Complete Guide to Skill Sets for Career Success

Skill Set Definition | Examples & How-to |

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Hiring candidates who have the skills a business needs to succeed is one of the main goals of employers during the application process. While a candidate’s experience is an influential part of their application, hiring managers look for how that experience can be directly applied to new situations. In this guide, learn more about understanding your specific skill set and how to use it in the workplace prepares you to create a strong application for any job.

What is a skill set?

A skill set is the combination of abilities and knowledge that allows someone to successfully do a job or accomplish specific tasks. Depending on the type of work they do, a person’s skill set can include specific technical skills or a wide variety of general skills. When applying for jobs, identify your skill set to demonstrate why you would be a good fit for each position.

Common types of skills

To hire well-rounded candidates, employers often seek out a combination of these different skill categories.

Transferable skills

Transferable skills are any hard or soft skills that employees are able to adapt to different types of jobs. They include skills that every workplace needs, such as leadership and teamwork. While learning a skill in the context of your job helps you become an expert in that position, being able to apply that skill to other types of work shows adaptability and creativity. When listing transferable skills on your resume, be clear about how they will apply to your new position.

Job-specific skills

Job-specific skills refer to the skills needed to complete certain tasks within a position. Positions that generally involve the same tasks regardless of employer often require candidates to have clearly defined job-specific skills. Having a good understanding of a job’s responsibilities allows you to develop job-specific skills and gain industry expertise.

Soft skills

Soft skills are the collection of different behaviors and abilities that allow someone to work successfully with others. The ability to communicate with others, resolve problems and share your ideas in the workplace are all soft skills that employers look for during the hiring process. Including soft skills on your resume is especially important if your ideal job involves interacting with customers and clients or working closely with a team.

Hard skills

Hard skills are the technical knowledge and abilities that you need to perform specific tasks. Such skills can be learned through a classroom environment, independent study, or on the job. Although employers may develop your hard skills during the training process, they often look for applicants that already have a strong knowledge base for any relevant technical skills. Having hard skills allows you to quickly adapt to the specific technology or methods a company uses to complete technical tasks.

Skill set examples for different positions

Here are some common types of careers and examples of their standard skill sets.

Computer science

People working in the computer science industry are expected to have some basic technical knowledge as well as the skills to consistently learn and adapt to new technology. This sample skill set for someone working in computer science includes a range of interpersonal and technical skills that are highly desirable within the field.

Example of a computer science skill set:

  • Troubleshooting
  • Coding
  • Software development
  • Collaboration
  • Network management
  • Web design


Administrators are responsible for keeping operations running smoothly within a workplace, so their skill sets are often highly focused on efficiency and productivity. They must be familiar with office equipment and common workplace applications.

Example of an administration skill set:

  • Organization
  • Event coordination
  • Communication
  • Word processing
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork


Working as an educator requires teaching knowledge and advanced interpersonal communication skills. Teachers adapt their methods based on student learning styles and help students develop skills for school and life.

Example of an education skill set:

  • Patience
  • Lesson planning
  • Flexibility
  • Conflict resolution
  • Motivation
  • Mentorship

Business and finance

Jobs in business and finance require a diverse skill set because they interact with several different aspects of how companies function.

Example of a business or finance skill set:

  • Budgeting
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Project management
  • Strategic thinking
  • Data analysis


Healthcare positions directly influence patients’ health and well-being, so employers look for candidates who have consistent, proven skills in caring for others. The skill set for a health care position may require specialized training.

Example of a healthcare skill set:

  • Attention to detail
  • Empathy
  • Stress management
  • Integrity
  • Physical stamina
  • Focus

How to improve your skill set

Follow these steps to improve your skill set and add value to your resume.

1. First, research possible employers

To start improving your skill set, research potential employers to identify which skills would be most helpful to work on. Employers can indicate the skills they are looking for through job postings, mission statements, and information on their website. Use this information to be intentional about what skills you need to develop to be a competitive candidate in your field.

2. Next, practice new skills

After identifying the skills you need to develop, regularly practice using them in your daily life. Taking classes and reading about new skills can be helpful, but gaining practical experience in low-stress environments prepares you to successfully use those skills in the workplace. Look for projects and other opportunities that allow you to test your knowledge and techniques and learn from experience.

3. Third, ask questions

Coworkers and other people in your field are valuable resources for improving your skills. Ask questions about the methods others use to develop their skills and use active listening to get the most out of each conversation. Seeking feedback on your skills also allows you to make direct, intentional improvements to your skill set.

When you want to advance in your career or transition to a new role, it’s important to improve your skill set. A strong skill set can help you stand out among other candidates.

How to match your skill set to a job listing

Use these steps as a guide when selecting skills to include in your application for a specific job.

1. First, reflect on your experience

First, spend some time reflecting on what you do well at work and what skills help you succeed. Think about the feedback you have received from coworkers or managers and look for patterns. By developing a list of knowledge and abilities that you enjoy using, you will then be able to select which parts of your skill set would make the strongest impact on your resume.

2. Next, include keywords

Job postings include specific terms to describe the skills and responsibilities of a position. Notice what keywords an employer uses in their job postings and use similar terms in your resume to highlight your skills as a match for the position. This shows that you paid close attention to the requirements of the job and can make your resume more likely to be noticed by recruiting services and software.

3. Then, provide examples

For each skill you plan to list on your resume, think of examples of how that skill would help you do your job well. When describing your job experience, you can explain how you applied your skill set to each responsibility. Providing past examples creates a direct explanation for how you plan to use your skills in a new position.

4. Finally, use all parts of an application

Mention your skill set consistently in all parts of your application to reinforce your expertise. Avoid being repetitive and instead, use synonyms and anecdotes to highlight your skills. List skills on your resume, describe them in your cover letter, and add details during an interview.

One of the most important things you can do when applying for jobs is to show the employer how well you’re qualified for them by listing your relevant skills.

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