What is employability?

There are many different definitions of employability including:

‘Employability is the capability to move self-sufficiently within the labour market to realise potential through sustainable employment. For the individual, employability depends on the knowledge, skills and attitudes they possess, the way they use these assets and present them to employers and the context (personal circumstances and labour market environment) within which they seek work. (Hillage and Pollard, 1998)

They propose employability consists of four elements:

  • employability assets (knowledge, skills, attitudes)
  • deployment (career management skills)
  • presentation (job getting skills, CV, interview technique, etc)
  • personal circumstances (who you are, responsibility, labour market, etc).
Further information on 'what is employability'

7 Steps to: Enhancing Student Employability

Employability research and publications

Careers and employability  

Cole and Tibby (2013) expand on this to explain what employability is, and what it is not:

Employability is:

  • A lifelong process.
  • Applies to all students (undergraduates and postgraduates) whatever their situation, course or mode of study.
  • Complex and involves a number of different areas that interlink.
  • About supporting students to develop a range of knowledge, skills, behaviours, attributes and attitudes which will enable them to be successful not just in employment but in their wider life.
  • A university-wide responsibility.
  • About making the components of employability explicit to students to support their lifelong learning.



Employability is not:

  • About replacing academic rigour and standards.
  • Necessarily about adding additional modules into the curriculum.
  • Just about preparing students for employment.
  • The sole responsibility of the Careers Department.
  • Something that can be quantified by any single measure.