Conceptual Skills Definition, List, and Examples

Conceptual skills are valuable to employers. Being able to articulate the fact that you have conceptual skills can help to reassure your employer that you know how to project business objectives into the world and accomplish them.

Let’s dig into why conceptual skills are important to your employer, how to show your employer you have these soft skills, and how you might be able to further develop your abilities.

In this guide, we’re going to go over:

  • What are conceptual skills and how can you define them for yourself.
  • What makes conceptual skills appealing to your employer.
  • When and how to show your employer that you have valuable conceptual soft skills.
  • How you might be able to develop and hone your professional conceptual skills further.

Let’s go ahead and jump right in!

conceptual skills

Table of Contents

Defining Conceptual Skills

Conceptual skills are the ability to project, visualize, and reverse engineer ideas that are not yet tangible. For example, the ability to project how a commercial building may appear before designing the blueprints or structural needs is the act of conceptualizing.

When you can communicate, in high detail, the description of these concepts to others, this would be classified as having “conceptual skills”.

In order to have conceptual skills your brain must be able to:

  • Visualize an alternative reality than the one you are currently living within.
  • Have the ability to creatively manipulate a potential reality.
  • Understand and break down certain external and internal factors that might disrupt these visualizations (then communicate them).
  • Manipulate the visualization based on data, research, or input from others.

When you perform this mental exercise, you are able to perform conceptualization.

Why Conceptual Skills Are Appealing to Employers

All great business ideas started with a concept. From the major idea to the minor idea. Big and small. They began by understanding there is a need to be addressed and then acting on that need.

Most businesses began by seeing that customers needed alternative options than the ones that existed. But in order for the business to become a reality, the founder needed to create a concept and then execute that concept. They exercised conceptual skills.

For employers, they recognize that high performing employees often have conceptual skills. They are able to visualize how a particular product, service, or project should be improved. And then act on that improvement.

This makes conceptualizing business needs not only relative to the needs of the workforce, but it’s relatable to the founding story of the company.

Conceptual skills are the only soft skill type that employers feel can be shared amongst a majority of the workforce. Compared to a soft skill like public speaking, where only a few employees might be required to have this competency as part of the workforce, it is more lucrative to have more employers be able to conceptualize business needs.

Showing Your Employer You Have These Skills

Showing your employer that you have these skills can be complicated. You have the option of simply listing “conceptual skills” as part of your skills list on your resume. And that may be enough.

But the better option is to display your abilities through stories and performance objectives that you were able to obtain.

For example, listing a short story in your cover letter, and alluding to the fact that you were able to create something from concept to completion, can be impactful.

Here would be an example of how you might communicate that as part of your cover letter. Similarly, this would be how you would communicate during your interview in order to display your conceptualization abilities.

“In Q1 of 2012, it was a major objective by the CEO to try and turn around our high customer service request rate. I had the idea to put together a customer support portal, with far more FAQ sections and assistive videos. It was a big project. We started to outline the needs, from engineering to the design and videography. We started small, peeled our way into the project over three quarters. At the end of it, our customer service request rate dropped by nearly 40%.”

In this storyline, we showed our ability to come up with an idea that was focused on certain leadership objectives, and then find a way to execute against it. This shows conceptual soft skills.

Soft skills that can accompany or help to portray your ability to have conceptual skills would be:

  • Research skills
  • Quantitative skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Strategic thinking skills
  • Creative thinking skills
  • Diagnostic skills
  • Customer service skills
  • Solution building skills
  • Logical thinking skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Broad thinking skills
  • Task implementation skills
  • Vision building skills

Both of these skills are generally assistive to conceptualizing an idea and acting upon it.

Developing Professional Conceptual Skills

In order to develop more skills of this kind in the workplace, you need to be able to exercise your ability to listen and learn. If you aren’t willing to change your perception about certain matters of business, you will not be able to obtain further conceptualization abilities.

When trying to develop more of this ability, try to:

  • Listen. The more you can listen to those who have great conceptual skills, the more you can absorb. Try to think about their thought process and what factors they were considering when trying to move forward with their objective.
  • Ask questions. This is very important, ask questions when you don’t understand. Your ability to ask questions and fill gaps in your own knowledge base can help you spot the patterns that others repeat when conceptualizing business needs.
  • Research. The more you can learn how to use data and insights to your advantage, the better your conceptualization skills will be. Consider all external factors and ensure they are not being disruptive to your original thought process.

Management Types Who Depend on Conceptual Skills

As an employee, there are certain managers within organizations that depend on you having more conceptual skills than others. For example, if you are an architect and you don’t show that you have the ability to conceptualize and comprehend difficult ideas, you might have a hard time finding employment.

Within most organizations, these are some of the titles of the “report to” manager that may require you to have more of these skills than not:

  • Project Managers
  • Product Managers
  • VP of Product
  • VP of Engineering
  • Engineering Managers
  • Head of Innovation
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Investment Officer

While this list goes on, you should be considering your industry and how important the function of turning an idea into reality is.

Who Should Have These Skills

All employees should have these skills. Though, for managers, or those who may have more ability to execute business functions, it will be more important for you.

The way to determine this is to read through the job description and see if performance is part of the requirements. For example, managing a P&L would be considered performance-related objectives. And that may require you to have more conceptual skills than not.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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