Beyond the Resume: How to Spot Transferable Skills Superstars

The resume of your dream candidate likely features years of related job experience, familiarity with the necessary software, and a healthy amount of job-specific buzzwords. But smart recruiters also keep an eye out for qualities known as transferable skills, which might not be found on a resume but are just as important in hiring the right talent.

Transferable skills are those that can be applied to a wide variety of jobs and can be acquired through learned experience, which might not necessarily occur on the job. Such skills might include problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability, and communication, among others. These skills are just as, if not more, important than the list of SEO-friendly keywords on a resume. But how do you find out whether a candidate can bring these types of skills to the workplace?

Keep reading to learn how to spot these valuable skills among a sea of resumes.

Identify the Transferable Skills You Want to Attract

Your first step is to identify which transferable skills are most applicable to your open positions. Review your job descriptions and pick out key terms that can be associated with transferable skills. For example, customer-facing workers should be excellent verbal communicators, while factory workers might need to excel at teamwork and multitasking

Go back to your job descriptions and consider adding a line or two explaining the importance of transferable skills and which of these skills apply to the specific position. Emphasize that even applicants without the technical or employment experience should apply. After all, technical skills can be taught, but transferable skills come with experience and time. 

Read between the (Resume) Lines

Applicants may not explicitly state that they are efficient in time management or multitasking, but there may be hidden meanings in their past experience.

For example, their stint as a restaurant host may have developed organizational and communication skills, or working as a store manager may translate into efficiency in leadership and teamwork. 

Often resumes are nothing more than a black-and-white summation of a person’s professional life, but digging a bit deeper will peel back the layers and reveal the skills that can’t always be conveyed on paper. 

Tailor Interview Questions to Experiences

As part of the application process, ask candidates to describe a situation in which they had to exhibit a transferable skill in the workplace, but make it specific.

See below for examples of these types of questions, plus the transferable skills demonstrated by the candidate’s responses.

  • “Describe a time you had a conflict with a coworker. How did you resolve it?”
  • Transferable skills: Problem solving, conflict resolution, communication
  • “How have you dealt with major changes in the workplace?”
  • Transferable skills: Resiliency, resourcefulness 
  • Give the candidate an example of a difficult situation in the workplace and ask them how they would handle it.
  • Transferable skill: Critical thinking

Other Ways to Glean Transferable Skills

Apart from mincing the resume and spending valuable time in in-person interviews, there are a few other ways to gauge whether a candidate has the necessary transferable skills for the role.

You can test their time management and multitasking skills by administering a test like the one offered by Harver, or get an idea of their critical thinking abilities and judgment through personality assessments and aptitude tests. 

If you’re looking for a team lead or manager, give them examples of scenarios they may face on any given day and ask how they would handle them. You might even bring candidates into the workplace for on-site role-playing to see how they fit in with the current environment. 

Hiring workers with transferable skills helps expand your talent pool and attract workers who may not have the exact experience the job requires, but whose off-the-resume abilities can bring new perspectives into the workplace.

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