What you offer

Core competencies

Core competencies are the basic building blocks common across most occupations and industries. They describe a set of non-specialist skills gained in early life and schooling and provide a base to further develop skills and specialties. Popular terms for these include ‘foundation skills’, ‘common skills’, ‘soft skills’, ‘core skills’ and ‘employability skills’.

Employers often place a high value on these as they want someone who will be a good fit for their business. While you can gain these skills through work experience, they are not job-specific, cover a range of personal qualities and skills, and transfer across different occupations and industries.

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Box infographic displaying the following text. Teamwork. Initiative and innovation. Digital literacy. Reading. Writing. Planning and organising. Oral communication. Problem solving. Learning. Numeracy.
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Box infographic with the following text. 21st century skills. Creativity, presenting skills, critical thinking, financial literacy.

Research by the NSC highlights the importance of these skills, showing that three quarters of employers consider personal qualities at least as important as, if not more than, technical skills.

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Pie chart. 25% of employers say technical skills are more important. 38% of employers say personal qualities are more important. 37% of employers say they are equally important.

Even though all employers are unique and place emphasis on different attributes, they will typically not compromise on employability skills specific to their job requirements. Feedback from employers shows that they can teach someone to use a machine, for example, but they cannot teach someone to be reliable or have good communications skills.

You need an excellent résumé and job application

Your résumé and application are often your first chance to market yourself to potential employers.

To improve your chances of reaching the next stage in the recruitment process, your application will need to stand out.

How do you do this?

  • Research the business and job. This will help you tailor your application and show your interest in the position.
  • Ring the employer and ask questions about the job and the business. This will help you understand the position and also demonstrates your enthusiasm and means the employer may remember you and look out for your application.
  • Be succinct. Your application and résumé should be around 1-2 pages each.
  • If possible, include examples from your current job, work history or extracurricular activities and explain how these directly relate to the position on offer.
  • Double and triple-check that there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your application.

Tailor your application to each job

Every job and business is different, so write your application specifically for each job. Do not fall into the trap of using generic applications: imagine what an employer would think if they receive an application suited to a role as a sales representative when their position is for an apprentice refrigeration mechanic.

Employers want the right match for their business and showing that you have read the job description carefully and researched their organisation will help set you apart from other candidates.

More advice on writing résumés and job applications can be found at jobsearch.gov.au.

Digital job applications

Applying for a job has changed – the COVID-19 pandemic has seen employers and businesses implement new technologies in their recruitment practices. Video interviews have become the norm and, with flexible working arrangements, you can apply for jobs outside of your immediate location.

Here are some tips that may help you land a job online:

  • make sure you read all instructions carefully, so you don’t miss any steps
  • check that all information and responses for online applications are well thought out and don’t have any spelling or grammatical mistakes
  • make your résumé software friendly by using a simple format and clearly addressing any selection criteria
  • some employers will do an online search for your name or look at your social media profile, so ensure your digital presence is appropriate
  • be prepared for video interviews – know where to find a good internet connection and professional backdrop and make the most of the time available for each question. Also dress professionally – a good rule is to dress as you would for an interview in-person.

Sources: National Skills Commission, Australian Skills Classification; National Skills Commission, Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences, 2019.