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How to Include Core Competencies in your CV

When you’re creating a CV, you don’t have much space to create a good impression. Recruiters also only take a few seconds to scan your CV. Listing your core competencies can help you stand out from other candidates and make recruiters sit up and take notice. In this article, we’ll explain how core competencies are different to skills and how to list them in your CV.

Core competencies are usually found in job descriptions and person specifications. Many companies and organisations use a core competency list to quickly check the suitability of a candidate. An ATS (Applicant Tracking System) may also be programmed to scan CVs for core competencies as a quick way to sort through candidates.

While core competencies may vary for each position, there are common ones which are highly desired by every employer, e.g. teamwork. In your annual performance reviews with your employer, core competencies are used to measure your performance and to identify further areas of development. But what exactly are competencies and how do you include them in your CV?

How are core competencies different to skills?

Skills, are specific abilities that you acquire through education, further training, or in a job. For example, as an administrative assistant, you acquire the ability to type a certain number of words per minute.

Core competencies, on the other hand, are a much broader concept. While they can include skills, you often need various skills to develop a competency. Core competencies are best described as the combination of skills, knowledge and personal traits that enable you to perform in a job. For instance, in an IT context, the ability to understand a programming language is a skill. But to use that skill effectively, you need to be able to apply logic and reasoning, therefore the competency would be critical thinking.

Why should you mention your core competencies in your CV?

The term core competency originates from a concept in management theory that describes the unique set of resources and skills a company possesses, to distinguish themselves from other businesses. Employers often list specific core competencies in the job description as a way to establish if a candidate is the right fit for their organisation, no matter which role you’re applying for in the company.

By mentioning your core competencies in your CV, you show employers that you identify with their company values and that you understand what it takes to succeed in their company.

Core competencies usually include keywords which ATS have been programmed to scan as way to quickly sort through candidates, so including these in your CV can help you get through to the next stage.

Lastly, core competencies are an effective way to quickly summarise your expertise and skills to demonstrate your suitability as a candidate. This is especially, helpful if you’re changing careers and you’ve worked in different industries. Core competencies can help tie those disparate experiences together and convince employers that you have the right skills and knowledge for the position.

How do you identify your core competencies?

There are a number of ways to find out what your core competencies are. You could start by taking one of the many competency tests available online. Or you could ask a colleague or your manager who know you well in a working capacity.

It’s also a good idea to review the ‘essential criteria’ or ‘core competencies’ section of the job description to identify the core competencies that the employer expects candidates to have. This shows that you’ve read through the job description carefully and taken the time to tailor your application.

If you’re struggling to identify your core competencies, it’s helpful to make a list of all the skills you’ve acquired and developed throughout your career or in education (if you’re at the start of your career). Then, you can compare this list against the core competencies mentioned in the job description and remove any that are not relevant.

Examples of core competencies

While every employer will be looking for different core competencies, there are some core competencies that are sought after in every industry. Here are the most common ones and what they demonstrate:

Leadership: your ability to assemble and lead a team

Commit to excellence: your commitment to always do your best

Results-driven: you always strive to achieve targets

Problem-solving: you take a logical and systematic approach to solving problems

Avid learner: this shows that you are committed to improving your skills

Decision-making: the ability to make sound decisions using logic and reasoning

Analytical: the ability to draw logical conclusions from data

There are also many core competency frameworks available online, depending on your industry.

How do you mention core competencies in your CV?

You could mention your core competencies in your personal statement as, quite often, your personal statement will determine whether recruiters and employers read the rest of your CV. However, rather than listing them with bullet points, it’s best to use full sentences when your talking about them in your personal statement.

Alternatively, you could list them with bullet points in a separate ‘core competencies’ section after the work experience and education section of your CV.

Another option is to include them in a row under your CV title as follows:

Teacher

Leadership | Time management | Critical Thinking | Communication

If you take this approach, be sure to provide examples of how you developed these competencies in the work experience section of your CV:

Customer Service Manager

If you listed ‘Leadership’ as a core competency, you could demonstrate you possess this competency with the following examples:

  • Managed customer service project to improve response times by 5%.
  • Mentored and trained customer service agents on new password reset procedure.

Teacher

A common core competency for teachers is ‘Organisation’. To demonstrate that you possess this competency, you could mention that you:

  • Planned and designed learning plans for 50 students across 4 year groups.
  • Led extracurricular activities in addition to extra tuition classes to improve the A-Level pass rate of Year 11 German students.

As a rule of thumb, it’s sufficient to list 3-5 core competencies. Any more and it’ll look you’re stuffing your CV with keywords.

Start with the ones that are relevant to the job description and add any that you consider to be important for the performance of your work. However, avoiding listing a load of competencies in your CV in an attempt to impress employers — you can be sure that you’ll be asked about them should you be invited to an interview, and lying is never a good idea.