What is Employability?

We asked people, “What is employability?”. Some referred to employability skills as soft skills. Others said that employability is shorthand for “how employable” somebody is.

Available definitions of ’employability skills’ include attributes such as drive, enthusiasm and initiative. However, soft kills alone do not give us the full definition for employability. And, when we checked the definition of ’employable’, we discovered that it too falls short. Here’s the definition, according to dictionary.com:

Definition of ‘employable’
  1. able to be employed; usable.
  2. capable of holding a job and available for hire.
  1. a person who is able to work and is available to be hired.

Employability means something more than ’employable’ and something more than a collection soft employability skills.

In this section we will explore the employer-led meaning of employability so we can offer a suitable definition of our own. Our definition of employability is based upon our involvement with:

  • Employers,
  • Employability Experts,
  • Schools and
  • Training Providers.

Before developing an answer to the question “what is employability?”, does an agreed standard exist?

Employability: Does everyone agree?

Schools and Training Providers teach employability skills. So, there should be a common understanding of some principles and how to measure and improve employability.  Unfortunately, we find disagreement between academics and employers on this point, so teaching employability skills and measuring employability is tricky.

To illustrate the point, here’s an extract of some correspondence between two academics; Hesamedin Gholami studies at the University of Tehran and Peter McIlveen works at the University of Southern Queensland:


“Is there any fundamental theory for measuring and analysing students’ employability? I am working on my PhD thesis …”


“The short answer is ‘no’, there is no fundamental theory of student employability. There are several approaches to measuring employability, objectively and subjectively. My research addresses employability from the psychological, career development perspective […] All the best wishes for your PhD.”

This leaves us with no common answer to the question “What is employability?” and no obvious single way of measuring it.  We must break employability down into manageable indicators before we are able to find a solution to measuring it.

Employability Indicators

At this stage, there seems no clear answer to the question “What is employability?”. Nevertheless, we assert that there are some commonly understood employability indicators.

Most Employers and Training Providers might agree that the following employability indicators help to determine employment suitability:

  • Education and Qualifications
  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Personality
  • Demeanor

Given the broad agreement on these indicators, we include them all in our definition of employability. Now we can see that employability means something more than ’employability skills’. However, there is a mix of both objective and subjective indicators here, leaving us with a problem for a later section; measuring employability.

Employability Definition

Our definition of employability includes all of the indicators because we believe that they are all important to employers:

“An individual’s qualifications, skills, experiences, personality and demeanor, measurable as one’s suitability for available employment and future development by an employer.”

Let’s justify each indicator of this employability definition in turn:

  • Qualifications are an indication of academic achievement and the ability to learn and develop further.
  • Skills are desirable or essential capabilities that can improve individual performance.
  • Experiences because planning and decision-making can improve with knowledge gained.
  • Personality because key character traits and personal behaviors can strengthen team productivity.
  • Demeanor because the ability to present oneself and communicate with colleagues, customers and partners is essential.
  • Availability because employability must consider genuine market requirements.
  • Future development as both employers and employees personal growth for mutual benefit.

In the next section we look at how to measure employability.


CVMinder HUB is a central system for Training Providers to manage apprenticeships, work placements and employability.