Core Competencies For Your Resume (With Examples)

By Sky Ariella - Sep. 14, 2021
Skills Based Articles

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Many successful professionals and companies define their core competencies; those qualities them apart from their industry competition. It’s how they demonstrate their strengths and ultimately build their business.

As either an individual or corporation, understanding what core competencies are and how to evaluate yours can make your brand stand out to customers and hiring managers alike.

What Are Core Competencies?

Core competencies are the qualities, resources, and skills that provide a company or individual with a strategic advantage over their peers.

The concept of core competencies first arose in a 1990 Harvard Business Review article as a management theory to describe the skills and resources that a business uses to create a unique advantage over its competition.

It isn’t some free-floating idea or opinion put on a company by its observers. Core competencies are skills and resources defined by the organization or person and used to their advantage strategically.

The benefits don’t just come naturally from core competencies. You need to take time to define them, discuss a plan of action, and follow through to stand out from the crowd long-term.

Traditionally, core competencies are used to evaluate a company’s capabilities and advantages in the market.

In recent years, this term has expanded to be utilized by job-seekers to demonstrate their employable competencies. Applicants use their resume to highlight their core competencies through skills, traits, and experience, the combination of which makes them a distinctive candidate.

How Core Competencies Work

While the use of core competencies between job applicants and businesses may differ, they serve a similar purpose: to illustrate a unique set of skills and experiences to catch people’s attention and puts them ahead of their competition.

Core competencies are effective in demonstrating the unique traits that make a company or candidate noteworthy. They work by reflecting on a combination of evidence-based competencies you have and expressing these to the people considering you or your product.

While developing a core competency for your business may seem like a straightforward way to advance growth, there are both advantages and disadvantages of focusing on this framework.

Advantages of Core Competencies in Business

  1. Usable across many industries. Whether you work in technology or children’s fashion, defining your business’s core competencies can positively impact your success. It can also be useful in highlighting the special features of a particular product.

    Many products you know use a strategy of core competency to promote their brand and snag an advantage in the market. Whether the company emphasizes its quality or price value, it can leave a strong impression on its potential customer base.

  2. Difficult for competitors to duplicate. One of the most decisive advantages of leaning towards a core competency model is that it’s difficult for your competitors to duplicate your specific skills and resources.

    If your organization can develop an effective competency strategy, your competition won’t be able to copy it. It becomes ingrained in your identity, and customers come to associate these concepts with your brand.

    You can see examples of this in companies like Apple, which cornered the market in product innovation. Another strong example is how Netflix became synonymous with easily streaming TV and movies from home.

    Determining a core competency that’s accurate and makes your company unique provides a hefty competitive advantage.

  3. Builds a long-term advantage over competition. Building a brand strategy around a core competency has the potential to drive long-term competitive advantages.

    Many organizations and products see success in the short term when it comes to capturing consumer attention. They experience surges in business for years, even, before their numbers drop down from being replaced by a more strategic brand and fading behind the competition.

    Considering a core competency of your business can help with overcoming the challenge of sustaining market relevance long-term.

Disadvantages of Core Competencies in Business:

  1. Market demand can change. When an organization establishes a core competency model, those qualities and aspects of its brand or team become their identifier. It’s the permanent face of the company for the lifespan of their business. The core competence you choose to focus on needs to be able to withstand changes in the market.

    Things like technology advancements and consumer perspectives can destroy a business’s positive streak. Take a look at what happened to video-rental stores.

    Changes in market demand happen regularly. Only the strongest of competencies will be able to survive serious demand disruptions.

  2. You need to organize your company’s actions around core competency. Deciding to emphasize core competency can incur the difficulty of always needing to consider it before taking action. Doing things that go against your company’s core competency will quickly discourage consumers from doing further business with you.

    Consider if Amazon stopped taking returns. A big part of their brand is convenience for the customer. Taking this route would surely hurt their sales because it goes against what the consumers have become accustomed to.

  3. The possibility of relying on an unstable resource. Many businesses that implement a core competency model will do so by utilizing a combination of their resources, skills, and features. However, resources can become limited when you’re outsourcing.

    If you’ve built a brand around a core competency that’s dependent on a particular resource that becomes no longer available, it can have detrimental impacts on your business.

Examples of Core Competencies in Business

  1. High-quality service or product. When consumers invest their hard-earned money in a product or service, they’re expecting to receive quality. They want the best.

    Across various industries, there’s often a leading provider that’s known for this consideration of quality.

    Having a reputation for being a business that puts for high-quality products and services can be a powerful core competency to build on because it’s something people are always looking for.

    Brands like Rolex, KitchenAid, and Bosch have made high-quality the cornerstone of their identity.

  2. Customer service. Structuring a company around providing top-notch customer service can attract more business. It makes people’s purchasing experience more pleasurable and provides them with confidence that you’ll take care of any issues that arise.

    While Amazon is one of the most prominently known companies with this core competency model, many other kinds of companies succeed with a similar structure.

    Examples of businesses that focus on customer service include:

    • Jetblue

    • Publix

    • Trader Joe’s

    • HubSpot

  3. Embracing and providing innovation. Innovation is a popular core competency to attempt but a difficult one to succeed in. Choosing to construct a company image around producing innovation requires resources and a staff equipped to deliver creative, new ideas consistently.

    One of the companies best known for this rapid innovation competency is Apple. Their customers have come to expect a consistent stream of new, revolutionary products coming out on a prompt schedule, and now, that has become part of their identity.

    Innovation is a core competency that excites the market and gets them looking forward to purchasing from you. This can be very effective long-term because it encourages customer loyalty.

What Is a Core Competencies Section on a Resume?

A core competencies section on a resume is a summary of your unique qualifications and skills that replaces your resume’s skills section. Just as a business uses core competencies to generate and maintain customer interest, your resume’s core competencies should get the hiring manager interested in you.

What to Include in a Resume Core Competencies Section

Here’s how to decide which core competencies to include in your resume:

  1. Make a master list of your core competencies. Start with a judgment-free brainstorming session where you jot down every hard and soft skill you have. Think about what you’re often praised for at work or by friends — these are the things that other people consider to be your core competencies.

  2. Read the job description. Looking over the job requirements and the employer’s version of an ideal candidate is immensely helpful for deciding which core competencies to include on your resume. Pay special attention to soft skills that serve to differentiate candidates, like creativity or problem-solving.

    It’s also good to be mindful of how well you naturally align with the job in question at this point. If you find that your core competencies are compassion and curiosity, but the job you’re applying for requires adhering to a rigid set of rules and involves no social interaction, then it’s likely in everyone’s best interest to skip that job posting.

  3. Research the company. Companies aren’t shy about their values and mission — it’s usually right on their website’s About Us page. For example, let’s look at Amazon’s mission statement:

    Our mission is to continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover and buy anything, and empower businesses and content creators to maximize their success. We aim to be Earth’s most customer centric company.

    Even if you’d somehow never heard of Amazon before reading that, you’d know that valuable core competencies for your resume include customer service, maximizing convenience, the ability to leverage technology, and constant improvement.

  4. Include core competencies that overlap. Finally, cross-reference your original master list with your findings from the job description and company research.

    You may have to tweak your language or put extra emphasis on something you didn’t have on your original list, but following this strategy ensure that each and every item in your core competency section is directly relevant to the job.

  5. Repeat the process for each job application. Hopefully, steps 2 and 3 made it clear that you’ll need to repeat this process for each job you apply for. And it’s not just for the core competency section — each resume you send out should be optimized and tailored for the specific job.

Examples of Core Competencies for a Resume

While core competencies are traditionally associated with defining a company’s identity, they can also apply to creating a comprehensive applicant profile on a resume.

Core competencies in a resume can impress a hiring manager and lead them to offer an opportunity to interview. They create a summary of the soft skills that make you a notable candidate and paint a picture of who you are.

Consider the following examples of core competencies that could be helpful on your resume:

  1. Communication. Communication is a crucial skill for a company’s employees to have – both between co-workers internally and with customers externally. It’s an essential trait that employers look for in potential hires.

    Listing strong written and verbal communication skills in your resume is likely to get an employer to call you in for an interview to put your abilities to the test.

  2. Leadership. Finding candidates with strong leadership skills is very important to employers, whether they’re seeking to fill a management role or not. Even in entry-level applicants, demonstrating leadership skills can show the potential for growth and positive qualities.

    Listing leadership as a core competency on your resume lends itself to predicting that you’ll probably be successful in other areas as well. Consider leadership positions you’ve had in the past and examples of leadership skills to see if any of them fit you.

    Examples of leadership skills include:

    • Empathy

    • Delegation

    • Positivity

    • Time-management

    • Dependability

    • Flexibility

  3. Goal-oriented. Being goal-oriented is an in-demand trait for employees to have across multiple industries. It means being able to create plans, set expectations, and follow through with meeting an objective. It correlates to a lot of other positive qualities, as well.

    Goal orientation is a good core competency to include on your resume because it’s something that virtually any type of project requires. Employers will seek out this skill specifically because it can have such a massive impact on their productivity. They want to hire people who will be focused and committed to accomplishing the goals of their position.

Example Core Competency Resume Section

  1. Example of Core Competencies in a Resume Summary Statement

    Customer-focused and creative Account Manager with a 6-year background in software and technology products and services. Successfully leveraged market research skills to position ABC Corp. in 5 new regions, increasing annual revenue by 110% in first year of expansion.

  2. Example of Core Competencies in a Resume Work Experience Section

    Staff Accountant | 2015-2021
    123 Corp.

    • Implemented innovative budgetary program to meet interdepartmental needs

    • Devised purchase and distribution schedule that reduced corporate tax burden by 17% YoY

    • Interviewed, hired, and trained a team of 6 junior bookkeepers and accountants

  3. Example of Core Competencies in a Resume Skills Section

    Core Competencies

    Data Analysis | Problem-Solving | Project Management | Integrity

How to Answer “What Are Your Core Competencies?” in an Interview

Once you’ve committed to listing several of the most relevant and impressive core competencies on your resume, you must prepare for an interview. The potential employer has become familiar with your tagline, and in the interview, they will put your skills and knowledge to the test with strategic interview questions.

Consider the following tips for giving a satisfying answer if your interviewer ends up asking you, “what are your core competencies?”

  1. Be honest. While you want to be strategic in an interview, you never want to be dishonest. Make sure you’re sincere when discussing what your core competencies are in an interview. The hiring manager will often be able to tell if you’re being disingenuous or telling them what you think they want to hear.

    Even if they don’t realize on the spot, the truth will come out once you start working if you exaggerated your skills.

  2. Provide specific examples. One way of strengthening your interview answers is by providing detailed information about an example of a time you used your core competency skills. Think back to a former job or position and the reasons why you believe you demonstrate these abilities.

    If you’ve listed yourself as a problem-solver in your core competencies, refer to an instance where you solved a problem in the past and how you did it. Tell them a story about your skills. Interviewers respond well to knowledge and skills that have evidence to back them up.

  3. Express how your core competency will help their company. Tying together your skills with the benefit they can bring to the company you’re interviewing with is an excellent way to impress an interviewer when they’re asking about your core competencies. It reminds them that you’ve considered how these abilities will affect your job performance and displays you as a prepared candidate.

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.

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