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Opening up your talent pool with transferrable skills

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Employers can unlock a whole new realm of possibilities by taking the time to recognise the transferrable skills across different professions.

With talent shortages continuing to plague many industries, hiring managers can help to turn this around by understanding how skills can be universal.

For instance, someone with an engineering or mechanical background is likely to have problem-solving skills. There’s no reason why this can’t transfer to an accounting role, where problem solving is crucial to performance.


Dr Debbie Devis, a research assistant at the University of South Australia, believes there is a great amount of potential lost due to employers not taking advantage of transferrable skills.

“There’s an extraordinary drop-off of women in STEM. Nine in 10 women who get STEM degrees will start working in a different field or adjacent to STEM, not in STEM directly. I can count myself in one of those nine women,” she said.

“The benefit of it, though, is that you’re starting to get some really critical STEM skills in other industries that would actually really benefit from them.”

“Some of the really important skills are our ability to test things in an objective manner and see if what we’re doing is actually matching up with what we thought would happen, and being able to troubleshoot through all of that process to come to a really good outcome, really good understanding of numeracy and mathematics,” Dr Devis explained.

One often overlooked skill that should have a place in every industry is creativity. Dr Devis noted that having creative minds in the workplace breeds innovation.

“You have to be creative to do well in STEM because you’re trying to answer questions that no one in the world knows the answer to, and that requires a lot of creativity. And it’s a very specific type of creativity that requires both combination of creativity and critical thinking, and that’s really great for innovation,” outlined Dr Devis.

“So, when people who have these skills go into other careers, they’re taking those really useful skills with them no matter what industry; creative and critical thinking is going to be a massive benefit.”

There are a vast number of transferrable skills that both employers and candidates should consider before hiring or searching for a job.

To assist in this process, SEEK created a transferrable skills checklist, outlining some of the most important.

The categories are:

  • Organisational and execution skills
  • Communication skills
  • People skills
  • Leadership skills

Each category has a variety of subcategories that relate to each individual’s prior experience and knowledge.

So next time you’re hiring, or applying for a role, consider the transferrable skills that are often overlooked.

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with Dr Debbie Devis on 30 May is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.