How to talk about your skills in an interview

October 4, 2020
By Sarah Blunt

When it comes to interviews, there’s one thing an employer always wants to know - that you’ve got the skills they’re looking for. But what can you do if you struggle talking about your skills in an interview or worry about coming across as too boastful? In this post I'll share 5 steps to help you talk confidently about your skills in an interview, so you can impress your interviewers and get that job offer.

Step 1: Know what skills you have to offer

Before you start thinking how you're going to talk about your skills in an interview, be clear what skills you’ve got to offer. A great way to do this is by completing a skills audit. This is a simple questionnaire that you fill in by reflecting on your past experience. It can be a really helpful tool for mapping your skills, and identifying those you need to work on. It should also give you a confidence boost as it will help you realise how many skills you've got to offer!

Step 2: Find out what skills the employer wants

It's no good talking about skills in an interview unless they're relevant for the role you're applying for. The employer should have listed the skills they want from you in the job advert or person specification (this is often found in the job description). If you can't find this, you'll have to use your judgement by thinking about the main tasks required in the role. For example, if you're applying for a desk-based job, chances are you'll be needing organisation and IT skills.

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Step 3: Prepare examples

The biggest mistake people make when talking about skills in an interview is stating their skills and not giving examples. Examples are just situations from your past experience that evidence each skill in action. Having examples will back up your claims and act as evidence, giving the employer reassurance that you really do have the skills they need.

So how do you decide which examples to use when talking about your skills in an interview? It's actually pretty simple. Reflect on your past experience and think of times/situations when you've drawn on or used each skill. Ideally, these examples will be recent (in the last 2-3 years) and if they're from relevant roles/environments, even better. Use the STAR technique to structure each example and you’ll be really set to impress when evidencing your skills in an interview.

Step 4: Listen to the question

Now you've got your examples at the ready, let's turn our attention to the actual interview day. One of the most common types of interview questions focuses on skills. They're called competency or behaviour-based questions and often start with 'Tell me about a time when...' or 'Give an example where...' These invite you to give a specific example to evidence a particular skill. These will help you decide which skills in an interview to cover. Here are a few examples with the skill each is testing in brackets:

  • Tell me about a time you had to change your approach to a task at the last-minute… (ADAPTABILITY)
  • Give me and example of a time when you worked in a team and disagreed about a course of action… (TEAM-WORK)
  • Can you think of an example when you used your relationship-building skills successfully? (RELATIONSHIP BUILDING)

Want more tips on how to answer these interview questions? Check out my blog post How to answer competency-based interview questions.

Step 5: Explain your actions

When it comes to talking about your skills in an interview, there's one technique I always recommend to my clients - to explain your actions within each example. For instance, if you want to evidence your teamwork skills and refer to an example when you motivated a new team within your organisation, make sure you explain why you took the steps or actions you did. This will show your confidence in your approach and also help the employer see your expertise in that particular skill.

Want to nail your next interview? Get valuable feedback on your interview technique and actionable tips on how to improve before the real thing with my interview coaching service.