Recruitment: Five employability skills and how to demonstrate that you have them

Grain Central October 26, 2020

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TO TRULY compete in today’s ag sector job market, candidates need more than a diploma or work history in the field. Employers are increasingly looking for the total package: candidates who have the education and training needed to understand the job, the experience to carry out the technical duties, and the employability skills to be successful.

Employability skills are sometimes called ‘soft’ skills. But exactly what are they?

The term refers to attributes that a person demonstrates that allow them to interact effectively with others in the workplace. These traits have often been attributed to success on the job, but as the competition for talent increases in the agriculture sector, demonstrating and highlighting these types of skills throughout the interview and recruitment process can be a way to differentiate yourself from other job candidates.

A full list of employability or ‘soft’ skill traits could easily run to a hundred items. For this week’s recruitment article, we will focus on just five critical skills employers are likely to seek in new hires:


Hands down this is a foundational skill that most employers would rank as the number one necessary soft skill in new recruits. Your ability to listen effectively and communicate appropriately and accurately with your manager and co-workers will have a tremendous impact on your career success.

You have several opportunities to demonstrate your communication skills to a potential employer.  The first may be at a careers event or other networking event. Being prepared by conducting research about the company before the gathering starts your verbal communication off on the right foot. Having some familiarity with what the business does and  general knowledge regarding the types of openings they have will allow you to ask more informed questions and be more relaxed in conversation.

Additionally, if you have mentally prepared and rehearsed your ‘elevator speech’ you won’t sell yourself short. nor be too long-winded. This will demonstrate that you are capable of filtering information and communicating important components in a concise and effective manner.

Problem solving/Decision making/Negotiation

Problems arise daily in any agricultural work environment, large and small, but each one has some impact on the successful of the business. As an employee, you must be able to identify the problem, take the appropriate action, negotiate the outcome and realise the consequences of those decisions.

Your job interview should give you ample opportunities to validate your problem-solving abilities.  Many employers will ask you some type of behavioural-based interview questions.  These are designed to highlight how you behaved in a situation (problem) to predict how you’ll perform when faced with similar situations on the job. “Tell me about a time…” or “Give me an example of…” are typical ways these questions start. This is your chance to quickly explain the problem you were faced with and how you took initiative, utilised your resources and got results.

As a new employee, you are still learning, but you can continue to demonstrate this skill to your employer by not only coming to your manager with a problem, but also your proposed solutions.  This not only shows respect for your manager’s time, but also your desire to make the right decision by working through a problem, developing solutions and asking for input. With time and positive reinforcement from management, you’ll quickly become comfortable executing on critical decisions.

Sense of urgency

Do you wait to be given a task or do you realise there is a problem and resolve to be a part of the solution? As one would imagine, meat & livestock industry employers are looking for go-getters, those who are willing to come in early, stay late, go the extra mile, ask how they can help, etc.  Employees who understand that the work they do is only a small part of a bigger picture, but of importance, is something valued by employers.

Early in the process, you can demonstrate that you encompass a sense of urgency by how quick you follow-up with an employer. Especially in today’s technological world, there are very few excuses for not returning an email or phone call in a timely manner.

When you reach the interview stage, make sure you research the business and come prepared with a list of great questions. Establish next steps in the process before wrapping up your interview.  Taking the initiative to drive the process shows that the job opportunity and company are important to you.


Professionalism is a pretty broad skill that includes everything from the way you dress, your vocabulary, your reaction to workplace situations, and more. Professionalism can mean hitting your internal mute button when tempted to share your opinions in situations where you don’t have all of the information or when things are changing quickly in the workplace.

Additionally, professionalism is about how you develop relationships in the business setting such as understanding the line between personal and professional interactions with peers and your manager.  As well, being conscientious of sensitive information that you’ve been entrusted with and not divulging that information in inappropriate settings.

Your physical and verbal reaction to constructive criticism and how you apply that feedback impacts professionalism. These are all important traits to demonstrate professionalism once you have a job but you can also use examples as part of the job-seeking process.

Another scenario where professionalism can be demonstrated is during the interview itself. Beyond the importance of the basics, how you treat each person you encounter will say a lot about your character and professional competence. It isn’t uncommon for the receptionist to be asked their opinion of a potential candidate. As the saying goes ‘treat the gardener with the same respect as the CEO.’

Life-long learning

To remain competitive, businesses must evolve; from developing new practices to finding ways to solve new and old problems. Regardless of its size, for any agribusiness to progress, its employees need to continue to grow as well. Those who are committed to continual learning are typically the first to receive projects, career growth opportunities, salary increases, promotions, or additional job offers.

Life-long learning can easily be achieved just by reading.  ‘Readers are leaders’ is a phrase often heard. There are thousands of professional development books available to help you grow as a young professional, regardless of whether you are working in a feedlot, meat processing plant or cattle enterprise.

Employability skills are often a determining factor for success in the workplace and as young professionals, it can be hard to understand the importance these skills play for employers.  Demonstrating that you have these skills and focusing on them during the interview process, along with your technical expertise, will help set you apart from the competition.






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