Skills 101: How to Assess Your Skill Set in 10 Simple Steps

Is your skillset up to scratch? Is there room for improvement?

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Skills 101: How to Assess Your Skillset in 6 Simple Steps

Regular assessment of your skills is vital for the furthering of your career. As we busy ourselves with work and life, assessing our hard and soft skills might fall by the wayside, but this is an exercise which is essential to qualifying your professional capabilities.

Assessing your skills can help you improve the ones you have identified as in need of development, leveraging the skills you’re expert at, and being able to develop and structure your competencies ready to find a career, look for promotions or seek a job change.

This article discusses the different ways to assess your skills and the benefits to development that these methods can offer you.

Why should you assess your skill set?

Identifying your skill set is very important when it comes to your professional career. Not only do you need this vital information during the interview process, but it’s also important to know your skills when you’re applying for a job. Knowing your strengths will help you identify whether you’re a good match for the job.

It’s common to have a hard time looking in the mirror and assessing your value, but it’s also a vital step if you want to succeed in your career and climb the ladder. When putting yourself forward for a promotion you need a strong list of skills, as well as examples of when you’ve used those skills to make a great change within your work.

Steps to perform a skill assessment

It’s easy to say that a skill set assessment is vital, but how do you actually perform one? Here we list all the important steps you need to follow to conduct a thorough and effective skill assessment.

1. Make a list of your hard and soft skills

Hard skills are specific and tangible competencies that you need to complete a certain job or function in a specific industry. Often referred to as technical skills, hard skills are the result of education and training experience, and can include:

Analytical skills

Math skills

Budgeting skills

Negotiation skills

Foreign language skills

Presentation skills

IT skills

Software skills

Management skills

Writing skills

Hard skills rarely change from one organization to the next. Therefore, the best way to analyze your hard skills is to review your résumé or job history and think about the skills you had in these roles, and rate how far advanced you are in them. This can be a “sliding scale” — such as “basic”, “intermediate” and “advanced” — or a numerical scale from 1 to 10. Consider what training course or work you need to put in to move these skills along this scale.

Soft skills, sometimes referred to as transferable skills, are less-tangible qualities that cover elements of your personality, traits and idiosyncrasies. These are more difficult to cleanly assess. Some examples of soft skills could be:

Collaboration skills

Leadership skills

Communication skills

Listening skills





Interpersonal skills

Reliability and dependability

Soft skills are better assessed by reviewing progress over time, as well as some other assessment tips covered later in this article. Asking colleagues or managers about your soft skills can help but asking yourself what elements of each soft skill you find the easiest and most challenging are also good ways to focus on what to improve. Reflecting on real-life situations, and thinking about what went well and what didn’t, is another great way to assess soft skills.

2. Use your job description

The job description for your role will contain a list of skills and traits needed for you to perform your job effectively. Although you’ll certainly be aware of which skills you’re using in your role, a detailed analysis of your job description will help you understand if you’re lacking any skills or abilities, as well as possible ways to leverage the areas you are best at.

Alternatively, you might look at the job description and see that you’re matching the requirements and using other skills not listed, or that you have skills which are being underutilized. This might lead you to consider if you need to change careers, aim for a promotion or reapply your expertise in a different way.

3. Dive into your past performance reviews

Did you keep your past performance reviews? If so, dig them out (you might also find them buried in your emails!). Past performance reviews are a great way to assess your hard and soft skills, especially over time.

Performance reviews are completed annually at the very least, and will often guide the employee through competencies, covering for each one what is going well, and development required.

Analyzing performance reviews can show how your skills are evolving. You might notice patterns, such as your managers’ opinions of your skill set improving over time, or some skills being focused on and others being sidelined. This information can be used to determine your focus areas going forward.

If completed thoroughly, performance reviews will also give people steps and tips to improve their skills, as well as training or courses needed to enhance skills. These can be used to create personal development plans aligned to your professional growth.

4. Use an aptitude test

Aptitude tests are assessments developed to specifically assess your job skills. There are many different tests on the market which you can choose from and will test you on different areas such as numeracy, logic and so on, before making job or career recommendations based on what you’re good at and what you might need to develop on.

Aptitude tests often cost money to complete or subscribe to, but they can be very useful. Seeing as many large companies use similar testing programs in their selection processes, gaining experience in completing them, as well as gaining an understanding of your strengths and development areas, will ensure you’re well placed for applying online when the time comes.

Our very own career test, CareerHunter, might be worth looking into. With full access to CareerHunter, you’ll be able to take the series of six assessments: career interests, work personality, career motivation, and abstract, numerical and verbal reasoning. Once you complete all six assessments, your responses are analyzed against a large selection of career paths and are generated into a detailed report outlining career recommendations, job suggestions and an evaluation of your test results.

5. Ask other people for feedback

One of the easiest ways to assess your skills is to ask other people what they think of them. The 360-degree feedback technique is a useful tool to gain many different feedback perspectives. Managers and supervisors might be well-placed to discuss your skills, but your colleagues will also be able to provide valuable input. You can also seek feedback from close friends and family (be wary of bias). External influencers, such as customers or suppliers, could be willing to share their thoughts on how you’re doing, too.

A word to the wise: 360-degree feedback is best solicited using clear direction. Provide the respondents with a matrix, including your job competencies or job description, or a list of your hard and soft skills. Provide a quantitative rating scale, and ask them to assess each skill, asking them to explain what they think you could do to improve in each area.

6. Check job adverts in your field

Checking job adverts is a useful way to assess your skills, as this will give you a candid viewpoint into what companies are looking for in terms of both hard and soft skills.

Look up job vacancies which are aligned to either your current role or the role you want to move into next (using roles in the same industry or geographical setting will make this exercise as accurate as possible). Write down the skills the employer is listing as required and desirable, and crosscheck these against your own capability.

This exercise will give you very clear development objectives, ones which are directly aligned to your career aspirations.

7. Use self-reflection

You can reflect on your learning styles and processes to assess your skills. For example, if you’re open to change and attentively listen and adapt to new processes, then you can say that you’re an active learner.

This is a great skill to have in today’s professional world when technology is advancing at a rapid pace and processes are constantly changing. It’s also good practice to create a daily journal of what you did well or maybe didn’t during the day, so that overtime you can review it and see how you can adapt and improve.

8. Think about where you can add value

Thinking about where you’ve added value or where you can add value to an organization is important when it comes to assessing your skills. Have you helped generate income, reduce costs, solve problems, and improve the quality of the service that you offer? Do you constantly exceed your manager’s expectations? By answering these questions, you can identify the skills that you used to generate good results.

9. Identify gaps in your skill set

A good way to assess your skills is to also identify areas that need improvement. If you can’t identify them by yourself, consult your manager or HR department to offer advice here. By identifying gaps in your skill set, you will have a defined list of what you’re good at and also what you need to learn or improve on. This is a way to help you to gain additional skills to those that you already have.

10. Find out what motivates you

Reviewing your motivating factors can help you also assess your skills. For example, if you’re motivated by being in an office or team environment, then you’re very much a team player. Whereas, if you like working in solitude, then you could say that you’re independent.

If you don’t want to do this by simply reviewing your motivating factors yourself, then you can use a career test as mentioned above to help you determine your motivating factors and how these affect your current skill set.

Final thoughts

Effective assessment of skills can be an honest and humbling experience. If you’re asking others what they think of your skillset, you’re not always going to like the answer. Similarly, self-assessment of your skills is challenging, and you need to be critical of yourself. These are often hard pills to swallow but are important steps in professional growth.

Because getting feedback on your skills is hard to do (as is self-assessment), many people do not focus on such activities. However, if you take the time to focus on assessing your skills and acting upon the discoveries you make, you’ll discover a sure-fire way of maximizing professional development and leveraging your skills to meaningfully drive your career forward.

Got a question, or want to share your own tips on how to assess your skills? Let us know in the comments section below!


Originally published on May 16, 2017. Updated by Joanna Zambas.