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Career Development Tips

Special Skills: Definition and Examples

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

Why do interviewers ask about your special skills?Examples of special skillsHow to improve special skillsWays to apply special skills in the workplaceHow to highlight your special skills

Guide Overview

Talking about your strengths

Interviews give you an opportunity to interact with an employer and address the reasons you are a qualified candidate. During the interview process, employers will typically ask you to discuss your strengths and special skills you possess that make you fit for a job. Although some people shy away from boasting about themselves, detailing your abilities confidently can differentiate you from other candidates. 

Highlight your strengths during an interview through professional behavior and with a thoughtful answer that reveals self reflection and regulation. Learn why interviewers ask about special skills, see examples of special skills with tips to develop them, understand how they apply in a workplace setting, and review ways to highlight your special skills during the application process and in an interview. 

Why do interviewers ask about your special skills?

Special skills are the traits and abilities you possess that make you particularly qualified for a position. Interviewers ask about your best skills because they want to gauge how you can contribute to their company’s success. Your answer can help them understand how you view your role and ways you will apply your skills to advance the organization. Your particular set of traits distinguishes you from the competition, and the manner in which you address this topic can prove why you are a viable candidate.

Examples of special skills

Identify your greatest strengths that pertain to the position you are interviewing for and consider ways to explain how they relate to the responsibilities of the role. Refer to previous performance reviews or any written evaluations you have received to support your efforts. You can also ask for input from friends, coworkers, or family to help you develop a comprehensive list of your own. The list below has examples of special skills organized by category.

Verbal communication skills

Verbal communication skills are the basis for how you relate to others and convey your feelings and ideas. Strong verbal communication skills include both your message delivery and your receptiveness with other. Those with strong verbal communication skills have a firm command of:

  • Word choice or diction.
  • Tone.
  • Volume.
  • Focus.
  • Objectivity.
  • Varying questions.
  • Paraphrasing.
  • Verbalizing empathy.
  • Active listening skills.

Non-verbal communication skills

Non-verbal communication skills are the supplemental strategies you use, sometimes subconsciously, to indicate your attitude and emotions or to support your verbal assertions. Non-verbal methods of communication are the way you present yourself to the world and don’t require writing or verbalization. Examples of non-verbal skills are:

  • Eye contact.
  • Posture.
  • Gestures.
  • Mirroring.
  • Facial expressions.
  • Body language.
  • Respect for space.
  • Intonation.

Soft skills

Soft skills, also referred to as interpersonal skills, are the individual characteristics and qualities that guide your interaction with other people and your approach to work. Here are some soft skills that you might include as a special skill when applying.

  • Adaptability.
  • Flexibility.
  • Negotiation.
  • Timeliness.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Resourcefulness.
  • Organization.
  • Growth mindset.
  • Conflict management.
  • Decisiveness.
  • Driven.
  • Optimistic.
  • Patient.
  • Respectful.
  • Confident.
  • Cooperative.
  • Trustworthy.
  • Self aware.
  • Reflective.
  • Industrious.
  • Persuasive.
  • Attentive.
  • Dedication.
  • Resilient.
  • Stress management.
  • Assertive.
  • Approachable.
  • Constructive.
  • Independent.
  • Tolerant.

Hard skills

Hard skills are technical or subject specific skills and abilities you have learned through a technical or formal education and job experience. They are often industry or job specific and may require certifications. The following examples of industry-specific skills require professionals to be versed in:

  • Data analysis.
  • Computer software.
  • HTML coding.
  • Pivot tables.
  • Pipe installation.
  • Bilingual or multilingual.
  • Analytics.
  • Digital communication.
  • Resource management.
  • Data engineering.
  • Blackboard.
  • Canvas.
  • Learning management systems.
  • Content management systems.
  • Data management systems.
  • Versed in project management software.
  • Networking communication.
  • Cloud applications.
  • Android development.
  • Software revision control systems.
  • Angular apps.
  • Node apps.
  • Copywriting.
  • Search engine optimization.
  • Search engine marketing.
  • User interface (UI) design.
  • User experience (UX) design.
  • Professional writing.
  • Cryptography.
  • Risk assessment.
  • Classroom management.
  • Lesson planning.
  • Logistics.
  • Editing.
  • Wound care.
  • Starting IVs.
  • Recording vital signs.
  • Modeling.
  • Modification.
  • Needs analysis.
  • Sonography.
  • Benchmarking.
  • Research.
  • Audio production.
  • Social media management.
  • Accounting.

Leadership skills

Leadership skills are abilities that effective leaders and managers use and hone to help them successfully guide teams and coworkers to complete goals and meet deadlines. Although some may be transferable skills, these learned abilities that can improve on through modeling and practice. Examples of leadership special skills are:

  • Confidence.
  • Integrity.
  • Humility.
  • Courage.
  • Accountability.
  • Consistency.
  • Equity.
  • Forward-thinking.
  • Principled.
  • Influential.
  • Daring.
  • Emphatic.

Learn more: Top Leadership Skills to Grow Your Career

How to improve special skills

You might have a skill that you are strong in and want to advance or still need to refine. There are methods available to advance your abilities and affect your job productivity. The following tips can help you advance your special skills:

Self-reflect.

Begin by determining where there is room for improvement. You may still be strong in the special skill, but would like to gain expertise. Determine your own strengths and what you enjoy doing. Evaluate the hobbies and interests you spend your free time on and identify what skills or knowledge would improve your ability to take part in these hobbies and positively affect your work.

Visit the library.

The local library is a resource that can offer support for you to advance your skills. Some libraries host volunteer programs you can participate in or provide courses you can enroll in for a nominal fee. Reading can also help you expand your knowledge and further develop your problem-solving and critical thinking abilities. Practice setting a goal to read consistently and improve your vocabulary.

Enroll in a course.

There are various courses available online and in-person to develop your skills. Several universities and reputable organizations offer professional development opportunities for professionals in differing industries.

Refer to online resources.

There are informative blogs, video series, and downloadable resources written by experts to advance your knowledge. Many offer this information and guidance free to support others.

Look for another perspective.

Seek information from friends, family, colleagues, and supervisors on ways you can improve your productivity and advance your skills. A new perspective can offer greater insight into your abilities. You can also refer to previous performance evaluations and written reviews from work for guidance.

Be observant.

Notice the behaviors and qualities in others that you find effective. Identify the methods they use that are efficient and mirror those actions and qualities consistently until they become standard practices.

Find a mentor.

A mentor can offer experiential advice and can provide valuable tips to help you advance your skills and career. You may both benefit from the professional relationship and bonds built through this process.

Seek opportunities at work.

Employers value determination and initiative. Most companies will offer training for those seeking leadership roles to improve company culture and reduce employee turnover. Employers consistently invest in their employees’ professional goals to keep talent within.

Ways to apply special skills in the workplace

Learning and developing your special skills will benefit you personally and professionally. While you focus on improving your abilities, consider these steps to take in the workplace to show your strengths and special skills.

  • Listen actively.
  • Collaborate.
  • Motivate others.
  • Show resilience.
  • Be adaptable.
  • Set professional goals.
  • Commit to responsibility.

How to highlight your special skills

Show hiring managers and prospective employers your are a fit candidate by emphasizing your special skills effectively during the application process and while interviewing.

Highlighting your special skills in your cover letter

A cover letter is typically the first impression an employer has of you and is your opportunity to offer a detailed account of your qualifications and special skills. Pick the most relevant to the job description and detail ways you plan to apply your skills to succeed and advance the company.

Highlighting your special skills on a resume

A resume is a more comprehensive account of your full skill set and past work experience. Use bullet points to highlight your skills best related to the position’s responsibilities. Include soft and hard skills within your resume and work history details. Use concise headlines to show powerful organization and action verbs for specificity and to demonstrate your written communication skills.

Learn more: 64 Action Verbs that Will Take Your Resume from Blah to Brilliant

Highlighting your special skills for the job interview

During the job interview, a hiring manager will be observing you closely and analyzing your behavior and your responses to gauge whether you are a good fit for the position and the company. Describe your top special skills directly and concisely. Provide examples of times in the past where these special skills have helped your succeed or overcome obstacles. Use numerical values as percentages and data to quantify your accomplishments in your professional career and contributions to previous organizations. Make strong eye contact and have an open and relaxed posture to communicate confidence.

 

Joining the workforce or transitioning careers is an exciting opportunity to showcase your admirable character traits and special skills. Finding a career that fits your skills and values your abilities is key to a great work/life balance.

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