What Are Qualitative Skills?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2019
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Qualitative skills are those which can be observed, but are not measurable. This is in direct contrast with quantitative skills, which can be measured in an objective fashion. Many jobs require qualitative skills, from working as a researcher in a scientific facility to conducting international diplomacy. There are a number of tools people can use to develop them, including attending formal education and training, taking workshops, and reading texts designed for people in their industry.

One example of a qualitative skill might be researching, which is valuable for people like legal assistants and librarians. It is not possible to measure someone's skill with research, although observers can make notes about whether someone is a good or bad researcher. People with skills in this area can uncover a variety of relevant information from good sources, and may be able to do so in a relatively short period of time. They are intimately familiar with accessible resources and can develop a detailed list of potential sources for a supervisor or client.


The ability to perform tasks that cannot be measured is key for a wide range of job positions. Qualitative skills can be challenging to acquire, in some cases, and they are more difficult to test for, as it is not possible to use simple, quantifiable measures to assess candidates. A surgeon, for example, can demonstrate knowledge of anatomy and physiology, but actual surgical technique in the operating room is a qualitative skill. It may be measured indirectly through patient outcomes in a long term study, but is not a directly quantitative trait.

In employee evaluations, qualitative skills may come up as a topic of discussion. Workplaces typically want their employees to develop and hone such skills, and need to come up with ways for supervisors to assess employees fairly. This may also be important for improvement plans, as concrete definitions and discussions can help people set and measure goals. Thus, a qualitative skill like getting along with coworkers might be broken down into a series questions about how often the employee experiences conflict, and how coworkers view that person in anonymous surveys.

Job listings typically include a list of expected skills and qualifications, some of which may be qualitative in nature. To demonstrate such skills, applicants may need letters of recommendation as well as a strong performance in an interview to show they are familiar with given subject matter and feel confident in the work environment. For trainees in entry-level positions who may not have qualitative skills, supervisors are responsible for providing training and feedback to help them develop these skills and apply them to challenges in the workplace.


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Post 3

What's interesting and kind of strange is that most of our life until we are adults, we are assessed based on our quantitative skills. We go to school and take lots of tests on knowledge that can be measured. But actually, this is not enough to succeed in life. Qualitative skills are just as important but we are not given as many chances to work on those as we are with quantitative skills. Why do we do that?

Post 2

@SteamLouis-- I think you're actually talking about people skills and teamwork skills there. People skills is the ability to get along with and influence others. I think that's what you mean by communicating 'effectively.'

Communication and language are quantitative. As you said, they can be tested and measured. But people skills like getting along and working successfully with others, making sure that one's opinion is heard and taken seriously, making sure that everyone coordinates for a common end goal, these are qualitative. They can't be measured but they can be observed.

Post 1

Is communication a qualitative skill?

Technically, it is possible to measure someone's knowledge of a language, grammar rules, etc. But communicating effectively and explaining oneself well doesn't always have to do with language knowledge. I think it may be a qualitative skill. Am I right?

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