Skills vs. Competencies: What’s the Difference?

What is a skill or competency?

In the modern workplace, it is essential that businesses understand the difference between skills and competencies and how to ensure that all of their employees have the necessary qualifications, knowledge, and capabilities needed to succeed. Employers need to be aware of the distinct characteristics of each and how having both can help their organization to remain competitive and successful. While skills and competencies both measure an individual’s abilities, they are not the same. Understanding the differences between skills and competencies is key to ensuring that the right candidate is hired for the right job, and that all employees have the tools they need to excel in their roles. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between skills and competencies and discuss why employers should be aware of both when making hiring decisions.

Skills vs Competencies | Why being competent is more important? | Skill Development

Types of skills

Two types of skills include soft skills and hard skills. The distinctions between these categories of skills are as follows, with examples for each:

Soft skills

Soft skills refer to the nontechnical skills that individuals possess. These abilities aren’t industry-specific, so they can be used in a variety of roles across the majority of occupational fields. Soft skills include, for instance, interpersonal abilities like active listening, conflict resolution, and communication because they are more concerned with how people interact with one another than with their technical expertise in particular industry operations. Employees with soft skills often use their capacities to collaborate well, effectively manage their time and resources, and inspire themselves to address issues and meet challenges in the workplace. Here are some examples of common soft skills:

Hard skills

Hard skills are the specific technical competencies required of professionals in a given industry. Knowing how to use specialized tools or equipment to accomplish a task is frequently one of these skills. It may also entail possessing additional types of specialized industry knowledge, such as the ability to use particular software, use a particular coding language, or employ a particular method. For instance, to be effective in their position, software engineers need technical expertise in relation to programming languages and software design. Here are a few examples of hard skills:

What are skills?

Skills are advantages or competencies that people acquire through education and experience. In the workplace, professionals apply skills to achieve results. For instance, a manager uses leadership abilities to direct and inspire their team. Competencies in communication, delegation, time management, and problem-solving are examples of leadership skills. Many workplaces include a list of essential competencies they favor in applicants for particular positions. Candidates who are aware of their abilities and can describe how they intend to use them in the role aid hiring managers in determining whether they possess the necessary skills for the position.

What are competencies?

Competencies are groups of observable skills and abilities that people can use to accomplish a task or reach a goal. They frequently combine knowledge, skills, and abilities, and they may also include the particular actions someone takes to be successful in their line of work. For instance, a core competency for health care professionals is frequently the ability to provide patient care. Identifying specific skills that contribute to patient care as well as any personal qualities or behavioral tendencies that candidates who are applying for jobs in the health care sector may use to communicate their competencies in patient care

Types of competencies

Types of competencies typically comprise three categories. These categories include professional competencies, functional competencies, and behavioral or life skill competencies. Following are descriptions and examples of these various competencies:

Behavioral competencies

A group of abilities and practices known as behavioral competencies are used by people to manage their daily and personal needs. These skills, also known as life competencies, are a collection of competencies that enable people to meet demands in their daily lives. Along with soft skills like relationship building and communication, life skills include both hard skills like budgeting and cooking. Effective behavioral competencies help people create positive daily routines that improve their general health and wellbeing. The capacity to carry out necessary tasks enables people to work independently while meeting their own needs.

Examples of skills that contribute to behavioral competencies include:

Functional competencies

The everyday abilities that professionals need to succeed in their roles are known as functional competencies. These skills, which are also known as technical competencies, are prerequisites for employees to perform the duties of their jobs. For instance, the functional competencies of a financial analyst require a particular set of skills. These abilities could include familiarity with specialized computer software, analytical thinking, and financial literacy. Their overall functionality at work is facilitated by the combination of these abilities. When addressing the abilities that make them suitable for the position, a professional applying for a position as a financial analyst can demonstrate their functional competency.

Here are some other functional competencies:

Professional competencies

Professional competencies are the abilities that enable workers to succeed in a company or sector. Professional competencies are more general and relate to the combination of skills employees use to perform well and advance in the workplace. Functional competencies are skills that help people succeed within their specific occupational role. A doctor, for instance, needs knowledge of medicine and clinical proficiency to be successful in their position, but they also need a broader range of professional skills to be successful in their field, such as networking and industry awareness. Gaining more general professional competencies can lead to industry advancement.

Here are some skills that contribute to professional competency:

Skills vs. competencies

Although professionals need both competencies and skills to succeed in the workplace, these kinds of competencies have various applications and scopes. The following are some of the main distinctions between competencies and skills:


Skills and competencies differ in their scopes and focus. Competencies have a wider focus and include many skills, whereas skills are more specific in defining exact abilities. Skills typically display a more limited range of focus and are less detailed. For instance, the term “problem-solving skills” only refers to the group of competencies required to comprehend problems and come up with solutions. Compared to competencies, which include sets of skills that contribute to a wider area of strength, this has a narrower focus.

For instance, a doctor’s functional competencies might include the ability to solve problems. Doctors must have the ability to solve problems as part of their treatment planning competencies. This skill set also includes communication skills, assessment abilities, and clinical outcome knowledge in addition to problem-solving. These abilities work together to form a larger set of abilities that all go toward a single functional competency.

Job search emphasis

Different workplace applications for skills and competencies may exist, particularly during the job search process. While some employers post job listings based on skills, others might post job listings based on competencies. A skills-based listing may highlight particular abilities that an employer seeks in a potential employee. These kinds of job postings might be more typical for entry-level positions where applicants might have less experience creating sets of competencies specific to industries. Comparatively, competency-based job postings might employ more thorough descriptions to gain a deeper understanding of how candidates’ competencies highlight their skill sets. It’s possible that mid-level and senior positions have more of this kind of listing.

Path for development

The development of competencies typically involves more effort and takes longer than the development of skills. Competencies frequently take longer to develop because they involve a variety of behaviors, abilities, and proficiencies. Professionals pursuing competencies may need to train specific competencies that contribute to their overall competency in a given field, or they may train multiple competencies at once, lengthening the training process.

Since skills are typically more specialized, they may be easier to acquire. For instance, taking a semester-long certification course might be necessary for the candidate to learn a technical skill like how to use spreadsheet software. The candidate should have mastered the particular skill after completing the training.

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