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Presenting your skills when applying for jobs

Strong job applications match your own skills, experience and qualities to those relevant to the job. There’s a process on how to do this.

After taking yourself through this process you’ll be ready to tell employers about your relevant skills in a job application form, CV (curriculum vitae) and covering letter.

If you need support in identifying your core skills, take a look at the plan your career section on our website.

Matching yourself to the requirements of the job

Once you've analysed a job advertisement, and decided to make an application, it’s time to dig down into the detail.

Most employers will provide more detailed guidance to support an application such as a detailed job description and a person specification which outlines the key skills, experience, qualifications and qualities they’re looking for. Within the job description and person specification criteria are usually flagged ‘essential' or 'desirable'. Aim to cover all 'essential' requirements and as many 'desirable' requirements as possible.

Articulating your skills and experience to meet the person specification

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the section of an application form often headed ‘How do your skills and experience meet the criteria in the person specification?' or ‘Further information to support your application’. We’ve provided a process that will help you to make a start. If you’re using a CV instead of completing an application form, you can use this process to guide you when putting together a covering letter that accompanies your CV.

Here's an example of how to match your experience with the key requirements for a job. In this example, the key requirements from the person specification are listed and the applicant has provided evidence of what they have to offer the employer.

Example of how to match your experience with the key requirements for a job vacancy as a fundraiser for Scottish Wildlife Preservation Society
Key experience requirements My evidence


e.g. Treasurer of Residents’ Association:

  • Draw up budget bids or plans within agreed guidelines and procedures for submission to internal and external bodies.
  • Responsible for assessing potential expenditure in terms of value for money and taking appropriate action to ensure this is achieved.

Keyboard skills

  • Self-taught packages in order to produce a dissertation for my degree.
  • Worked in Windows-based environment for numerous holiday jobs – secretarial role.

Marketing knowledge

  • Temporary job (with full induction and training) over two summer holidays as a market research interviewer.
  • Marketing module completed as part of my degree studies (12 months) – identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.

Ability to work on own

e.g. From recent employment, current part-time study:

  • As a part-time student I have worked within a 32 week study calendar and managed a weekly workload of reading, assignments, tutorials and revision alongside a part-time job and voluntary work.
  • I have worked unsupervised as a treasurer for a local Residents Association for two years and have always met deadlines for reports.

Interest in wildlife

e.g. Active member of RSPB:

  • I have organised several meetings between the RSPB and the local branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England to look at the decline of the blue tit in Cheshire and preventive measures.
  • I am a regional fundraiser for BTCV and the PDSA.
  • I work alternate Sundays at the local animal hospital as a volunteer.
  • I am an avid reader and subscriber of The Warbler and make regular contributions to this national magazine.

Presentation skills

  • I have used PowerPoint to present information on the decline of local bird populations to a community group and to councillors.
  • I have also organised and facilitated presentations to local schools and governors using a variety of media.

Think about a variety of sources to draw examples/evidence from including your Open University (OU) studies, your work history, your role within family life and your personal interests.

Be a STAR: presenting examples to back up your skills

You might be expected to answer some competency-based questions asking you to talk about a skill or personality trait and a time when you've used it. For example, you could be asked to "describe a time when you've successfully used communication skills" or "provide an example of a situation when you dealt with conflict in your team."

Employers ask competency-based questions to see if you’ve got the skills and traits to succeed in the role. If you can prove that you’ve used a skill in the past then you will be able to use it again in the future.

Frame your answers and examples using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) which keeps your responses concise and well structured. This is also useful preparation for a job interview.

Think of an example you want to use, then apply the STAR technique …

  • Situation - Set the scene. Describe the situation or problem. Make it relevant to the person specification.
  • Task - Outline the task required to solve the issue or problem.
  • Action - Explain what you actually did. How and when you did it, the reasons for the choices you made and the key things that you did to overcome the issue or problem.
  • Result - Describe the outcome and the difference it made.

Take a look at our understanding job adverts page for more info on tailoring your application to match the job requirements.

What next?

Once you have drafted an application, read it. Then read it again with a critical eye in a similar way as you might approach a study assignment. Consider the following checklist:

  • How does the text 'flow'?
  • Is everything relevant to the person specification?
  • Does the text sound like you?
  • Don't forget the finer details.

Start by reading it out loud. Think about the style. Keep sentences or bullet points concise, avoid repetition, take out anything that doesn't show you meet the person specification. Ask a friend or family member to read it through to check they recognise this as being about you. You may be able to adjust the style to make sure it reflects your personality. Correct spelling and grammar; they show an eye for detail and the ability to communicate well. If these are areas you struggle with, enlist the help of someone who can check through of the whole application for you.

Last updated 8 months ago