Move your resume to the top of the yes pile!
Our professional Resume Builder has helped thousands of job seekers land more interviews and get hired faster.Build my resume
4 minute read | Nov 02, 2023 | By: Maria Correa, Career Expert
Hiring managers look for core competencies that indicate how suitable you are for a job. Here’s our rundown of key core competencies to feature in your resume.
When it comes to resume writing, it can often feel like there are dozens of plates to keep spinning. The right formatting, the best skills and the right language will impact how a hiring manager views a resume. Core competencies, values and abilities you have gained throughout your career, should be among these priorities — and can help tie the sections of your resume together.
To help you put your best job application together, we’ll provide you with a list of key competencies, as well as tips on how to determine your own competencies and list them in a resume.
Sometimes referred to as core qualifications, core competencies are the skills that make you best suited for a job. These are the skills that you would use daily in that role in order to fulfill and exceed a potential employer’s expectations of you and they vary from job to job.
The specific core competencies you list on your resume will depend on the job description you are applying for, the industry you work in and your own skill set. For example, in customer-facing or people-centered work, core competencies are likely to include soft skills like teamwork, communication skills and conflict resolution. If you work in a more technical role, like software development for example, then your core competencies may lean towards hard skills, such as programming languages (e.g. Java, CSS or HTML).
Whether you have a specific core competencies section or feature these abilities throughout your resume, featuring them makes it easy for a recruiter to see that you’re qualified for the role. In many cases, hiring managers may value your core competencies even above your specific skills and qualifications. So if you hit the right notes with your competencies, you’ll increase your chance of getting a new job.
These core competencies examples will benefit any resume:
Being an effective communicator is necessary for all parts of life, especially when you’re working with other people. Knowing how to communicate well — verbally or in written form — makes it easy for others to understand what you need. It leads to better professional relationships and shows that you’re also a good listener.
Strong communication is an important competency people in leadership (or those aiming for a leadership position) should have. Good communication helps you stay connected with your team, allows you to provide effective feedback and keeps everyone on the same page.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Being flexible means that instead of freezing in the face of a new challenge or a new priority, you can adjust your approach and take care of business. Companies like people who can stay cool under pressure and don’t hesitate to shift their tasks and work priorities when new needs arise.
When you include multitasking in your list of core competencies, you’re telling hiring managers that you can stay calm while juggling different assignments at the same time and meeting deadlines. It’s a highly valuable competency to have at your fingertips.
Multitasking isn’t an ability many people can do well, as it can easily lead to stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and even burnout. It’s important to remember that even if you’re a master juggler, you should keep track of your mental health and approach your manager if your plate is getting too full.
Communication serves as its own competency but it’s also an umbrella under which other competencies fall, such as conflict resolution. This ability means that you’re able to settle disagreements and debates with other members of your team calmly and reach a solution. This means avoiding passive-aggressiveness and shouting, and involves a lot of active listening.
Conflict resolution is key for people in leadership roles who are managing teams. A lot of the time you’re the person who will have to hear both sides of a story or come up with a creative solution for a work-related conflict.
Stress at work is inevitable. Some days, you’ll feel like you can handle anything and everything, and other days, you’ll feel like there is too much on your shoulders. Managing stress effectively is an attractive core competency because it allows employers to breathe easy knowing that whatever happens, you’ll be okay and continue to be productive.
Some ways you can gain better stress management skills is by including five-minute meditation sessions in your routine, learning different breathing techniques you can do from your desk and having a set routine outside of work that allows you to unwind.
To be a well-rounded individual — and a better employee — you need to recognize and understand your emotions, and have empathy for others. At a company, you’ll likely be working with people from different backgrounds and cultures, so being understanding of their feelings, behaviors and thoughts is incredibly important to maintain a positive workplace environment.
Likewise, when you have good interpersonal awareness, other people might feel more inclined to talk to you because you make them feel comfortable.
An analytical thinker is someone who is able to evaluate the information they have gathered or was provided and find possible solutions. They can see patterns, analyze data and think logically, making them a great asset for employers. This core competency combines research, creativity and problem solving, making it especially great for jobs in logistics, engineering and game design.
When you can think strategically, you can think ahead and create a clear road map to reach a specific goal. Strategic thinkers base their approach on research and logic, and are able to tackle challenges even if they’re projected to take months or years to solve.
Hiring managers like employees who can be strategic with their work, especially for a leadership position or if the job requires logic-based thinking.
Like many of the other competencies in this list, problem-solving abilities involve an assortment of other competencies. To be an effective problem solver, you need to think critically, communicate well with others, listen with intention and know how to properly resolve conflicts.
Problem-solving at work can look like identifying and analyzing a problem, thinking of creative solutions, delegating tasks and even managing stress to get the job done.
Adaptability at work means that not only are you able to adjust to new priorities seamlessly but you’re also capable of shifting your mindset to focus on new tasks Being able to switch gears without too much stress allows you to use your strategic thinking, problem-solving and quick thinking abilities on new priorities.
Another important aspect of adaptability involves collaboration. Sometimes, managers or coworkers have different opinions or come up with new ideas, so you have to be willing to listen and be able to merge their input with yours.
This competency is all about assessing a situation and taking action without someone else, be it a manager or a colleague, asking you. You can show initiative in the workplace by enrolling in extra training relevant to your career, developing a career plan in collaboration with your manager, noting areas of improvement or doing your own work-related research to come up with fresh ideas.
Initiative is a personal core competency that requires a lot of discipline and determination, as it focuses entirely on your own self-management and sometimes breaking out of your “comfort zone.”
Being a solutions-driven person means staying focused on the end goal. You know when to take action, how to ask the right questions and use your other competencies — such as problem solving, initiative and critical thinking — to complete your tasks. Whether in a management position or not, this ability is highly valuable in the workplace.
Quick thinking goes beyond coming up with solutions on the spot. It’s also being able to respond to someone or answer a question quickly and making sensible small decisions confidently. Quick thinkers rarely falter in the face of a new challenge or something unknown.
To be a quick thinker in the workplace, it’s helpful to know your areas of expertise and stick to your guns. Try not to answer everything at the same time, be a good listener and learn how to process information before providing an answer.
In industries like health care, decisiveness can be a matter of life or death. You should be able to think on your feet, make quick decisions under pressure and not stall when things go south. The stakes might not be as high if you’re an event planner or a teacher, but every job has moments when you need to be decisive about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.
Delegation is an important management skill everyone in a leadership position should possess. When you delegate, you’re assigning tasks to members of your team according to their expertise, time and responsibilities, improving their chances (and yours) of being productive. Another aspect of delegation involves helping people prioritize their work when they have a lot on their plate and are unsure where to start or what to do.
Not every task at work is going to be a one-person job. Sometimes, you’ll have to work with colleagues from your department or across departments to meet a goal, so hiring managers like having someone who knows how to work well with others.
Strong collaboration is a core competence that ties in with your ability to communicate, delegate tasks and even solve conflicts. It’s a competency that goes beyond simply being good at teamwork. Good collaborators are receptive to feedback, can adapt quickly to new challenges and set aside differences for a common goal.
To be a good communicator, you need to be a good listener. Active listening means that you pay attention to the person talking; this includes maintaining eye contact and/or staying quiet until they’ve finished making a point. By paying close attention to what others are saying, you can respond properly instead of interrupting or getting distracted by other things (like typing or texting).
When you show others you’re an active listener, they are more likely to approach you and will definitely appreciate the effort you make.
Most managers don’t want to have to constantly check up on you to make sure you’re doing your assigned work, they have a lot of things to do. Including responsibility as one of your core competencies will attest to your ability not just to work independently but to manage your duties on your own effectively.
A responsible employee is also someone who arrives on time, keeps track of their to-do list and maintains good communication with colleagues to let them know what you’re up to.
Things don’t always go how they should and sometimes, it’s our own doing — we’re human, after all. Being accountable means that you willingly take responsibility for your actions, you can communicate honestly with your colleagues and supervisors about problems and shortcomings, and can work towards providing solutions to solve issues.
Accountability in the workplace can be a huge game changer. When everyone can step up and be held accountable, it can foster an environment where people feel comfortable owning up to their mistakes without fear of extreme repercussions.
Attention to detail is an underrated ability that is extremely valuable across industries, whether nursing, social work or legal. Mentioning this competency in your resume tells employers that you double-check your work to ensure it follows industry or company standards, pay close attention to what you or your team members are doing and always aim to provide a high-quality product or service.
You can include core competencies in different sections of your resume.
The most obvious choice is to create a separate section to list core competencies, especially if you’re making a functional resume or a combination resume. Include between 8-12 core competencies on average, depending on your skill set and the seniority of the roles you are applying for. If you are applying for particularly specialized or senior roles you could increase the number of bullet points, but brevity is often best in resumes.
Read the job description to determine what the employer is looking for. Typically, they’ll let you know the type of candidate they’re looking to hire (e.g. Someone with excellent multitasking and strong written and verbal communication abilities) and the responsibilities the job entails.
If you have these qualifications, you can list them in your skills section, include them in the professional summary or describe how you’ve used them in the work history section.
Core competencies resume summary example:
Detail-oriented and highly organized administrative assistant with four years of experience. Strong written and verbal communication skills, proficient in Microsoft Excel and excellent administrative support. Knowledgeable in onboarding procedures for new hires and education on resources.
Notice that in this example, core competencies such as “detail-oriented” and “communication skills” are featured. If the job description lists Microsoft Excel as a requirement, this can also qualify as a core competency.
Core competencies resume work history example:
While specific core competencies are not listed in this example, you can infer what they are based on the achievements the job candidate lists, such as coordination of travel arrangements and documentation (attention to detail, communication), or composing timely reports (responsibility, accountability).
At ResumeHelp, we have dozens of articles to help you build your career and create a strong resume that takes you to the next level.
It can be hard to identify core competencies for a retail job search because the range of skills used in this industry is broad, but people-centered skills are often a good choice when it comes to a retail resume core competencies section:
You can list your core competencies in different sections of your resume: the resume summary or resume objective, the skills section or the work experience section. You can also create a new section and title it “Core Competencies” if you feel like it’s important to highlight 8-10 core competencies relevant to the job.
For an idea of how your competencies can be featured throughout a resume, explore our library of resume examples for different jobs and industries.
Yes! Every person is entry-level at some point in their career. The best way to show hiring managers and recruiters you’re a valuable resource when you don’t have a lot of experience is to focus on the core competencies you have that align with the job opportunity. Pair this with a good cover letter and you can attract their attention.
Another thing you should remember is that experience can come from multiple sources. Just because you haven’t worked at a 9-5 doesn’t mean that you don’t have valuable experience in a specific area. Were you in an internship that taught you industry skills? Did you participate in an after-school program or did volunteer work? You can include them in your resume if you learned skills and gained experience relevant to the job opportunity.
The best core competencies to feature in your resume will depend on the job. Different employers and industries will value and seek different abilities in potential candidates. That being said, there are some core competencies that are considered universal and can work across jobs, such as:
An example of a core competency is written and verbal communication abilities. Communication is one of the most important core competencies you can have and one of the few that is needed across industries.
When you’re a good communicator at work, your colleagues and team members will be able to better understand instructions, ideas and suggestions. Having strong communication abilities also implies that you have strong listening skills, know how to engage with others and can say things clearly without causing confusion.
No, core competencies and skills are two different things. Skills are strengths that can be gained through experience or training, and are divided into two categories, soft skills and hard skills. Core competencies are a broad set of abilities that someone uses to work or accomplish tasks.
For example, a programmer might use functional competencies to do their daily job. Under these functional competencies, they might have programming skills, critical thinking, strategic planning or systems analysis.
Identifying your core competencies is less complicated than you might think. The first step to figuring them out is to do research, so read articles about competencies and see which ones apply to you or which ones you wish you had. Once you’ve made a list of possible competencies, we suggest ranking yourself on a scale of one to five based on how good you are at each one. For the ones that are ranked lower or you don’t possess yet, look into ways you can develop or strengthen them.
Another option is to do online personality surveys, like the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator. They will typically ask you numerous questions and generate a report with your personality type, strengths and preferences that you can use as a base for determining your competencies.
Move your resume to the top of the yes pile!
Our professional Resume Builder has helped thousands of job seekers land more interviews and get hired faster.Build my resume
*As seen in:
See what our customers say about us
We personalize your experience.