Career Development

Core Competencies: Definitions and Examples

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A combination of business and individual core competencies adds to the reputation of the business and its commitment to its customers. Identify and cultivate your core competencies to perform your job better and advance in your career. In this article, you’ll learn about the basic core competencies with detailed explanations for each one and how to develop these skill sets.

What are core competencies?

Core competencies are positive characteristics that set you apart from others. For example, analytical thinking and communication are two areas that reflect on working relationships as well as the business.

Here are some core competencies grouped together according to their functions:

Examples of functional competencies that include technical skills or role-specific skills:

  • Web Developer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Editor

Examples of job performance competencies that involve people skills:

  • Communication
  • Management
  • Teamwork

Examples of leadership competencies that include management and influence:

  • Strategic thinking or planning
  • Project management
  • Resource management

 Core competencies can generally be applied across all job markets and contribute to the health and growth of the business. 

Related: Critical Thinking Skills To Advance Your Career: Definitions and Examples

Why are core competencies important to your career?

Businesses develop core competencies to create a strategic advantage for the company. Personal core competencies relate to individual and job successes that can benefit a business or advance a career path. Competencies may relate directly to the job role (such as a designer) or as a transferable skill that applies to general job roles (such as critical thinking). 

Developing core competencies involves learning how to support the company’s mission. Core competencies apply to the management of change and the development of new ideas. These skills can help to motivate others to collaborate and reach shared goals in the workplace. Collaboration leads to teams of people who feel empowered to create strategies and find solutions together.  

Related: Character Traits Employers Want to See at Work

Common core competencies

Here are common core competencies with detailed explanations for each:


Communication is how you write, speak and listen to customers, coworkers and management. This means you choose words and responses that contribute to the company in a positive way. Communication skills are used in customer service to provide an excellent customer experience that encourages the customer to return. Communicating well with coworkers and management helps to empower and motivate others to work better together to find solutions and develop responses.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking means you use analytical thinking to address a problem or issue and find a resolution. These skills apply to basic decision-making and problem-solving across the entire business spectrum. Critical thinking defines your approach to a problem and how you create a plan to solve it or research an alternative.


This skill is defined by the confidence you have in yourself and your ability to perform your job. Self-management skills indicate your flexibility in any given situation and demonstrate the ability to adapt to change. Reinforce your self-confidence by maintaining credibility and trustworthiness in your job roles and relationships. Managing personal stress is a self-management skill that allows you to reassess and design a new approach to reduce personal and job-related stress levels to increase productivity.


Leadership skills are cultivated when you work on a team or manage employees. Leadership competencies rely on strategic planning and the development of strategies that focus on the health and growth of a business. Leaders may guide teams or individuals to meet the company’s goals and develop in their job functions. An effective leader can influence others to build their own core competencies to benefit the business and ultimately, the customer.

 Related: Leadership Styles: Definitions and Uses for Every Career

Technical skills

This category of competencies includes your technical abilities and how you use the resources and tools available to you. Technical competencies mean you can devise new processes or contribute to the innovation of new ideas or systems. These may include computer skills, data analysis or data and information management. Technical competencies encompass specific talents or abilities specific to your job role.

Examples for listing core competencies on a resume

Here are some ways you can highlight your core competencies on your resume:

Examples of communication competency:

‘Work to build strong channels of communication between suppliers and distributors.’

‘Built a team of 20 employees to investigate customer service feedback and create effective change.’

Examples of critical thinking competency:

‘Analyzed data sets and information to make measured decisions in several key areas.’

‘Identified inconsistencies in data and worked to uncover and resolve conflicts.’

Examples of self-management competency:

‘Consistently communicate honestly and openly with colleagues and customers.’

‘Create proactive employee measures to reduce office stress and manage workloads.’

Examples of leadership competency:

‘Analyze products and services to understand customer needs and create strategies to fulfill expectations.’

‘Use numerous resources to prioritize tasks, assign roles and delegate responsibilities.’

Examples of technical competency:

‘Analyze critical data sets and decipher information to identify potential risks and create solutions.’

‘Able to diagnose technical issues using existing knowledge and experience.’

Tips to develop core competencies

Here are a few ways you can develop your core competencies to improve job performance:

Continuing education

You can build technical and communication competencies by focusing on your own knowledge and skill set. Attend workshops or seminars to improve technical skills or find workshops that focus on communication or critical thinking. Consider pursuing certificates or other credentials in your field to improve your knowledge and gain experience.

Find a mentor

If there is someone you admire, or who has reached similar goals, consider asking them to coach or mentor you. This may provide an opportunity to evaluate your skills at an individualized level so you can identify areas that need improvement. Mentors can help you define and set goals to reach your objectives and improve your career outlook.

 Related: Setting SMART Goals to Enhance Your Career

Take time for yourself

While you may give 110% at work, remember to take time for yourself as well. By creating time for hobbies or outside interests, you can grow your self-confidence and learn to manage stress.