Skill Set Definition and Examples

Close up female engineer examining digital circuit board on digital tablet
••• Hero Images / Getty Images

A skill set is the knowledge, abilities, and experience needed to perform a job. Specific skill set areas can include human relations, research and planning, accounting, leadership, management, and computer skills.

Types of Skill Sets

There are a variety of different types of skill sets. In general, your skills are your abilities that are important for career success.

  • Soft skills: Soft skills are interpersonal or people skills. They are somewhat difficult to quantify and relate to someone's personality and ability to work with others. This in-demand skill set includes good communication, listening, attention to detail, critical thinking, empathy, and conflict resolution abilities, among other skills.
  • Hard skills: Hard skills are quantifiable and teachable: They include the specific technical knowledge and abilities required for a job. Examples of hard skills include computer programming, accounting, mathematics, and data analysis. Some can be learned on the job, while others, such as surgical skills, are first learned in a classroom and then refined through work practice.

One difference between hard skills and soft skills is that you can easily list hard skills on a resume, while soft skills may come across more clearly during an in-person job interview.

  • Hybrid skills: Hybrid skills include a combination of technical and non-technical skills. Many positions require employees to incorporate both soft and hard skills in their skill set to succeed in the role.
  • Transferable skills: Transferable skills can apply to many different career fields. These include soft skills like critical thinking and problem solving, or hard skills such as writing and math ability.
  • Job-specific skills: These employment skills are the ones necessary for a particular position. For example, a hairstylist must know hair-coloring techniques, a payroll clerk must have payroll skills, and a nutritionist must have diet-management knowledge.

Examples of Skill Sets

Below are examples of some of the important skills that employers seek in candidates based on their career focus. Develop these skills and emphasize them in job applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

Skill Sets for Administrative Careers

Administrative skills are those related to running a business or keeping an office organized. Administrative skills are needed for a variety of jobs, ranging from office assistants to secretaries to office managers. Employees in nearly every industry and company need strong administrative skills.

  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Filing
  • Interpersonal
  • Computer
  • Desktop publishing
  • Document management
  • Microsoft Office
  • Office equipment
  • Outlook
  • QuickBooks
  • Research
  • Running office machines
  • Software
  • Transcription
  • Voicemail
  • Word processing
  • Analytical
  • Event coordination
  • Meeting planning
  • Monitoring actions
  • Organization
  • Predicting
  • Prioritizing
  • Goal-oriented
  • Issue resolution
  • Office coordination
  • Problem solving
  • Supervising
  • Team working
  • Troubleshooting

Skill Sets for Sales Careers

Selling is a multifaceted and demanding line of work. In addition to being able to sell, salespeople must have excellent communication, customer service, and marketing skills. As such, there are myriad associated skill sets and many circumstances under which you can apply those skills.

Skill Sets for Education Careers

The skill sets you must possess to be a great teacher range from leadership and compassion to organization and computer skills. By exhibiting these key traits, you will appeal to the schools to which you are applying, as someone who will work to better the lives of their students in a variety of ways.

Skill Sets for Information Technology (IT) Jobs

There are many job titles in the technology sector, and there are roles for people with many areas of interest, and many levels of expertise. The broad swath of jobs available means that employers look for a combination of different technical skills and soft skills when hiring. Some may look for expertise in a specific language or program, while others might look for more general computer skills.

  • Coding
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Collaboration
  • Written communication
  • Oral communication
  • Active listening
  • Communicating complex information in digestible amounts
  • IP setup
  • Wireless modems/routers
  • Cloud services
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • Functionality
  • Cyber security
  • Information management
  • Scheduling
  • Goal-oriented
  • Digital communications
  • Manage remote working teams
  • Multitasking
  • Meeting deadlines
  • ICT (Information and Communications Technology)
  • Critical thinking

Skill Sets for Health Careers

Nurses and other healthcare professionals need myriad skill sets to succeed in this popular career. They must be able to perform certain procedures (such as giving vaccinations and drawing blood). In addition, they need to be tech-savvy in order to update patient charts through a hospital’s online database.

Important soft skills for a nurse include patience, empathy, and strong communication skills to relay information to patients and their families. These soft skills also enable them to work effectively with doctors and other providers.

  • Adaptability
  • Analytical
  • Applying current research to medical practice
  • Assertiveness
  • Attention to detail
  • Coding and billing for services
  • Collaborating
  • Consulting with other health team members
  • Counseling
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Delegating
  • Diagnostic
  • Formulating care plans
  • Interpersonal
  • Interviewing
  • Leadership
  • Listening
  • Maintaining confidentiality
  • Making referrals to specialists
  • Mathematical
  • Mentoring
  • Monitoring
  • Multitasking
  • Negotiation
  • Organizational
  • Performing minor surgeries
  • Persuasive
  • Prioritizing
  • Problem solving
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles
  • Protecting sensitive data
  • Researching
  • Supervising
  • Taking initiative
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Training staff

How to Figure Determine Your Skills

Highlighting your skills is an important part of any job search. However, what if you are uncertain about which skills you have? Answering these questions can help you determine your core skills:

  • Pinpoint what it is that you enjoy doing: Identify meaningful tasks that you enjoy doing and with which you feel extremely competent. Perhaps you've enjoyed positions where you can utilize your knowledge and patiently answer people's questions. That might be expressed as "communication skills" or "customer service abilities" from a resume perspective.
  • Consider the compliments you receive: In a work setting, determine what activities lead to praise. Perhaps you consistently receive acknowledgment for your team player abilities during performance reviews. Maybe your previous bosses have always commented on your timeliness or attention to detail.
  • Evaluate the different jobs you've done: Look to job descriptions, both for the job you want and for the jobs you've held and described on your resume. Consider the skills necessary to do the work. If you launched a new app in your last job, you likely know a programming language or have other tech-based skills.

Skills Assessment Tools

There are free tools you can use to assess your skills. Check out O*NET OnLine's Skill Search Tool. You can use it to identify occupations that match your skills and interests. CareerOneStop's Skill Matcher will show you career options that match your skill ratings. LinkedIn has skills assessments you can take. You'll be able to validate your skills and add them to your profile. Indeed also has skills assessments that you can take to measure your abilities.

If you are looking for a job that requires a skill set that you don't currently possess, consider gaining it through skill-sharing, in which someone with a particular skill shares his or her knowledge in exchange for lessons from you in another skill.

Matching Your Abilities to the Job Skills Required

Show employers that you have the skills necessary when you apply for a job by demonstrating this in your resume, cover letter, and during the interview. Job listings often include a list of skills that employers require of applicants. In your resume and cover letter, reference the skill sets you have that fit the job listing.

  • Resumes: When preparing your resume, use keywords that describe your skills to employers so that if you post your resume online, it will turn up in search results for those key terms.
  • Cover letters: In your cover letter, mention your skills, and provide a specific example of a job in which you used those skills regularly, especially if it's in a manner that fits your new potential job.
  • Job interviews: Once you land an interview, prepare by making a list of your skills that relate to the job. For each skill, come up with a particular example of a time you have demonstrated or used that skill in the past, and practice a brief summary to share during your interview.

Article Sources

  1. TeacherCertification.org. "9 Useful Skills for Teachers." Accessed Jan. 14, 2020.

  2. Nurse.org. "4 Essential Skills That Will Make You The Best Nurse." Accessed Jan. 14, 2020.

  3. CareerOneStop.org. "Want to Know What Careers You Can Do With the Skills You Already Have?" Accessed Jan. 21, 2020.