What is a Skill Set?

People preparing for a morning meeting
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A skill set is a particular category of skills or abilities necessary to perform a job. Examples of specific skill sets include human relations, research and planning, leadership, management, and computer skills.

Read below for information on types of skill sets, and how to match your skill sets to particular job requirements.

What Types of Skill Sets Are There?

There are several types of skill sets.

For example, skill sets can be considered soft or hard.

Soft skills are interpersonal, or people, skills. They are difficult to quantify, and relate to a person’s personality and ability to work with others. Soft skills include communication, critical thinking, and conflict resolution, among others. 

Hard skills are quantifiable and teachable; they include specific knowledge and abilities required for a job. Examples of hard skills include computer programming, accounting, mathematics, and data analysis. 

Here's more information on the difference between hard skills and soft skills.

There are also job specific and transferable skill sets. Transferable skills can apply to many different career fields. These include soft skills like critical thinking and problem solving. 

Job specific skill sets are those necessary for a particular job. For example, a hair stylist must know hair-coloring techniques, a clerk must have payroll skills, and a nutritionist must have diet management knowledge.

Here is a list of job specific employment skills for many different occupations.

How Do I Match My Skill Set to the Skills Required for a Job?

It is important to show employers that you have the skills necessary for the job you are applying for. You can demonstrate this in your resume, cover letter, and during the interview.

Job listings often include a list of skill sets that applicants require. In your resume and cover letter, reference the skill sets you have that apply to the job listing.

For example, if a position requires an applicant with strong computer skills, include in your resume a list of the software programs you are familiar with.

In your cover letter, mention your computer skills, and provide a specific example of a job you had where you used those skills regularly.

Use this list of resume and cover letter keywords to find ways to describe your skills to employers.

You should also emphasize your skill sets that relate to the job in your interview. Before an interview, make a list of your skill sets that relate to the job. For each skill set, come up with a particular example of a time you have demonstrated or used that skill in the past.

The closer a match your credentials are to the hiring criteria, the better your chances of getting a job offer.

Here's information on job specific skills including examples and how to promote them when applying for jobs. Also review this list of employment skills for many different occupations.

What Are My Skills? 

As you can see, highlighting your skills is an important part of any job search.

 But, what if you are uncertain which skills you have? Try answering these questions to determine your core skills: 

  • What do you enjoy doing? Identify the tasks where you feel extremely competent. Maybe throughout your lifetime, you've gravitated toward positions where you answer people's questions. That might be expressed as "communication skills" or "customer service abilities" from a resume-perspective. 
  • What gets you compliments? In a work setting, what activities lead to praise? Perhaps during end-of-year parties you consistently receive acknowledgement for your team player abilities. Or, maybe your goal review with your boss called out your timeliness. 
  • What have you done at your jobs? Look to job descriptions — both for the job you want and for the jobs you've held and described on your resume. Try to think about the skills necessary to do the work. For instance, if you launched a new app at your last job, you likely know a programming language or have other tech-based skills.  

    How Do I Develop New Skill Sets?

    If you are looking for a job in an industry that requires a particular skill set, it is important for you to develop that skill set.

    One way to do that is through skill sharing. This is when someone with a particular skill shares his or her knowledge in exchange for lessons in another skill. Often, this occurs online through a web tutorial. For example, someone looking for a job in marketing might exchange an online tutorial about web design for a tutorial in marketing strategy.

    You can also develop skills in other ways, including taking online courses in both hard and soft skills.

    More About Skills: Hard Skills | Soft Skills | Transferable Skills | Skills and Abilities | Resume Skills List | Skillsharing