How to Highlight Transferrable Skills

Have you ever read through a job description for a really exciting role and then thought to yourself, “I don’t meet all of the qualifications listed, so why bother applying?”


That initial excitement might be followed by feelings of disappointment and discouragement; fret not, dear readers, because by highlighting your transferrable skills, you can often market yourself as a candidate who is actually highly qualified for the role, even though you don’t “check all of the boxes.”


Keep these things in mind:

  • Employers write job descriptions with the PERFECT candidate in mind. In reality, the perfect candidate does not exist! #StopTheUnicornSearch!

  • If you meet 70-80% of the listed requirements, you could (and should!) still be considered a great fit.

  • Since most companies fill open roles via networking, having a trusted colleague vouch for you often carries more weight than meeting a list of qualifications.

Laying Some Groundwork

Part of creating a comprehensive job search strategy involves taking inventory of your skills. It helps to begin with conducting what we at ReFresh Your Step call a theoretical job search.


In a theoretical job search, you will identify targeted positions based on your desired role and industry, without regard to location or other logistical constraints. During this step, you will begin to understand the main skills that your targeted roles require. To stay organized, make a list of these skills and order them by importance so that you begin to visualize the most essential skills to emphasize throughout your job search.


To ensure that you effectively market these abilities during your job search, add to your list by including an example of a time when you have demonstrated each of the tops skills you identify. For instance, you used your communication skills to create an effective presentation that helped you to finalize an important sale. Or maybe you leveraged your problem-solving skills to pivot to a virtual fundraising model as a committee chairperson in your local parent – teacher organization.


You can feature these examples as bullet points on your resume, brief anecdotes to convey on your LinkedIn profile, or stories to tell during an interview. Don’t forget to frame these as wins and not just responsibilities – it is less about what you did and more about how well you have done it!



Identifying Common Transferrable Skills

Regardless of your career experience to date, you have likely developed transferrable skills that employers in any industry view as essential. Here are some examples, as well as resume bullet points:

  • Teamwork: “Collaborated with cross-functional team to review departmental policies. Restructured 15 outdated policies to achieve compliance with new regulations.”

  • Critical Thinking: “Developed interactive virtual webinar series with 6 individual modules to reach potential clients during COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • Leadership: “Managed staff of 3 interns, including onboarding and training. Facilitated weekly individual check-ins to support professional development and learning.”



Speaking to Skills / Experience You May Not Have

At times, you will identify skills that do not fit neatly into any of your previous job descriptions. Here, you will need to step out of black and white thinking and get creative.


For example, maybe you are targeting managerial level roles, but you have not yet held an official leadership position in your organization. You may have led projects that included a group of contributors, a targeted set of objectives, and firm deadlines. This “dotted line experience" still counts as management and should absolutely earn prominent placement on your resume.


Inevitably, if you plan to switch industries or careers, you will come across technical or subject matter skills that you have not yet had the opportunity to learn. In this case, do some research to assess your options for learning these skills.


Thankfully, in this age of digital and virtual learning, several opportunities exist to help you fill skill gaps without having to commit to a full degree or certificate program (although sometimes this may be your best option). Check out LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Udemy, or your favorite college or university for online course options. Your local library can also serve as a great resource for free or low-cost books, workshops, and other programs.


While you may not want to commit to these programs before you accept a new role, taking a quick tutorial on the skill / platform can give you basic working knowledge to point to in an interview and bonus points, you demonstrate your willingness to jump into action and take initiative when it comes to work / professional growth. Once you have a basic understanding of that skill or platform, you can add it to your resume and LinkedIn. Just keep in mind that anything on those documents are fair play for questions so be sure that you can truly speak to the basics!


At ReFresh Your Step, our career advisors and resume writers can partner with you as you discover the most important transferrable skills to highlight as you reach for your next career goal. We’ll help you to create a strategy that markets these valuable abilities and prepares you with the confidence you need to land your dream role.


So next time you see a role and think you are not qualified, think again – differently.

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