What is most important? Joyce’s Career Tip of the Week

Do you know the difference between skills and attributes?

Several of my columns have mentioned or discussed the importance of being able to identify, articulate and demonstrate your skills and accomplishments in terms that are of interest to employers.Student and employer

There are the technical skills like programming languages, lab procedures, testing and design. There are communication skills – listening and expression – both oral and written. There are organizational skills, research skills and leadership skills.

Skills are learned competencies. Attributes are much more personal. Attributes are the personal qualities that make us who we are. I’m talking about values, ethics, motivation and attitude.

Over the years, I’ve heard hiring managers and recruiters emphasize this point when they talk about the importance of a candidate’s attitude in the hiring process. Do the stories told in interviews describe a person who can face and overcome challenges, solve problems, get along with others and has a passion for the work he or she does? This is what employers want. Technical skills can be learned. Companies provide training. Entry-level employees’ technical skills are expected to improve with practice and experience.

However, attributes cannot be taught. The company cannot make a person into someone other than who they are in order to meet their needs. Recruiters and hiring managers are seeking talent with the attributes that match their corporate culture.

A huge portion of my time is spent working with students on their résumés. It seems to me that students put more time into crafting, what they believe will be, the perfect résumé. As I was thinking about this blog over the weekend, I remember a conversation I had with a recent graduate who told me what his new employer had to say about hiring. The résumé is a very small part in the hiring process. It is the first step. If the required skills are there, the interview will follow. The interview is the place where candidates have the opportunity to stand out.

What is the most important thing that this employer is looking for? Attitude! He is looking for applicants who will take ownership of a problem and get things done.  He is also looking for someone with social skills – a person who can get along with others.

How would you and how would those who know you best describe your personal attributes? Take the time to identify these qualities and have stories to share. Think about what you will say that will let interviewers get to know you. As you are making plans for future semesters, be sure to select activities to give you the experiences that will convince those hiring for your your top-choice employer that you are what they are seeking.


Joyce Donahue is a Certified Career Counselor who works in the Fulton Schools Career Center.