Career and Employment Service - Skills, strengths and using action words

Use the resources found here to explore some of the skills and strengths commonly sought by employers.  You'll see that they include information on defining these skills and on using the action words that employers prefer.

Transferable Skills (283 KB) Transferable Skills (147 KB)
Defining Your Skills (222 KB) Defining Your Skills (51 KB)
Action Words (225 KB) Action Words (182 KB)

Defining commonly-sought skills


Good communication is the key to being successful and satisfied in many situations: work, personal, social. At work, communication skills are most commonly shown in your ability to use and understand language, whether spoken or on paper. You need a good command of language to get your ideas, opinions and feelings across clearly. Listening carefully is a fundamental communication skill, as is the ability and confidence to ask questions when you need to understand something or get information form someone. Competence in a language other than English also counts as a communication skill.


Interpersonal skills are the ones you used most in dealing with others and then can take many forms in the work environment. They may involve making contact with new people, motivating others, negotiating, reasoning abilities, supervising, teaching skills, explaining, listening, directing, accepting direction, advising, sharing, resolving conflict, making unpopular decisions, and just getting on with all sorts of people. Interpersonal skills are closely linked to communication skills.

Customer service

Your understanding and experience of service protocols, knowledge and aptitude for sales.  In delivering good customer service you will show a detailed knowledge of the product or service that you are assisting clients with.  Furthermore, you will need to be approachable; empathetic; good at giving and extracting relevant information; listening; dealing with conflict and at acting as an ambassador for your employer.  Additional customer service skills and attributes could include resilience; self-motivation; an orientation towards quality; accurate record keeping; an interest in people; cross-cultural sensitivity and lateral thinking.    


This can include your capacity for working with others effectively; your ability to co-operate; strengths in handling conflict and in assuming different roles as required and flexibility and adaptability.  As a good team worker you may well be able to keep teams to task; have an aptitude for leadership; be skilled in recognising the strengths of other team members; be competent in encouraging others to contribute and have the ability to work with people who have different backgrounds, personalities and experiences to your own. 

Analytical skills

Your ability to identify and critique problems, recognise underlying principles, define parameters, and construct strategies and solutions.


Leading people is not about telling people what to do. It means making people want to, be willing to, do something. Any job which involves directing a team, managing a project, supervising people or teaching a skill is essentially about leadership. Your first job is not likely to involve these tasks but employers will be looking for evidence of leadership potential. Respect for others, sensitivity to honest reactions, sharing information and ideas, showing genuine concern, being willing to take risks and show initiative, having a sense of vision as well as proportion, communicating clearly about objectives are all components of good leadership. Sometimes it involves making personal sacrifices or showing you’re willing to if necessary.

Research capability

Your capacity to identify and use information sources; investigate design experiments, test data and report findings.


Do you make decisions easily and then follow through with them? Do you get things done without waiting to be asked? Employers sometimes set the term "self-starter" or "self-motivated" to describe these qualities. Another word is "enterprising". It means they expect you to be resourceful and use your own disciple and energy to achieve projects or tasks. It may also mean that you will be expected to take the lead in situations.

Creativity & innovation

Creativity and imagination relate to intelligence and are considered extremely valuable attributes in the work environment. They are also hard to define; Imagination in a work context is about seeing new ways of doing a job, "thinking outside of the square", solving problems or organising work that doesn’t merely follow set practices. Creativity does not mean only artistic talent. It means a way of thinking constructively and being inventive, as well as following up with practical suggestions. It means asking yourself, "Is there a better way of doing this?" Exhibiting an interest in finding better ways of doing things will show your employer that you have imagination and creativity which may result in being asked to participate in projects.


This is connected to imagination and creativity. It concerns openness to new ideas and changing circumstances, a willingness to adapt and make the best of opportunities presented by change rather than automatically resisting it. Your personal circumstances and commitments may determine whether more or less flexibility is possible in your career and at different times in your life.

Personal qualities - some definitions

  • Motivation - your drive and ambition, maintenance of interest, willingness to learn and desire to contribute.
  • Persistence - your capacity to persevere, to overcome rejection, obstacles and problems; ability to complete tasks and deliver solutions on time.
  • Maturity - the extent to which you exercise good judgement; your ability to adapt to challenge and change; your capacity for appropriate discretion.
  • Enthusiasm - your energy levels; readiness to co-operate and take on extra work; attitude to new solutions and tasks.
  • Ethics - ability to understand and abide by vocational conventions, rules and regulations; understanding of societal norms and standards.

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