Job Search Success Starts with Knowing Yourself (Free Job Search Planning Worksheet!)


Job Search Success Starts with Knowing Yourself
Knowing yourself is one of the most important steps you can take to help direct your job search efforts. To continue our job search/sales process analogy, your greatest chance for success will result from a very strong match between the product features (your skills) and the buyer’s needs (the employer’s requirements). Without first understanding yourself, you might waste valuable time and energy seeking jobs, careers, or employers that are not a match for you.

 It is often difficult to know yourself, and especially to see yourself as others, including potential employers, will see you. It’s important that you be as honest with yourself as possible. This will help you create an accurate resume, and interview with skill and confidence.

To really understand yourself as a job candidate and employee, you’ll want to think about your best traits, as well as any limitations you might have, among other things. A useful acronym, SCINFA (Skills and Competencies, Interests, Needs, and Future Aspirations), will help you work through this self-assessment process.

  • Skills and Competencies:
    Skills are your abilities or talents, and competencies are what you are able to DO with them. For example, strong communication skills can be used to help you develop many different competencies, such as dealing with difficult customers, selling, and public speaking.

  • Interests:
    These are activities you like to do. When you find a job opportunity that suits your interests, you’ll be able to speak with excitement and certainty about why you want the position and why you’re a great match for it.

  • Needs:
    These are what you need physically, financially, and personally. If transportation is an issue for you, for example, the location of the job is an important need for you to consider. Similarly, your job would need to pay enough to cover your housing and living expenses.

  • Future Aspirations:
    What do you want long-term? What are your dreams for yourself and your career? Thinking about your goals for the future will help you take steps and make decisions to get you there.

Below are some questions to ask yourself in each of the SCINFA areas described above. These are available, by request, in a free PDF document, which you can complete on-screen and save to your computer. 

Your Skills and Competencies


  • In which school subjects did you receive your highest grades?

  • Since leaving school, have you used any of the knowledge or skills you've learned there?

  • Did you receive any training in a trade or other skills that could be used in the workplace?

  • What jobs have you held? Be sure to include volunteer work.

  • What skills did you learn on the job, or through training provided by an employer?

  • What traits or talents do you have that could be used in any type of job?

  • In reviewing past performance reviews, in what areas did you receive your highest scores?

  • What household tasks do you handle?

  • What comes naturally to you?

  • What do you think you do better than other people?

  • Have supervisors or co-workers often counted on you for specific aspects of a job?

  • Were there certain tasks for which you were the department "trainer"?

  • Have you ever been complimented on your abilities in a certain area by friends or family members?

  • What do people always look to you for help with?

  • Have you received awards or praise for doing a great job?

  • What is your greatest accomplishment?

  • What are you most proud of?

Your Interests


  • What school subjects were most interesting to you?

  • What activities are you most drawn to?

  • What hobbies do you enjoy?

  • How do you spend your free time?

  • What areas of your past jobs have given you the most satisfaction?

  • Do you have personal values or priorities that you’d like to pursue through your job, and/or that you’d like your employer to be committed to as well?

Your Needs


  • How far are you willing to commute for work?

  • What kind of transportation will you use?

  • Are you interested in telecommuting (working from home), and is that a realistic option for you?

  • What kind of hours are you able or willing to work (nights, weekends)?

  • Are you willing and able to travel?

  • Are you willing and able to move to another city? Or even to another state?

  • How much income is needed based on your monthly expenses?

  • Do you have any other special needs that will affect your employability or the type of job that suits you?

Your Future Aspirations


  • What type of work environment do you prefer (office, retail, food service, warehouse, etc.)?

  • Do you like to manage work and/or people, or do you prefer to be responsible only for your own tasks?

  • Do you like to work independently or with a team?

  • Do you want a job that involves interacting with customers, or do you prefer to work “behind the scenes”?

  • Do you want to work with computers or other special equipment?

  • What else is important to you in a job?

  • What position and level of pay do you eventually want to reach?

Next Steps


After you’ve answered the questions above, request our free Job Search Planning Worksheet. Complete the first column, titled “Know Myself,” by transferring the most important information you’ve just identified in the space provided for each SCINFA category. You can either print out the document and hand-write your answers, or type them directly into the document and save it to your computer.

TIP: Consider asking a close friend or family member for honest feedback on your “Know Myself” responses. While you may not always agree with these opinions, understanding other points of view can help you judge how potential employers may see you, and plan for possible challenges during your search.

A separate post, Understanding Your Job Market Opportunities, will be useful to you in filling out the rest of the Job Search Planing Worksheet, so keep it handy!


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