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Skills audit

  1. Identify skills and gaps
  2. Plan your development
  3. Practice recording evidence

1. Experience

Think about specific projects that you have carried out or achievements you have gained because of your work, social activities and volunteering. It may help to think about a specific period such as a week or month.

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2. Identify

Think back over the project, challenge, or task: what you did, how you did it, what the outcome was, what went right/wrong, and what you learned.

Then identify what skills you used.

To help you think about the relevant skills, the table below provides examples of skillsets and ways to describe them.

The table above is adapted from this resource.

There are also other skill frameworks you can look at if you need more information.

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Define a problem and identify causesFacilitate a group discussion or meeting
Comprehend substantial amounts of informationEffectively communicate complex information to different audiences using accessible language
Form and defend evidence-based conclusionsMotivate others to complete tasks or projects
Design and carry out a project that defines a problem, tests potential resolutions and implements a solutionRespond to feedback (both constructive and positive)
Negotiate workplace politicsTeach methods, skills, or theory to others
Manage a project, or projects from start to endMaintain flexibility in changing circumstances
Prioritise appropriately and anticipate risksIdentify goals and a realistic time to complete them
Investigate sources of information for any given problemUnderstand and synthesize information
Design and analyse surveys, tests, and projectsDevelop organising principles for processing, sorting, and managing data
Work independently with little or no supervisionPrepare concise, logical written materials
Curate and communicate ideas effectively in oral presentations to small and large groupsDebate issues in a professionally respectful manner and participate in group discussions

3. Evidence

Use the CAR(R) structure to record this experience.

The CAR(R) approach is a way of structuring your written or verbal response to a request to find out about your skills.

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  • Context - when and where are you talking about?
  • Action - what did you do, what was your aim, what worked?
  • Result - what was the result?
  • (Reflection) - what did you learn during this experience? - this is an optional step and not necessarily something you would include in an application form or interview answer unless it is relevant.

Problem-solving skills using CARR

When and what was the situation, issue, project or challenge?

During my first year as a postdoc, I developed a novel statistical methodology to improve the analysis data of national and international surveys of more than 500 businesses.

What was your aim, what did you do and what worked?

The aim of this was to produce greater accuracy of results, on the question of how long businesses should examine the desired target before deciding whether to acquire it. To develop the new method, I started without a predetermined design.

I experimented with divergent strategies for data collection. I made revisions until I was satisfied that the direction taken would afford the greatest potential for meaningful answers to the question posed.

What was the result? Can you evidence or quantify the result?

The results were published in a paper which won the best paper award at EurAM 2022 Strategic Management track. I presented successfully at a multi-disciplinary management conference and created new acquisition guidelines for businesses.

What did you learn about yourself during the experience?

Problem-solving is a strength I have because I am good at identifying patterns, thinking ahead, using logic, being creative, being open to failure, and learning from it.

Describe your research using STAR

The STAR model is an alternative structure that can be great for succinctly communicating your research findings.

The STAR model is a way to organise verbal or written content, it can be a useful way to respond to criteria in job applications or other types of application where you do not have much space, such as informal expressions of interest in Fellowships. It is also useful for preparing for interviews. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

  • Situation: a specific situation or problem they encountered in the past.
  • Task: the task you were assigned in the situation, what their role was, and what was expected of them.
  • Action: the actions you took to address the situation or solve the problem.
  • Result: the outcome of their actions and what they achieved or learned.

From the employers point of view:
If candidates use the STAR model, employers can gain insight into how they have handled similar situations in the past, or assess their problem-solving and decision-making skills, and evaluate their ability to work effectively in a team. This approach can help employers make more informed hiring decisions and select candidates who are the best fit for the job.

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STAR to describe research study:

Situation: Start by describing the situation that led you to conduct the research study.

  • What problem or question were you trying to address?
  • What was the background and context of the research?

Task: Next, describe the task or objective of the research study.

  • What specific research questions were you trying to answer?
  • What hypotheses did you have?
  • What was the scope of the research?

Action: Describe the actions you took to conduct the research study. This might include details about the research design, methodology, data collection and analysis, and any challenges or limitations you faced during the research.

Result: Finally, describe the results of the research study.

  • What did you find?
  • Were your hypotheses confirmed or refuted?
  • What were the implications of your findings?
  • What recommendations do you have for future research or practice in this area?

By using the STAR method, you can present a clear and structured description of your research study, which can be helpful in communicating your research to others and demonstrating your research skills and experience.

Research project and leadership with STAR

What was the situation that led to the research?

In my previous role as a research assistant, I was part of a team tasked with conducting a study on the effects of a new drug on patients with a rare disease. The study was complex, with multiple phases and a tight deadline.

Describe the actions you took to conduct the research study. This might choose to emphasise particular skills here.

As the project progressed, I was given the responsibility of leading a sub-team that was responsible for collecting and analyzing the patient data. My task was to ensure that the data was collected accurately, in a timely manner, and according to the protocol.

Describe the actions you took to conduct the research study.

To accomplish this, I first ensured that each member of the sub-team understood their specific roles and responsibilities. I then created a schedule that clearly defined each member’s tasks, deadlines, and milestones. I also held regular meetings with the sub-team to review progress, discuss any issues, and make necessary adjustments.

Finally, describe the results of the research study.

As a result of my leadership and organisational skills, we were able to collect and analyse the patient data on time, and the study was completed within the deadline. Additionally, the accuracy of our data was praised by the lead researchers and contributed to the success of the project.

Why does this work?

Identifying and being able to articulate the skills and experience your education, work, and personal life have given you is important for applications and interviews.

It can also be a good starting point for researching careers that align with your current skill set.

Using skills to find out what else you can do

Prospect Job Profiles are descriptions of careers organised by sector.

Each has a list of employers matched to a skill set: a great starting point for working out where your current skills and experience could take you in the future. Look at the profile that is closest to your skill set, scroll down to find the list of potential employers:

You can also learn about the skills needed, the responsibilities and the working environment of many other roles.

Keyword search for jobs on LinkedIn

You can try out keywords as search terms on LinkedIn, using the Jobs search tab. People who have premium LinkedIn accounts can see if other people have looked at their profile, but job searches are private and are not listed in your LinkedIn Activity.

List the terms that describe your hard skills - techniques, qualifications, and methodologies - and words that are related to your research interest or discipline.  

For example, you could search for:

  • "Qualitative"
  • "Quantitative"
  • "Humanitarian"
  • "Computational biology".

You can also experiment with adding a hashtag before the term, as some networks on LinkedIn use hashtags and some do not.

Keyword search on Reddit

Reddit is a network of communities based on interests. There are many communities gathered around specific fields and disciplines, such as r/AskSocialScience and r/bioinformatics

Community members often pose career questions, for example:

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The contributors' experience-rich answers can provide unique insight into a career you're interested in. In turn, this can inform ideas about your own career.

You could also join a relevant community and post your own career questions. This can be especially helpful if you have questions which haven't already been answered.


Eurodoc Report on ‘Transferable Skills and Competencies’.
A list of transferable skills to help you identify the skills you have acquired as a researcher.

Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework (RDF).
The RDF is most commonly used with doctoral students. It is designed to support academic career progression.

National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).
This page hosts a downloadable Core Competencies Checklist, which you can use to self-assess your current level of development on each skill. The Core Competencies Companion offers further details of individual skills as well as several useful links to further information. It is weighted towards lab-based scientists, but there is a lot here relevant to all postdocs. US-based terminology may feel unfamiliar.

‘University Researchers and the Job Market: A Practical Career Development Resource for Research Staff’ by The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS).
In this comprehensive resource there is a table of transferable skills researchers have grouped into themes (p. 12), and the chapter goes on to break down subject-specific skills as well as detailing how to develop the skills employers want.

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