Resume Tips

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 as you can get!

Other hiring managers also understand core competencies as your key qualifications — the abilities you bring to the role. 

Why are core competencies 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 it 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.

List of Core Competencies for a Resume

Enough with some vague terms. Here are concrete examples of core competencies you may consider for your resume (and your LinkedIn profile!) to make a stronger first impression. 

General Core Competencies 

Core Leadership Competencies

  • Visionary thinking
  • Strategic planning
  • Change management
  • Training and mentoring
  • Data-driven decision making 
  • Persuasion 
  • Negotiation 
  • Conflict resolution
  • Relationship building
  • Empowerment
  • Accountability
  • Integrity
  • Resilience
  • Time management
  • Delegation
  • Networking
  • Cultural competence
  • Team building 
  • Employee engagement 
  • Continuous learning
  • Innovative thinking 
  • Creativity 

Core Competencies in Business

  • Business acumen 
  • Sales and marketing 
  • New product development 
  • Project management 
  • Data analysis 
  • Market research 
  • Competitive analysis 
  • MVP development 
  • Market segmentation 
  • Supply chain management 
  • Quality control 
  • Financial forecasting 
  • Operations management 
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Crisis management
  • Sustainable practices
  • Corporate social responsibility 
  • Knowledge management 
  • Talent acquisition 
  • Performance measurement 
  • Process optimization 
  • Supply and vendor management 
  • Brand building 
  • Digital transformation
  • Technology acquisitions 
  • Cybersecurity awareness 
  • Public relations management 
  • Workplace diversity and inclusion 
  • Customer relationship management 

Core Competencies vs. Hard Skills: What’s the Difference? 

You’ll notice that these examples of core competencies aren’t tied to mastering any particular software, or 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?

Hard skills describe specific proficiencies. Core competencies cover a broader range of aptitudes, abilities, and knowledge that help you be successful in a role. 

Examples of Core Competencies For Different Roles

As a well-rounded professional, you have a lot of different competencies to offer. However, an appropriate resume shouldn’t run longer than one page

That’s why you need to curate your list of core competencies for each job to make it fit in a resume summary — roughly ⅓ of the page. To make this task easier, we’ve created a list of profession-specific core competencies. Feel free to swipe and customize these for your resume! 

Social Work Core Competencies

Social workers must demonstrate a combination of strong soft skills (active listening, communication, empathy) with broader competencies in advocacy, organization, execution, and management of complex people cases. Since you’re working with different, often vulnerable people, you also need to show excellent cultural competence, use inclusive language, and avoid biased judgments. 

To create a persuasive resume, consider including the following social work competencies: 

  • Human behavior analysis 
  • Child welfare
  • Family dynamics management 
  • Trauma-informed practices 
  • Substance abuse intervention
  • Gerontology studies 
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • Mental health management 
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Community engagement
  • Policy analysis and development 
  • Social justice leadership 
  • Advocacy for LGBTQ+
  • Diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) 
  • Group work management 
  • Human rights advocacy 
  • Ethical decision making 
  • Unconscious bias management 
  • Intervention strategies development 
  • Individual supervision 

Nursing Core Competencies

A great nursing resume does more than list your medical skills and knowledge of different types of procedures and clinical protocols. It also highlights your commitment to high patient care standards, strong self-management skills, and commitment to ongoing professional development. 

To impress the hiring managers, consider adding these core nursing competencies to your resume: 

  • Patient-centered care
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration 
  • Patient education 
  • Preventive medical practices 
  • Evidence-based health assessments 
  • Ethical clinical judgment 
  • Workplace leadership 
  • Mental resilience 
  • Quick adaptability 
  • Cultural sensitivity 
  • Patient advocacy 
  • Holistic nursing
  • Chronic disease management 
  • Nursing research 
  • Care coordination 
  • Palliative care 
  • Pain management 
  • Infection control 
  • End-of-life care 

For more ideas, check our list of nursing skills for a resume

Core Competencies in Marketing

Marketing is a wide field with plenty of interesting (and well-paid!) job opportunities. Because of that, it’s important to clearly communicate which type of marketer are you: a digital marketing extraordinaire or a public relations (PR) pro

Your list of core competencies is the best place, where you can sum up your key areas of expertise.   

  • Go-to-market research
  • Competitor analysis 
  • Brand development 
  • Content marketing 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Social media marketing (SMM) 
  • Influencer marketing 
  • Content strategy 
  • Copywriting
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO) 
  • Public relations (PR) 
  • Email marketing 
  • Email deliverability optimization 
  • Pricing psychology 
  • Event planning
  • Account-based marketing (ABM) 
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Marketing automation 
  • Media planning and buying 
  • Mobile marketing
  • Viral marketing
  • Growth Hacking
  • Product marketing 
  • Data analytics 
  • Target audience analysis 
  • Customer persona development 
  • Customer journey mapping 
  • UX writing 
  • Channel management 
  • Integrated marketing communications
  • Loyalty programs development 

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. 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 Resume Summary

Your resume summary is a two-sentence max snapshot of your professional abilities that sits 

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 Proto.io 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 Proto.io and apply industry best practices.

You can style a similar work entry section by using one of our free Google Docs templates for resumes. Then easily customize it for each job in several clicks. 

Consider a Dedicated Skills Section

If you’re using a two-column resume template (like our Plain in Purple), you’ll have room to fit a dedicated Skills section. This is a great way to put your most marketable competencies into the limelight. 

For a better reading experience, organize this section with subheads and bullet points. For example, a sales resume may include the following details:  

Core competencies  

  • Data-driven prospecting 
  • Consultative selling
  • Account-based marketing 

Technical skills

  • Salesforce 
  • Power BI 
  • HubSpot 

Interpersonal skills

  • Negotiation 
  • Closing techniques
  • Active listening 

Bring Up Core Competencies In Other Resume Sections 

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!

Author

  • Elena ProkopetsElena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice… more



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