The importance of including skills and competencies in a job description

3 min | Travis O'Rourke | Article | Leadership Managing a team Learning and development Emerging skillsets

A man and a woman walk up some stairs with their cellphones on their hands. The man is looking at the woman and smiling.

When writing a job description, it's important to include both the skills and competencies required for the role. Doing so helps attract candidates who are a strong match and sets clear expectations for what the hiring manager is looking for.

Skills refer to specific abilities or expertise someone needs to successfully perform the job duties. For example, skills could include proficiency with certain software programs, analytical capabilities, project management experience, etc. Listing concrete skills helps candidates understand the day-to-day work they'll be expected to do.

Competencies refer to softer behavioural characteristics and work styles that are needed for the role. Common competencies include communication, collaboration, adaptability, problem-solving, attention to detail, etc. Including competencies provides additional insight into the qualities and work habits a candidate needs to thrive in the position.

The main differences between skills and competencies are:

  • Skills are measurable and technical abilities, while competencies are behavioural traits and qualities. 
  • Skills are often learned through education, training or experience while competencies represent innate characteristics that are more inherent to a candidate's personality. 
  • Skills tend to be more concrete and tangible, while competencies are often soft skills that can be open to interpretation. 
  • Skills are role-specific requirements, while competencies represent broader capabilities that translate across jobs. 

Here are some examples of important skills and competencies to include when creating a job description:


  • Proficiency with CRM platforms like Salesforce 
  • SQL, Python, or other programming languages 
  • Data analysis using Excel or business intelligence software 
  • Project management certification or training 
  • Adobe Creative Suite expertise (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.) 
  • Fluent in Spanish, Mandarin, or other foreign languages 
  • Web development skills such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript 


  • Strong written and verbal communication abilities
  • Ability to manage multiple priorities and projects
  • Excellent time management and organizational skills
  • Demonstrated critical thinking and problem solving
  • Flexibility and adaptability to changing priorities
  • Creative thinker who can develop innovative solutions 
  • Detail-oriented with commitment to accuracy and quality
  • Analytical approach with data-driven decision making 

Overall, incorporating both skills and competencies creates a more well-rounded and effective job description. The skills section outlines the functional abilities needed for the role while the competencies provide additional context on work preferences and style. Including both provides a clear picture of both the hard and soft qualifications required for success. This helps attract better-suited candidates and ensures new hires have both the technical skills and behavioural traits to excel.

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About this author

Travis O'Rourke
President of Hays Canada & CCO, Hays Americas

Travis is a Marketing graduate from Fanshawe College and was the 2023 recipient of their Distinguished Alumni Award. He joined Hays after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays' outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.

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