4 ways to talk confidently about your skills

If you feel reluctant to talk openly about your skills – or feel like you’re bragging if you do – you’re not alone.

Less than 20% of people feel very confident talking about their skills, research conducted for SEEK shows – and 37% put this lack of confidence down to feeling like they were showing off.

But showing your skills is crucial when you’re applying for a role or aiming for new challenge at work ­– so being able to talk about them confidently can help you.

SEEK’s Resident Psychologist, Sabina Read, says identifying and communicating your skills and strengths with confidence is a matter of stating facts about yourself, not bragging.

“Many people place great emphasis on humility, believing their skills will modestly shine through once they are in the role and have the opportunity to showcase their offering,” she says. But this isn’t always the case.

Developing the confidence to talk up your skills is important

Whether you’re reluctant to share your strengths because you feel it’s bragging or because you believe they’ll simply get noticed in your work without being mentioned, it can be helpful to think about skills from an employer’s point of view.

Read says it’s unrealistic to expect others to have a clear picture of your skills unless they’re given one. “If you can’t effectively communicate the skills you have to offer, no-one else can do it for you,” Read says.

Read says employers look for people who not only know their strengths and weaknesses, but can also communicate and put their top skills into action when needed.

On the other hand, showing a lack of confidence in your skills can send the wrong message. “It may raise red flags and result in the perception that you lack skills,” Read says.

The research backs this: 71% of employers say they are looking for job seekers to talk about their skills in their resume, and 66% want job seekers to talk about their skills in an interview.

How to talk up your skills

To talk about your skills in an appealing way, providing examples is key.

When asked about the times people didn’t come across well when talking about their strengths, 61% of employers said it was because they didn’t provide good examples.

If you’re unsure what makes for a good example, or you think you still have room to improve your answers, Read recommends using these four steps to pull your skills and strengths story together:

  • Reflect on times you’ve been pleased, proud or had an impact with your process or the way you’ve performed at work. Note what were you doing and what skills you were using. These can be used as great examples when you apply for a job or in an interview, to show real-life examples of your skills in action.
     
  • Ask other people about when they see you at your best – at work and in your personal life. Drill down to specifics and ask what skills they may notice you tapping into when you’re shining your brightest. This can provide you with insight into skills you might be undervaluing.
     
  • Think about the skills you used when you were able to turn a problem or a failure into a solution or a success. Employers often like to know how you cope with challenges, and demonstrating the skills you used to do so can be a good way to practically explain how you overcame these challenges.
     
  • Identify any soft skills or transferable skills that could be useful in other roles or work environments. These may include communication skills, for example, if you’ve worked with clients, customers or other staff to resolve issues. Time management is another in-demand skill – an example could include a multi-staged project you had to deliver on schedule, or even the way that you break down your day or week to ensure important tasks are done.

Developing the confidence to speak to your skill set and strengths can be easier said than done. Spending some time asking yourself and others these questions can help you build a description of your skills that you feel comfortable sharing.

“Be clear – know what you do well,” Read says. “Dial up your internal microphone when communicating what you bring as if you were talking about someone else you respect, admire and believe in.”

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published June 2021.