Skills vs Competencies: What are the differences?

At some point during the job application process, you will be asked about your skills and competencies. Here we will explore the key differences to help you be able to give clear examples in both your CV or interviews.


Skills refer to specific, learned abilities that enable you to perform tasks effectively. They are often developed through education, training and work experience. There are different types of skills, categorised depending on whether they are professional or personal – these are hard skills or soft skills.

Types of skills:

  • Hard skills: Specific or specialised skills and knowledge that helps you to perform certain job specific tasks (e.g. foreign languages, data analysis or copywriting).
  • Soft skills: Non-technical skills that relate more to how you work, rather than the actual tasks (e.g. teamwork, problem solving or communication).

Key points about skills:

  • Learned abilities: Skills are acquired through training, practice and experience, they can be improved and developed over time.
  • Task-oriented: Skills are usually task-specific and can be applied to achieve particular tasks or objectives.
  • Observable and measurable: Skills are often observable and quantifiable, they can be assessed to determine proficiency.


Competencies cover a broader set of attributes that contribute to overall effectiveness and success of a task or role. They are more focused on the behavioural aspects of an individual than just the skills they possess. This covers a range of qualities, including skills, knowledge, abilities, attitude and behaviours – all of these contribute to an individual’s overall effectiveness in performing a job role and achieving their objectives.

Key points about competencies:

  • Attributes and behaviours: Competencies go beyond skills, it including a combination of the personals skills and knowledge with their behaviours and attitude.
  • Adaptable and transferable: Competencies can be applied across various situations, they are more transferable and can contribute to success in different roles.

To summarise, skills refer to specific learned abilities that are task-oriented and measurable, while competencies are the attributes that contribute to overall success of a the task. Both skills and competencies are important for personal and professional development, be sure to focus on how these together can contribute to successful career.

You may also like to read:

The 30 second CV test

Top 10 CV buzzwords

Being selective with your CV

The STAR interview technique

Posted in: News
Employer reading a cover letter