Meta Skills to Look for in Candidates

Vicki Mann

Posted 05/04/2023
by Vicki Mann

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Meta Skills to Look for in Candidates

When it comes to hiring the right candidates, the skills and experience applicants possess are obviously important. However, they're not the only factors to consider. 

When hiring, employers should also look for meta skills, the types of skills that help employees stand out and go above and beyond in their new roles. These are the skills that demonstrate versatility, help new hires adapt to your workplace culture, and allow them to succeed in a spectrum of different positions.

In this article, we'll have a look at what meta skills are and run through some examples that you, as an employer or recruiter, should be looking out for.

But first, let’s define what we mean by meta skills. 

What Are Meta Skills?

A meta skill, also known sometimes as a meta competency, is a cognitive skill that assists with learning and improving other skills. These skills can be thought of as the building blocks for acquiring other skills faster and improving them.

This might seem a little confusing at first, so let’s use an example. Let’s say you hire an employee who speaks multiple languages. While their ability to speak French and Italian is a (very impressive) regular skill, their broader language-learning abilities that allow them to pick up different languages is their meta skill. 

The idea behind a meta skill is that these skills are permanent and innate; they equip a person for lifelong learning and the ability to find and develop new skills within a place of work.

So, what exactly is the difference between meta skills and soft skills? Soft skills like teamwork and communication adapt to diverse environments and with various people. A meta skill forms a permanent part of a person's makeup, as it doesn't change no matter who a team member is working with or what position or location they're in.

In short, meta skills form the foundation for understanding how to learn other skills.

Examples of Meta Skills

Let's take this chance to run through a few examples of the many meta skills that are useful in the workplace:

Making sense of information

If an employee can make sense of different pieces of information and see the whole picture afterwards – kind of like connecting the dots – they own a skill that's permanent, valuable and logical. If your worker has this skill, they'll be able to see how smaller details all combine to form a bigger picture.

As such, they could piece seemingly unrelated bits of information together in complex situations to form a connection. If somebody can connect information like this by drawing logical links between ideas and facts, they'll be able to see how these could affect outcomes. These are called metacognitive skills and are incredibly valuable skills in the modern workplace.


Being adaptable is one of the most important skills that employers currently look for. Adaptability is an important skill as it allows you to come to grips with unexpected situations. And if a team member can do this even when they don't have much guidance on how to deal with these situations, they become immensely valuable.

In essence, the worker is able to carry out problem-solving in the face of any unanticipated changes and still get their work completed amidst them. As a meta skill, adaptability helps employees develop other skills such as organisation and time management.


Collaboration is a master skill in the business world. It's an almost essential part of any workplace role, no matter what industry. If an employee can work together and take part in effective communication through giving and receiving feedback, it will help to promote growth and learning. This goes a long way toward creating an innovative working environment.

If you're a good collaborator, you're able to separate your personal feelings from the task at hand. You'll work with others to achieve things faster through clear communication and brainstorming. By listening to the perspectives of others, you'll assess challenging situations to gain a competitive advantage. 

Collaboration as a meta skill also allows individuals to develop other skills such as giving effective feedback, self-reflection, and conflict resolution.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence and self-awareness work hand in hand, and essentially amount to the same thing. Having the self-esteem to acknowledge your strengths and weak points means you possess self-awareness. Possessing these traits enables employees to better make the most of their strengths and work on the areas where they're lacking to improve them.

Being emotionally intelligent means you can work better with others. You also understand your own abilities and recognise how your actions or decisions impact your colleagues.

In short, emotional intelligence is a meta skill that can help support a range of other skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinkers offer many advantages to businesses, often in tandem with mathematical and technical skills. A critical thinker is likely to have functional expertise too, so such a candidate is able to evaluate and develop new ideas and technologies. Problem-solving comes naturally, as does making informed decisions and recognising flaws in arguments.

Critical thinkers are also good communicators and collaborators. Possessing this high-order skill means you likely carry other traits such as numerical reasoning that will prove invaluable in a working environment.


Being creative isn't just about having an outgoing personality and coming up with fresh, original ideas. It also means your employee will find innovative solutions to different types of problems. 

Creatives analyse and understand any difficulties by looking deeply into all relevant factors. Thereafter, they devise concepts and pinpoint possible roadblocks. They'll initiate suitable plans to resolve the problems. Lastly, they can impartially observe, keep an eye on, and tweak processes and plans for the best results.

As a meta skill, creativity enables better decision-making, planning, and teamwork. 


Being authentic and true to your goals and values can have exceptional benefits in the workplace. If your worker can be honest with themself (another sign of self-awareness) and others, they'll own up to their choices and take responsibility for their actions.

Of course, authenticity is another tricky meta skill to evaluate using an interview or a candidate’s CV – it takes some time to get to know whether a job applicant possesses this meta skill. One way to get a better idea of candidates’ authenticity is using a situational judgement test, a skills test where a person is given hypothetical situations relevant to the role and asked how they would act.


The meta skills that we've mentioned are just a few examples among several that are used to great effect in the workplace daily. While a range of hard skills and soft skills may be important to look for when hiring for a particular role, it’s also useful to keep in mind these meta skills that form the building blocks for a wide range of abilities and behaviours. 

At Skillsarena, we assist you with skills tests and assessments to identify the perfect candidate. With the insights gleaned from our flexible and intuitive assessments, you’ll find it easier than ever to pick the candidates with the right meta skills from the crowd. By building a meta skill assessment into your search for suitable candidates, you can enhance your team's skills by using their inherent abilities. This allows them to grow in confidence and develop in their present and future roles. 

Want to find out more about how you can implement skills testing in your hiring process? Feel free to contact us for further information to help your business identify the right people.

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