What Skills Have You Got To Offer?

Preparing to answer that classic interview question

interview questions

‘So what skills have you got to offer us?’

This is a classic interview question which I am sure many of you will have encountered before.  It touches on an issue that lies at the heart of career change too.

Doing some kind of skills analysis is an exercise I regularly use when working with clients on career change.  It is something that clients seem to expect too – they expect that any new career ideas will need to be based on the skills they have already developed at work.

This might seem like a simple exercise – if you have been working for a while, you surely know what you are good at, don’t you?  So you just need to sit down and make a list…


This can sometimes work, but usually if you ask anyone what their skills are they will look bashful and may come up with one or two ideas, but very quickly, the flow dries up and they are left feeling depressed with the disappointingly short list they have come up with.

The reality is that most people are not as self aware as they might think.  In many cases, perhaps more so for women than men, we are encouraged to be modest about our skills and strengths.  Stating clearly that you are good at something, is seen as a bit boastful and so we tend to avoid it.

But at the end of the day, you do need to develop a keen awareness of the skills you have to offer because there is no point in exploring new career ideas that do not marry up with at least some of the skills you have and enjoy using.

So how do you tackle the skills question?

Different strategies work for different people.  Take a look at these to get you started.

Brainstorming

Take each job you have done and brainstorm all the different things you did in that job.  Just try to get as comprehensive a list as you possibly can without judging whether you did them well or not.  Include the little informal things like being supportive to colleagues as well as the core responsibilities in your job.  Then alongside the activities, make a list of the skills you were using as you did each task.

Skills outside work


Take this exercise a step further and apply the same process to what you do outside of work.  This includes hobbies, socialising, clubs, community work etc.  You develop important skills outside of the workplace that can be transferred into working situations.  This is a vital step in helping you to free your mindset from the idea that your new career must be directly connected with your work so far.

Skills lists

Sometimes just looking at a list of skills can provide a useful prompt.  Take a look at the list on the How To Change Careers website and rate yourself according to how competent you are at the skills listed and also how much you enjoy using them.

If you are struggling to rate your skill level, stop to think about the occasions when you have used that skill and ask yourself, if you stopped someone in the street and asked them how much experience of this they had got, would they be likely to have more or less that you?  The answer is usually much less – and this will help you acknowledge the true level of your skills and strengths to yourself.

Ask for feedback

Ask other people for their feedback.  Choose a couple of people from work and a couple who know you well socially.  Select people who you trust and whose answer you will respect.  Simply ask them to come up with a list of the top 3 or 4 skills or strengths they can see in you.  Give them a few days to reflect on the matter so you get a considered response.

You will be pleasantly surprised to hear about the positive things that others identify.  This kind of feedback is worth hanging on to, so when you are feeling negative, you can refer back to it and remember that others see you in a positive light


Try some or all of these approaches to build up a comprehensive picture of your skills and strengths.  Keep focused on these and make sure you don’t get sucked into worrying about the skills you haven’t got!

If you are serious about your career change, make sure that you set up a Career Change Project File to store your ideas in.  Use this folder to keep notes about what you have discovered about your skills.  This understanding can then be used alongside all the other research you do as you plan your career change to help you to identify the best options to explore in more detail.

What do you think?

  • Which skills analysis exercise appeals to you the most and why?
  • Having done it, what skills have you unearthed that you have not given yourself credit for in the past?
  • What evidence or examples will you use if you are faced with the ‘So what skills have you got to offer us?’ question at interview?

The 5 Minute Career Coach March 2015

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About the author

Amy Thomas

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