What is the difference between competencies and skills?


Almost every job profile or job advertisement has them: a list of competencies and skills that a candidate must have in order to perform a certain position properly. What is striking is that the terms competence and skill are often used interchangeably, despite there being an essential difference between the two.

What is the difference between competencies and skills?

In this blog we explain the difference between competences and skills and we explain both concepts with practical examples. We also show you how to further develop and map out your skills and competencies.

What are competencies?

To be able to interpret the difference between skills and competences, we must first define both concepts.

The meaning of a competency is: 'a combination of knowledge, skills, attitude and/or personal characteristics (personal qualities) that can be observed in behaviour, with which certain goals are achieved in a work situation' .

A competency basically consists of three parts:

- The knowledge (information and experience) that someone has in-house.
- The skills a person possesses. By this we mainly mean the physical and mental actions that a person has mastered well.
- The attitudes and character traits that are typical of a person. We are mainly talking about the (often learned) attitude that someone takes towards the world and his fellow human beings.

10 examples of competences

Perhaps the above definition still sounds a bit vague, theoretical and abstract to you… Let's therefore explain the concept of 'competence' further with some striking examples. We name ten.

- Adaptability: this means that you retain the ability to act effectively even when working conditions, tasks and responsibilities change.
- Communication skills: this competency encompasses all forms of written and verbal expression and enables you to clearly describe, communicate and present ideas to others.
- Involvement means that someone feels connected to his task and profession and through that attitude is able to stimulate others in his work environment.
- Collegiality means that you are not self-centered , but also take into account the needs and interests of the people with whom you share the workplace.
- Creating support is a competence with which you prepare people for a goal or change and convert any resistance to a plan or reform into a positive attitude.
- Learning ability is a competency that enables someone to quickly absorb, analyze and process new ideas, but also makes it possible to immediately apply that newly acquired knowledge in a work situation.
- Networking skills show how good someone is at forming, developing and perpetuating relationships, coalitions and partnerships, both within and outside their own organization.
- Cohesive leadership involves giving direction to a group and forging and maintaining lasting partnerships.
- Stress resistance means that you also continue to perform effectively under (time) pressure, in periods of setbacks and in the face of opposition.
- Self-knowledge is a competence that gives you insight into your strengths and weaknesses, beliefs, qualities, ambitions and interests.

What are skills?

Although both terms are often used in the same context, there is a difference between competences and skills.

Let's look at the meaning of the word skill. The definition of a skill is 'a particular task or activity in which a person is very proficient' .

Skills are developed – and perfected – through practice and practical experience. Learning and mastering a skill thus encompasses more than just a theoretical knowledge of facts and concepts.

10 examples of skills

Skills come in different forms and can be divided into, for example, practical, academic and personal skills. Below are 10 examples.

- Proper dressing is a practical skill that is part of the competence to provide first aid and/or care to injured people.
- Editing is a written expression skill that shows that someone knows how to produce a good text and has mastered the art of making an existing text better.
- Listening is a communication skill that shows empathy and patience.
- Selling is a commercial skill that demonstrates competencies such as persuasion and persuasion.
- Drawing is a skill that relies heavily on creativity.
- The ability to present well is a skill that shows that someone is talkative, assertive and persuasive, while at the same time delivering a clear and interesting presentation for a broad or specialist audience.
- Designing is a skill that demonstrates spatial awareness.
- Analyzing means that you can divide problems and issues into smaller parts in order to understand the whole.
- Teaching is a skill that says something about one's ability to teach or explain something new to other people.
- Programming is a skill that demonstrates that you are completely at home in the technical matter of information technology.

The difference between competencies and skills

Competencies and skills are often used as interchangeable terms, but in reality they are two different things.

The big difference is that a competency is much broader than a skill. A competency is a combination of knowledge, a number of skills and certain attitudes. As an observant reader you have probably already noticed: a skill is part of a competency . A competency such as communication skills, for example, requires several skills such as listening, summarizing, questioning and persuasion.

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