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How to List Your Core Competencies on Your Resume

The goal of your resume is to “sell” your professional abilities — the skills and knowledge that make you fit to do the job. Or, in other words, your core competencies.

When you include a core competencies section on your resume, you draw attention to your most relevant skills. That’s a great way to impress hiring managers and ensure that you get a green light from the ATS system (if there’s one in place).

So if you are wondering just want core competencies to list on your resume and how to do that professionally, here are your answers!

What are Core Competencies?

The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) defines core competencies as:

 “The categories of knowledge, skills, and abilities all FBI agents are expected to cultivate and use in their work.” 

That’s as concise and clear of a definition that you can get!

Why are they so important? Well, over time any business may change its technologies and methodologies. However, it’s much less likely to change its defining characteristics (aka the gist that differentiates them from the competition). This “gist” stands for the company’s core competencies. Your core competencies, in turn,  underscore your ability to help a potential employer remain distinct and competitive.

Do You Have Any Core Competencies Examples?

We sure do! Here are some common examples of core competencies you may consider for your resume:

Written and verbal communication
Decision making
Critical thinking
Training and mentoring
Project management
Risk assessment
Time management
Strategic planning

You’ll notice that these examples aren’t tied to mastering any particular software, methodology, or having specific technical skills. That’s because core competencies are qualities that you develop along with your soft skills and these can be universally applicable, just like other transferable skills.

For example, the ability to provide empathetic customer service is a core competency. The ability to use customer service software such as ZenDesk is a hard skill. Sense the difference?

How to List Core Competencies on Your Resume

Should you have a separate core competencies resume section? Probably not. Your core competencies need context to have the most impact. Basically, you want to show the hiring manager that you can apply these in the work that you do.

So instead of doling out some precious resume “real estate”, try doing this instead:

List Core Competencies In Your Professional Summary

Your professional summary is a two-sentence max summary that goes at the very top of your resume. Thus, it only makes sense to choose two or three core competencies to emphasize here. Remember the idea is to show, not tell. Here’s an example:

“Experienced digital marketing manager with five years of experience leading a distributed team of content creators, analysts, and social media experts. Employs a leadership style that emphasizes communication, directly involved in all branding initiatives.”

Sprinkle Some More Core Competencies in the Work Experience Section

The work experience section is where you can show exactly how you applied your core competencies in tangible ways. You should also use this section to draw a connection between your technical skills and your core competencies.

Consider this example of a work experience entry:

Casper Enterprises
Front End Web Designer
June 2015 – Present

Designed websites, apps, and user interfaces for web-based software applications. Worked with a diverse collection of clients in the entertainment and e-commerce industries. Successfully designed optimal user experiences by:

Gathering user requirements.
Analyzing existing web pages and software.
Employing customer experience best practices.
Using tools including and Sketch to perfect front-end designs.

From this resume example, it’s clear that the applicant works at a company valuing great user experience in products. That means that user experience is the core competency. The skills that support that are the ability to gather user requirements, use UX tools such as, and apply industry best practices.

Core Competencies and The Rest of Your Resume

Your professional summary and work experience are the two key areas for you to focus on your core competencies. However, you can also use your education section, and the hobbies and interests section of your resume as well.

For example, when you list a college or university on your resume, you can mention that you were the creative director of the school’s theater program. You can also note that you lead the school’s recycling initiative. Finally, you can also emphasize core competencies if you list your hobbies and interests. Here’s a quick example:

Cooking and Baking
Work as a volunteer instructor at the local community center teaching families to cook healthy foods for active lifestyles

Such entries can really help you ‘beef up’ your resume if you’re new to the workforce, took a leave, or plan to change careers.

Final Tip: How to Choose The Best Core Competencies For Your Resume

To find the core competencies you should emphasize, do a bit of research. First, the job listing might provide some clues. For example, it might say, ‘We are looking for creative individuals with the ability to lead remote teams.’ That tells you directly that they value creativity and leadership. Less directly, they also tell you that communication is key. After all, that’s what it takes to lead a remote team.

You can also look at the company’s website. Read the company mission statement, about us page, and other similar documents to further understand which competencies are most important.

Ultimately, your goal is to show your potential employers that you possess the attributes and capabilities a potential employer needs to achieve its goals!

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