Saturday, 19 May 2012

So you want to do a Skills Audit?

Bethan Ruddock spoke recently at the CILIP New Professionals Day 2012, on the topic of her book The New Professional’s Toolkit published recently by Facset. Although I wasn’t present for her talk, I followed events on Twitter and noticed several mentions of her advice to carry out a skills audit. 

Over many years working in library recruitment I’ve noticed that people often find it hard to answer the interview question ‘what skills do you have?’ Sometimes people offer one or two software packages that they can use (an LMS or online database, for example). Often people look blank or get embarrassed and can’t think of anything. 

I believe there is a clear and direct linkage between someone’s skills (proficiency acquired through training or experience) and their ability to progress in the career direction they want. This sounds obvious but, if so, why do so many CVs focus on a historical recounting of experiences and sideline or ignore skills? 

I think this is because many people find it very hard to analyse themselves, to tease out what their skills really are, and to articulate those in a concise way. It is easier to say what you’ve done, rather than what you’ve got out of doing it. 

So, how do you do a skills audit? As a career coach I offer people a range of exercises and worksheets to help, but in essence you need to review your experiences, and break down large chunks of experience (eg, “I do online research” or “I’ve managed an intranet”) into smaller tasks (eg, doing a reference interview, selecting online source(s), conducting searches, collating results, etc). For each of these tasks, you then need to think about what skill(s) you used to carry out each one. I find that imagining you were training a complete novice to carry out the task helps to envisage what skills you’re actually using. 

Once you’ve gone through all the tasks, for each of your experiences, you will have teased out all of the skills that you have. Of course there will be duplicates where you use the same skills to accomplish different tasks, which you can weed out. To get from this (probably long) list down to your key skills, I advise people to consider both how good they are at performing each skill, and how much they enjoy using it, then tally those two to reach a ‘score’ for each skill.

This article will be published in the CILIP SW Group newsletter shortly and is reproduced here with permission.


  1. Good tips and techniques for doing a skills audit. One additional thing is to ask colleagues, friends, family and users what they see as your skills. It's quite often illuminating to hear what they say, to see yourself as others do.

    I'd add two additional things to your post, the first, is on what to do once you've completed your audit (although this could be another post in itself). That is to think about how you can keep your skills up to date and how you can work on improving those skills you're less confident in or want to develop. In both cases you need to consider a blend of approaches: training courses, on the job training, attending conferences, using social media and getting involved and active in professional associations. The latter has been the thing I've got most out of in the last 10 years.

    The second concerns reflecting on how you present your skills. I've been through a few interviews recently and found it very helpful to review the examples and language I used to describe and explain my skills after each interview. I often used the feedback chat with the interviewer to sense check these reflections.

    1. Hi Kate
      Thanks a lot for your comment. I agree that each of your points could lead to other blog posts in themselves!

      An exercise for seeking peer feedback is one of the parts of the 'skills audit' career coaching that I do with clients, so I agree with you completely on that one.

      CPD and keeping your skills up to date is also vital, and one reason that I support revalidation of accreditations, such as CILIP Chartership or ARA Registration. There are two schools of thought on developing stronger vs weaker skills - some say it's better to invest time in becoming expert in the skills you are stronger at, others that it's better to bring weaker areas up to scratch. I think 'it depends' is the best answer, and could be different for different skills (for eg, depending on how important they are for you to reach your goals).

      Presenting your skills is a perennial problem, whether in a CV, on an application form or at interview. I would definitely recommend seeking feedback after an interview, although try not to be too disappointed if the interviewer isn't able to give much/any detail - they may have seen a dozen people and simply not have time.