computing Helpdesk (you have to be a member but it is free) who can help with a variety of IT topics. If this is too much you could start by buying one of the “ For Dummies ” books which are fantastic at breaking complex information down into easy to understand parts and can help you from step one.
  • You can also read this list of basic IT skills you might need, and for which jobs by Career Tool Belt .

Do you have any nightmare information technology skills experiences or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on your Facebook or Twitter!

By Carol Johnson 07 Nov, 2017

Transferable skills refer to the strengths and attributes a candidate has, that are not role-specific but are valuable for the diverse ways they can be used across different roles, departments and industries. Transferable skills are also known as portable or soft skills and differ from, what are known as, hard skills, because soft skills can be developed outside of a professional environment and are just as valuable in one industry, as the next. Hard skills however, are more likely to be developed for the purpose of work and generally do not transfer well into other roles.

For example: a hard skill may be having specialist knowledge of wildlife photography but having excellent soft skills in communication with customers and staff would just as relevant in a retail store or restaurant as a photography studio. The photographer in this example, may have developed those excellent communication skills over a few years, different jobs or even a volunteering position.

Because of the fluid nature of transferable skills, it is possible to see that they are particularly helpful for candidates who do not have much work experience, or are switching careers. Graduates, especially, increasingly need to prove they are ready for work after university but face problems when they have a degree but no work experience. For someone who is switching from one career to the next, your valuable transferable skills might help you get your foot in the door if you can prove you are an asset, despite a lack of the specific hard skills required for the role.

Employers look for both hard skills and soft skills in a potential employee and a CV is the perfect starting point to demonstrate that you, as a candidate, are proficient in both types of skills. Most job descriptions will list the soft skills they employer would like to see so next it is just down to the candidate to prove they’ve got them.

Transferable skills really benefit from the STAR treatment (Situation, Task, Action and Result), as they demonstrate your skills best when you can explain a bit about the scenario in which you used the skills, but because they may not be exactly relevant to the role you’re applying to, explaining the results of your actions helps cement your skills.

In this blog series, we’re going to look at 7 of the most important transferable skills and provide some examples of how to get them, and how they can be used in different jobs.

  • Teamwork
  • Time Management and Organisation
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Problem Solving and Initiative
  • Customer Service
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership

Today we’ll be looking at….

Customer Service

This topic is a bit of an anomaly as customer service can definitely be considered a “hard skill” and something you only learn by being in specifically customer facing roles, however I’ve included it in this series because customer services skills can be transferred from one role to another, even if they are very different roles and this is often because the customer service goes alongside the main “hard skill” of the job role. For example; an airline Flight Attendant that is trained in both excellent customer service and managing their routine flight-related tasks, should be able to transfer those customer service skills across to working in a hardware store, as they will be expected to deliver excellent customer service still, but their knowledge will have to change to hardware products, instead of in-flight procedures.

For example, employers may want to know if you have skills in the following areas of customer service:

  • Attentiveness
  • Confidence
  • Complaint Handling
  • Friendliness
  • Product Knowledge

I’ve highlighted 5 key areas in my list but really, the number of different facets to customer service is extremely extensive, and to help, The Balance has created a list you can view here .

If you cannot think of when you did any of those at work, or you do not have much work experience, then have a think of when you have been on the receiving end of excellent customer service, or even demonstrated some in general. For example:

  • Being helped, or helping someone else
  • Getting or giving directions
  • Complaining or being complained to

How do these become good customer service skills examples?

Without customers, most business would not exist so although a business doesn’t necessarily need to dedicate a whole department to customer service, employers do want to know that their customers are being looked after and treated with respect by their employees. This goes beyond just greeting someone with a smile; it means really listening to customers and understanding the best ways to help in a variety of situations as a representative of the company. It can vary from working on a shop floor to discussing stock requirements with potential suppliers, in all situations you are dealing with customers who will form an opinion of the business, based on your customer service skills, and the management will always want it to be a good opinion.

What if you do not have any?

If you’ve never worked somewhere you have had to demonstrate customer service skills, you might not realise that you have used your customer service skills in your general day-to-day life. How do you handle difficult situations? How do you handle a complaint? Are you an optimistic and polite person? Answer this question:

If someone complained about a slice of cake you made for a village fete, would you…

a.      Smush it in their face and tell them to get over it

b.    Apologise and give them a free slice without question

c.      Ask them to explain what the problem is, then take appropriate action

The best customer service action is C. By asking the customer what the problem is, you can find out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again which a, provides a better service for future customers and b, means you can find out if it was actually something you did.

Let’s say in this situation, they misread the label and thought their chocolate cake was funny tasting and off-looking because it was actually carrot cake! In which case you can explain the problem, check the cakes are labelled correctly, apologise if they were wrong, swap the cake round and laugh about the situation with a customer who now has their chocolate cake.

We’ve already looked at some instances of when good customer service skills are used, let’s look at them in more detail.

  • Attentiveness

Don’t wait for a customer to come to you for help, or make yourself look busy hoping no customers bother you, being attentive means making yourself approachable and demonstrating that you are happy to drop everything and help them which you can do by asking customers if they would like help before they ask it. It involves reading body language, understanding your customers demographics and desires so you can anticipate their needs and that will lead to giving them a better experience.

  • Confidence

Confidence is not just about whether you can handle an aggressive complainer, but demonstrating you are sure about your abilities and product or service knowledge. Confidence comes across as very reassuring, so even if you don’t know an answer, as long as you know where to find it and have no trouble being up-front with the customer about that, they will be pleased with your service.

  • Friendliness

Regardless of the nature of your interaction with a customer, be it on the phone or face-to-face, making the customer feel welcome is very important as it makes the customer feel valued. Engaging positively with a customer by smiling, listening, speaking politely and making sure your body language matches what you’re saying, will enhance the customers experience and relationship with your company. Customers want to know that you care and are on their side regardless of outcome; naturally if you manage to give them the outcome they seek then all the better. Honesty and being sincere are also key; “have a nice day” is super when truly meant and customers can tell the difference when friendliness is forced.

  • Product Knowledge

Understanding the product or service you are representing or selling to customers is extremely important as it builds trust between you and the customer, and gives the impression that the company trains its employees well. Being able to help someone find something on a shop floor, or knowing where to find information quickly, gives the customer a much better experience than if the employee doesn’t know where/what anything is or where to find help. Even more important, is if you know your product or service well, when something has run out, you are able to recommend a good alternative straight away which will reinforce the customer’s impression of your training and how helpful the company is in general.

  • Complaint Handling

Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where a customer is unhappy with a product or service and they want you to do something about it. They might not be aggressive of course, complaints come in many shapes and sizes, but they can almost always be dealt with through fantastic customer service, using a combination of methodologies, confidence, friendliness, and product knowledge. A methodology is usually a diagram, chart or process that has some guidance for handling a complaint, in an easy to understand format. Look some up and find one that makes sense to you, and if you don’t have customer service experience to rely on in an interview, you can use the methodology to discuss how you would approach the situation.

  • Being helped, or helping someone else, getting or giving directions, complaining or being complained to

When you’ve asked for help in a shop or asked a stranger for directions, have you been impressed or disappointed with the service/answer you received; how would you do it differently? Have you ever overheard someone wish they knew where something was in a shop and you’ve explained where it was? How have you had your complaint handled, was it to your satisfaction? If you’ve been the person who has helped others in these situations, and if helping them made you feel good, customer service is right up your street.

Here are some key points on how to give the best answers to a customer service skills related question:

Try to use real examples, if you can’t, back up your answers with the method you would use

  • Describe your emotional attachment to providing good customer service; if helping people is what gets you up in the morning, tell them!
  • If you have had training, talk about it and give evidence that you use it
  • Mention any positive feedback you received from customers or colleagues
  • The best examples will include times you have demonstrated excellent customer service skills whilst under pressure or in a difficult situation.
  • Similarly, employers will want to know about times you went above and beyond the average level of service, to give a really fantastic service.

Do you have any nightmare communication and interpersonal skills examples or advice for a strong answer? We’d love to hear from you, leave comments below or share on Facebook or Twitter!

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