Content analysis of vacancy advertisements for employability skills: Challenges and opportunities for informing curriculum development


  • Diana Messum WSU, Australia
  • Lesley Wilkes WSU, Australia
  • Kath Peters WSU, Australia
  • Debra Jackson Oxford Brookes University, UK



employability skills, generic skills, content analysis, advertisements, job vacancies


The process of curriculum development can be informed by seeking the views of stakeholders, including employers, academics, students and recent graduates, about the skills, attributes and personal characteristics required by various professions. The views of several stakeholders may also be compared to help ensure reliability of results and identify areas of agreement or variance. However, there are documented limitations regarding the perceptions of academics and students of employability skills, and also problems with employers’ and recent graduates’ views. Another approach to identifying the skills required in various professions is content analysis of job vacancy advertisements. Content analysis of advertisements is a versatile way of identifying current skills required by various professions, and allows comparison across countries and over time to identify trends.  Yet there is little evidence to suggest that this information is used to inform curriculum development. This paper presents a qualitative integrative review of studies looking at employability skills (ES) through the use of content analysis of job vacancy advertisements. Here ES are equated with essential requirements stated in vacancy advertisements. ES is the term adopted in Australia by DEST (2002) to define skills required to both secure employment and progress in an organisation. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (2014) checklist for qualitative research was used in this integrative review of 40 studies. The range of application, research methods used and findings are discussed in this paper, as are the advantages and challenges associated with analysing job vacancy advertisements as a method of identifying employability skills (ES) required by employers.


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Author Biographies

Diana Messum, WSU, Australia

Diana is a lecturer at the Western Sydney University (WSU), School of Science and Health in the final stages of a PhD with School of Nursing and Midwifery, in the area of employability skills (ES), supervised by Professors Lesley Wilkes, Kath Peters and Debra Jackson. The PhD comprises a triangulation study looking at advertised ES for health services managers, the views of senior health managers and perceptions of recent graduates working as health managers in NSW.

Lesley Wilkes, WSU, Australia

Professor of Nursing/Dean of Research Studies, Family and Community Health Research Group (FaCH), Sydney West Area Health Service/ Western Sydney University (WSU), Clinical Nursing Research Unit, Nepean Hospital.

Kath Peters, WSU, Australia

A/Prof Kath Peters, Director of Academic Program (International Programs), School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University (WSU).

Debra Jackson, Oxford Brookes University, UK

Director, Oxford Institute of Nursing & Allied Health Research (OxINAHR), Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, UK. 
Associate Chief Nurse (Research), Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK. 
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical Nursing


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How to Cite

Messum, D., Wilkes, L., Peters, K., & Jackson, D. (2017). Content analysis of vacancy advertisements for employability skills: Challenges and opportunities for informing curriculum development. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 7(1), 72–86.