The Difference Between 'Key Skills' & Qualities + Which Ones REALLY Matter to Employers

Updated: Dec 14, 2019



Now I bet you couldn't tell by looking at me but I love writing CV's. Yes you read that right, I really enjoy the process of putting them together. What I love the most is that although CV's do (for the most part) follow a particular style and format. No two CV is the same. Yes, there will be generic similarities; but a CV does allow you to showcase your unique skills and qualities and also allows some scope for you to be able to give examples of this. (whether it be in a cover letter or application form).


Though, in the 9 years I have worked within career development; in the mental health field as well as with career professionals from the private and public sectors. I have found that many individuals still fail to establish clarity between what differentiates skills from qualities. Even more importantly, not enough focus is given on the ones employers REALLY care about. If you want the heads up, keep reading.

Key skills are the skills you may have developed though your working or personal life that may prove beneficial to the role you are applying for. For the most part, your competencies in these areas is accessed through the interview or application process so it is vital that you do not stretch the truth about what you are able or unable to do. Instead, look at all of the roles you have had which you have worked in and look at what you day to day duties were. What areas was you competent in and could transfer into another role? Examples of key skills include: Time-keeping, Interpersonal and Organisation skills.


Top 3 Key skills employers want:


  • ICT Skills


This one may not seem like rocket science for you but demonstrating competency in Microsoft software packages is simply not enough anymore. Employers want to know that you also have the ability to use ICT in different ways. Are you able to use Linkedin competently? Can you use basic graphic design software like Canva, or more complicated packages like Indesign? Do you recognise the key differences between Facebook and Twitter and can you use them effectively. Even if you are not applying for a role that is no linked to these platforms. You will get more marks for having prior knowledge of them, as this skills will prove expendable for employers.


  • Leadership skills



Can you take control of a problematic situation if it may arise? Can you come up with ideas how to move the organisation forward and come up with fail proof ideas that you are not afraid to take control of and drive forward. Employers really want individuals who are not afraid to stand up and be counted and encourage individuals who are willing to take on roles which involve more active leadership. Having a good level of leadership skills also ties in with having thinking skills and the ability to focus on the solution and not on the problem.


  • Team work


Let's face it, you knew this one would be on here. If you are anything like me, you may struggle with this particular skill as I can easily remember team work projects in college and university where my 'team mates' lack of interest and enthusiasm often left me feeling deflated and not getting the marks I had wanted. Nonetheless, there is no getting away from it. Being able to work as part of a team is vital for your overall growth and professional development. There are many positives to be had when working in a team setting. 1. You have others to bounce ideas off on and you can tap into any knowledge that they may have to help you deal with issues or to come up with ideas. 2. Having a team means that not all work outcomes are dependent on your. A problem shared is ultimately halved.



Key Qualities are the attributes which you have developed within your roles while undertaking these skills. They are also the qualities you have gained during you interactions in day to day life.

They are the attributes which you have developed within your roles while undertaking these skills. They are also the qualities you have gained during your interactions in day to day life.


Examples of key qualities are: Hardworking, driven and kind.


Top 3 Key qualities employers want:


  • Resilience


You may be able to get the job started but if you come up against challenges, are you willing and able to push through the difficult periods and stay strong in the face of adversities and setbacks. Being able to demonstrate that you can manage conflicting deadlines and still show drive and determination to get the job done will ensure you stand head and shoulders above the rest.

  • Positive attitude


Because if the truth be told, no one likes a negative Nancy and although being positive everyday isn't always the easiest trait to demonstrate. It is vital that you do not allow negative thoughts to become negative words, especially in the work place. An easy way to attain and maintain a positive mental attitude is to choose to focus on the solution or establishing outcomes, seeking advice from colleagues and looking at what opportunities you have available to you before you throw in the towel.

  • Willing to learn


Whether you want to know what Gina is doing in accounts or what Leonard does in Logistics. Gaining some basic insight into the jobs that take place within your organisation, with the view of helping out (within reason of course) where necessary can make the world of difference to your employer. If you show a willingness to try new things for not only the experience but to also widen your knowledge base. This can ultimately provide you with employment opportunities outside the organisation or open up room for promotion where you presently work.


What would you say are your current key skills and qualities to date, use our notebooks to write down the competencies you already have and download our free Key skills/qualities resource to further plot out how you can develop in both areas.




By Sasha Shantel @SashaShantel_

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