What Does It Mean When a Job Application Asks You for Special Skills?

by Elias Westnedge; Updated September 26, 2017

Employment applications provide a written "snapshot" of a job applicant for the employer in the process of hiring for a newly opened position. Some applicants bring resumes with them that they attach to the job applications, which can help as they answer questions on the application. Applicants provide their personal and educational information, as well as information about their particular skills and experience. During the hiring process, the employer is looking for applicants who most closely fit the job requirements for the open position.

Relevant Skills

A skills section on a job application serves as a mini-resume. As a prospective employee, fill out job applications featuring skills sections with any experiences, training or abilities relevant to the position for which you are applying. For instance, if you are applying for a job as a computer programmer, list skills related to your knowledge of different software languages and coding. Be specific; list how you acquired the skill -- either through work, formal education or training or self-practice -- along with how long you have had the skill. Never list irrelevant skills.

Transferrable Skills

In many cases, especially if you are applying for a job in a different field than your previous work experience, fill the skills section with "transferrable competencies," or abilities you can use at your new job. Specifically, according to an article from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, list skills focusing on areas such as computer knowledge, foreign languages and professional awards and achievements.

Expand on Your Resume

If you are including a resume with your job application, use the skills section to explain more about your knowledge and abilities and/or include competencies that are not listed on your resume. For instance, if you list 10 years of employment history on your resume, but have 20 years of work experience, use the application's skills section to include competencies from your earlier professional positions.

Federal Jobs

Applications for jobs with the federal government have skills sections called "knowledge, skills and abilities," or KSAs. Unlike such sections on applications for private jobs, federal KSAs are one-page essays in which you must explain your knowledge, skills and abilities -- not aptitudes -- relevant to the job for which you are applying. Additionally, your KSA statements must include reasons why you feel that you are the best candidate for the position. When applying for federal positions, you need to complete several KSAs, each based around a core skill or competency of the job.

About the Author

Elias Westnedge began writing in 2009. His work appears on various websites, covering aviation, sales, grants, business and consumer finance. Westnedge holds a Bachelor of Science in aviation.