3 skills you’re undervaluing in your job application

3 skills you’re undervaluing in your job application
SEEK content teamupdated on 30 March, 2022

You might be surprised to learn that the skills you think really matter during your job search aren’t necessarily the skills that employers are looking for.

SEEK asked job seekers which skills they thought were most important to be successful, and also asked employers which skills they valued the most.

The research found that these three skills are more valued by employers:

  • Teamwork and collaboration was valued by 32% of employers, compared to 21% of job seekers.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving was valued by 28% of employers vs 19% of job seekers.
  • Attention to detail/thoroughness is important to 27% of employers, but didn’t feature in job seekers’ top 5 skills at all.

As well as these three skills, employers also valued communication skills and self-motivation/initiative.

What this research shows is that there are skills employers care about, but that job seekers might downplay when they apply for a job. Highlighting these skills, then, may help you stand out if you’re going for a role.

Kirsty Ferguson from Interview Chix explains how to highlight each of these top three skills in your application – and how to demonstrate them on the job.

Teamwork and collaboration

A third of employers value teamwork and collaboration, compared to only a fifth of candidates. It’s highly valued by employers because it enables a team to work together towards a common goal, Ferguson says.

“Everything is about relationships, and relationships come down to communication. How you interact with your team, your clients and your management is critical to any business’ success.”

How to show you have this skill

In your job application: Ferguson says to give examples of your interactions with others and how you worked together to achieve successful outcomes. “Show how you work, think, communicate, problem solve and manage different personalities,” she says.

“An employer is hiring you for how you work. By the time you get to an interview, they already know that you have the qualifications and experience to do the job, otherwise you wouldn't be there.”

At work: Share the limelight with others and acknowledge others’ input, Ferguson says. “Actively bring others into the meeting or conversation. If someone is not as natural at participating, use your human skills and bring them in.

“Bring people with you; inspire rather than tell, support rather than criticise. If you disagree with someone, recognise and acknowledge their input first – this keeps the lines of communication open.”

Critical thinking and problem solving

Employers value critical thinking and problem-solving skills because they show you’re able to analyse, innovate, create and find solutions when issues or challenges that arise.

“How you respond to challenges or change says a lot about how you will contribute to an organisation,” Ferguson says.

How to show you have this skill

In your job application: Include short examples or brief project summaries in your resume or cover letter. “They are powerful, factual ways of showing what you can achieve for the hirer. Explain the specific outcomes or results you achieved and talk through any problems you overcame, as these do all the heavy lifting for you.”

At work: You can lead in any role at any time, Ferguson says. Meetings are an excellent setting to showcase your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Ferguson suggests trying out these guiding rules in meetings:

  • I will arrive with at least one or two ideas
  • I might play devil’s advocate to mix up the problem solving
  • I will be open to strange or new ideas
  • I won’t focus on being right, but will focus on the mutual goal
  • I will listen
  • I’ll join in where I can – I won’t be passive
  • I’m not afraid to look silly, so I’ll ask questions.

These approaches help demonstrate that you’re willing to challenge existing ideas and find solutions to problems you or your team face.

Attention to detail or thoroughness

Following through on everything you do with attention to detail shows employers your potential to grow with a business and impact everything you touch positively, Ferguson says.

“Do you do what is just enough to get by, or do you think beyond that?” she asks.

How to show you have this skill

In your job application: It’s important to demonstrate this skill from the beginning by ensuring you have a strong resume and cover letter. Make sure both are formatted correctly and aren’t more than the required length. Check the spelling and grammar, and get it proof-read by someone else – it’s hard to check something that you wrote yourself.

Another tip is to add referee email addresses, because many reference check processes are automated and instead of calling referees, they will automatically email them. Anything you can do that both demostrates a skill and saves the hiring team time is a positive thing.

At an interview: It might sound obvious, but preparation really is key. Because winging it rarely works, and if you assume anything, it may trip you up. “You cannot prepare too much,” Ferguson says.

Research the business, the people, the contracts, clients and competitors, and observe how the role you’re applying for impacts the rest of the business. You might use this information to help you ask questions in the interview, or respond in a way that shows you’ve done research. This helps to show your interest in the role, and your thoroughness when preparing.

At work: When you’re about to take on a new or important task, Ferguson recommends asking yourself: ‘Have I considered how my actions will impact the team, the customer, the way we do things, the bottom line or the company values’?

“This sort of follow-through shows employers that you won’t miss anything and you can be trusted.”

Whether you’re applying for a new role or want to make progress at work, it can be helpful to try and see things from an employer’s point of view. Keep in mind these three skill areas – teamwork and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, and attention to detail.

These are things that employers value, so demonstrating that you’re skilled in these areas can help you make a great impression and stand out for your skills.

You've got more skills than you know. Discover your hidden talents today and put your skills to work.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published June 2021.

Read more:

Browse top search terms

Did you know many candidates preparing a resume also research their industry by exploring top search terms?
Select an industry to uncover the top search terms
Did you find this helpful?

Explore related topics

Choose an area of interest to browse related careers.

Subscribe to Career Advice

Get expert career advice delivered to your inbox.
You can cancel emails at any time. By clicking ‘subscribe’ you agree to SEEK’s Privacy Statement.