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Skills vs. Attributes on Your Resume: What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

17 August 2021   |   by Explore Careers
Reading Time: 3 minutes

While there are a few cross-overs, there’s an essential difference between your skills and your attributes that’s worth noting – especially for your resume!

  • Attributes are qualities you might naturally have: Perhaps you’re a naturally chatty person or have strong resilience.
  • Skills are things you’ve learnt through work, training or education, or life experience: Skills are tangible and can be backed up by qualifications and real-life examples.

Put it this way, having the right skills on your resume will help you land the interview, and demonstrating the right attributes at the interview can help you land the job!

Once you’ve identified your skills and attributes, you can start to fit them together, so they compliment you as a person and your career goals. Below is a list of some of the top skills and attributes to think about.


1. Initiative

Initiative is where you use positive action to secure the outcomes you want. In the workplace, this could mean seeking out or asking for new work/projects when you finish your workload or offering to help others who need it (without being asked!). It’s all about making things happen for yourself and is an important attribute at all stages of the job search process.

2. Motivation

Motivation is how you demonstrate a commitment to do well at something. It factors into a range of other attributes and skills such as time management, organisation, teamwork, and initiative! Motivation is what keeps you going, even if things seem a bit tough. It can help you through challenging work projects.

3. Engaging

Being engaging means, you’re able to hold a conversation and keep people interested in what you have to say. When it comes to jobs and interviews, being engaging can make a big difference. If an employer calls you to discuss a role you’ve applied for, they don’t want to hear one-word answers! Practicing your best first impression is a great way to develop this attribute ready for work.

4. Positivity

Positivity isn’t about never feeling sad or challenged; it’s about how you view different experiences and move forward from them. It means taking the lessons from each challenge you come up against and using them to become better at whatever it is you want to do.

5. Self Awareness

Self-awareness is your knowledge of what you’re good at and not so good at. At an interview, you need to talk confidently about your skills and experience to make sure you get across all the good stuff employers want to hear about. Strengths and weaknesses are common interview questions, and your self-awareness of these will help you excel.


1. Communication Skills

Good communication skills might feel like an attribute, but it is something you can be taught and develop over time, which in our opinion, makes it a skill! And a worthy one to work on at that. Communication skills are more than just being able to talk loads. It also involves active listening, participating appropriately in conversations, and using the right communication cues and nods to achieve positive outcomes.

2. Team Work

Few roles won’t require you to negotiate and contribute as part of a team. Working as part of a team isn’t necessarily just about helping a colleague out if they’re struggling. It’s also about asking for support if you need it, recognising the importance of utilising your colleagues for their strengths, and understanding how working together can make a business successful.

3. Time Management

This covers everything from committing to and achieving set deadlines for work to making sure you arrive on time in the morning! Time management demonstrates an understanding of how your performance affects the rest of your team and the business as a whole. Strong time management is a skill all employers will look for, so get this one on your resume and make sure you back it up with examples from previous experience.

4. Ability to Respond to Pressure

Being able to act quickly and decisively as required for the situation for a positive outcome is important and demonstrates that you’re capable and prepared to do what needs to be done. It’s a skill you can develop over time as you gain more work experience and a better idea of problem-solving for the situations in your chosen career sector.

5. Technical Skills

In an increasingly digitalised world, having a core understanding of using technology in the workplace is now an essential skill. It isn’t just about using a desktop computer or a tablet. It’s worth researching what digital skills are needed when applying for a role or having a solid list of up-to-date digi-skills you can refer to on your resume. Some positions will rely more on technical skills than others, so it pays to know what you need to have when applying for these jobs.

How many of these attributes or skills did you associate with already? Which ones would you feel confident putting on your resume and demonstrating at an interview?

This list is not exhaustive, but hopefully, it’s given you some good ideas of the difference between the two and why it matters!


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