When you are invited to interview for a new job, your interviewer may ask you how your abilities will improve the company in your potential new role.
Interviewers gain a lot of useful information from your answers to these questions, but they are mainly interested in your perception of your own skill set. Or is it skillset?
These are two spelling variants of the same term, one of which is widely preferred and the other is rarely used in professional writing. If you have had a lot of job interviews in the past, you might already know the correct spelling.
But, for those who aren’t as familiar with this term, we want to go over which is which and which is better. Word choice is important, and if you are tailoring your résumé to maximize your chances in the job market, you will want to choose the best version of this term.
What is the Difference Between Skillset and Skill Set?
In this post, I will compare skill set vs. skillset. I will use each of these words in an example sentence, so you can see them in context.
Plus, I will show you a mnemonic device that you can use to decide whether skill set or skillset is better for your needs.
When to Use Skill Set
What does skill set mean? Skill set refers to a person’s abilities in a given area.
Skill set is a noun phrase; skill is technically an adjective that modifies set, a collective noun. One person could have many different skill sets, for instance, as an athlete, as a professional, and as an artist.
Here are some example sentences for skill set,
- Julianne looked over her resume and decided that she had used the phrase skill set too many times.
- Ben Zobrist’s unique skill set as a hitter leads to fewer strikeouts, even against elite pitchers.
- An all-American at Gonzaga, Wiltjer had offers to sign elsewhere last summer but thought the Houston system was a good fit for his unique skill set. –The New York Times
The two-word skill set is the standard spelling that is found in dictionaries. Many spellcheckers will even list the one-word skillset as a spelling error. As you can see from the graph below, skill set is the preferred spelling.
When to Use Skillset
What does skillset mean? Skillset is a variant spelling of the two-word skill set. As mentioned above, many people consider it a spelling error, as skill set is properly written as two words.
Since skill set itself is a jargon word, many dictionaries do not list either term, skill set or skillset, but for those who do list skill set as a word, they list it as the sole or preferred spelling.
Given this fact, the two-word skill set predominates in popular usage—by a huge margin. This is especially true in published English—where skill set appears roughly 50 times as frequently as skillset.
Here is a graph that charts skillset vs. skill set over the last 200 years,
Neither term was widely used before 1980, but the two-word skill set quickly became the established, predominant spelling.
The same goes for the plural words, skill sets and skillsets.
If you are writing a cover letter, a résumé, a job listing, etc., you will definitely want to use the two-word skill set.
That said, Skillset is the name of a software company specializing in test prep for information technology certification. In this usage, it is a proper noun and should always appear as a single word.
Trick to Remember the Difference
The decision between skill set and skillset is quite simple. The one-word skillset is so infrequently used compared with skill set that it approximates zero. The ratio is roughly 50:1.
In other words, you should always choose skill set, since it will be more recognizable to your readers.
A trick you can use to remember this is that a skill set is a set of skills, both of which are more than one word.
Is it skillset or skill set? Skillset and skill set are two variations of the same term, which refer to a person’s abilities in any given area.
- Skill set is the correct spelling.
- Skillset is a misspelling.