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Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Other Attributes


You may have run into the acronym KSAO at some point along your career path.  This is a term used in Human Resources to reference Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and Other Attributes.  These are the four areas that are important to employers when they are hiring.  If your resume, letters, portfolio and interviews can touch on all four of these, the employer will see a well rounded version of you.

You can use the following definitions as a guide when you are assessing your resume:


Knowledge refers to something you have learned either formally (education and training) or informally (on-the-job or self-study).  It may include things like facts, theories, policies, procedures and rules.  It is what you know and understand; it is not always what you have done or what you are skilled in doing.  For example, you may have attended a workshop on ‘Brief Intervention Therapy’ but haven’t had the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned.  However, even before you put this knowledge into practice, you can capture it on your resume, e.g. under Training you can state your ‘Brief Intervention Therapy Certification’.   Knowledge is often reflected in the use of keywords; for example, knowledge of: ‘accounting principles’, ‘counselling techniques’, ‘insurance regulations’, ‘lab procedures’ and ‘equipment operation’.


Skills are observable and are gained through practical hands-on application where they are developed through practice.  For example, you can study sales and marketing, but it is when you start applying your knowledge by working in the field that you actually develop skills in sales and marketing.  Skills are developed through action, therefore, skills are often captured by action words.  You will want to present your skills on your resume, for example, ‘managed a production facility’, ‘counselled families’, ‘sold commercial insurance’, ‘hired, trained and supervised a team of 12′.  If you have extensive experience developing a skill, you can capture that on your resume as well, for example, ’12 years’ experience training apprentices’.


You were born with natural abilities that will stay with you for your entire life.  These are the things that seem to come easy to you, for example, some people have a natural athletic ability or an ability to think spatially.  These are the things you may find yourself drawing on in your career, for example:

  • “Why do I always end up looking after the budget on volunteer committees?” (good with numbers)
  • “I’ve noticed that in groups I am always the one asking why.” (analytical)
  • “I worked best in a workplace that has clear processes and structures.” (detailed, logical)
  • “I am always recognized for my ability to manage a crisis.” (composure)

 An ability makes it possible to develop a skill quickly.

Other Attributes

Your personality, characteristics, attitudes, interests, temperament and values combine to make up your attributes.  In HR, these are often called ‘Other Attributes’.  Attributes are often critical to success in a job, however job seekers often undervalue the impact of these attributes.  Employers tell us they look for people with the right attitude, people who will fit with the other team members, people who have values that match the core values of the organization. 

Attributes can be included in the content of your resume; for example, words such as confident, dependable, curious and determined.  Attributes are critical to share with a prospective employer, however some words have been overused which has diminished their impact.  So if you want to include an attribute on your resume, the rest of the content needs to backup and support this attribute.  For example, listing the word “determined” on your resume may not have the same impact as providing an example of when you demonstrated your determination, e.g. “Led a team in overcoming multiple barriers in the implementation of a new strategy…”  


  1. List your Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and other Attributes.
    • Start by listing all of your KSAOs then look at the list and highlight the KSAOs you have that relate to the specific position you are pursuing.
  2. Read through your current resume and look for the knowledge, skills, abilities and attributes that you have captured.
  3. Identify anything missing and ask yourself if your resume would be stronger if it was added or expanded.
  4. Contact Resume Pro Canada if you have any questions.  Send a message to or call us at (705)745-1607.

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