How to Include Core Competencies in a Resume

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The primary objective of most resumes is to present you as an appealing candidate for a certain job. Highlighting core competencies in a resume is an excellent method for helping you to stand out as a qualified applicant. If you are interested in improving the effectiveness of your resume, you may benefit from featuring core competencies in your job application process. Read on to learn how to include core competencies in your resume.

What are core competencies?

Core competencies are fundamental skills and abilities that are directly related to the position you are applying for. They can be either hard or soft skills and will vary significantly depending on your industry. Typically, you include core competencies under their own heading and list them as bullet points instead of full sentences. You should choose which core competencies to include based on the individual job you are interested in. For example, if you are applying to be a dental hygienist, your core competencies list might include medical terminology, patient communication techniques and dental technology. 

Why should you feature core competencies?

A core competencies section accomplishes a number of important goals. 

Capturing the reader’s attention 

Featuring core competencies near the top of your resume provides your reader with an eye-catching summary of your relevant skills. Your core competencies list should inform hiring managers or potential employers that you possess the proficiency and experience they are looking for. Creating a core competencies section also allows your readers to see your relevant skills in one place instead of having to sift through your entire work history to find the information they need. 

Passing ATS screenings

The Applicant Tracking System is a software that automatically scans resumes to find certain keywords. Employers use ATS to narrow down the pool of applications that they receive by rejecting resumes that do not feature keywords relevant to a particular position. Including a core competencies section in your resume helps you to prominently feature the skills you want the ATS to flag. To ensure that your resume successfully passes ATS scans, consult the job listing ahead of time and draw keywords directly from the job description.

Summarizing your qualifications

Including a core competencies list on your resume is an efficient way to provide comprehensive proof that you are qualified for a certain job. Ideally, your list should include items that show both practical expertise and knowledge of the industry. When reading your core competencies section, hiring managers and recruiters should find a variety of skills that work together to portray you as a capable and experienced professional. 

How to include core competencies in a resume

Once you have decided to include core competencies in your resume, you need to know to feature them effectively. Here the steps you can follow:

1. Firstly, make a list of skills

The first step in this process is to make a list of all your professional skills, focusing on the ones that pertain to your chosen industry. The list should include a variety of hard and soft skills that you obtained while in school, gained from working previous jobs or learned from mentors. Ideally, the list consists of skills that would make you an effective and valuable asset to a professional team. Everyone has a different list of core competencies, but some common examples include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Customer service
  • Organizational communication
  • Team leadership
  • Project management
  • Creative thinking
  • Risk assessment
  • Attention to detail

2. Secondly, tailor the list to suit the job

Once you have created a relatively lengthy list, you then need to tailor it to suit the position you are applying for. This involves choosing 10-12 skills that directly relate to the duties associated with the job. To edit your list effectively, you should consult the specific job listing and read the description to see what kind of skills the employer is searching for. It is important to keep your core competencies section relatively short. Featuring less than a dozen items helps you to maintain your reader’s attention and ensures that you only include the most relevant skills. 

3. Next, choose a layout

Next, you should decide how you want your core competencies to appear within your document. There are several layouts you can use to highlight your skills. You can position your list:

  • Below the resume objective 
  • Above the qualifications section
  • Below the qualifications section
  • To the side of the qualifications or experience sections

Regardless of which layout you choose, your goal should be to make your core competencies easy to find and appealing to look at. Always use a bulleted list or table that can be understood by both the ATS and by human readers. 

4. Finally, add your core competencies to your resume

Finally, you can add your core competencies to your resume. At this stage, it is important to pay attention to the format and to make sure that all your skills fit on the page without any overlapping or crowding. Use a consistent font and font color that matches or coordinates with the other text in your document. If the section is too long or takes up too much space on the page, you may need to shorten it by removing items or reducing the font size. The last step is carefully proofread your list and eliminate any typos or errors. 

Core competencies examples

Here are some examples of what core competencies sections can look like: 

Project manager example

Ellen Andrews

Skilled and experienced project manager searching for a position that appreciates creative thinking and provides opportunities for career development.

Core competencies: 

  • Strong leadership  
  • Organization and scheduling  
  • Written and organizational communication 
  • Negotiation 
  • Risk assessment and management 
  • Decision making 
  • Strategic planning 
  • Team coordination 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Microsoft Office

Nursing student example

Jared DeWitt

Enthusiastic and accomplished nursing student looking to intern with a reputable medical facility in the greater St. Louis area. 

  • Patient care and communication
  • Professionalism and discretion
  • Teamwork
  • Adherence to safety protocols
  • Leadership
  • Attention to detail
  • Commitment to excellence
  • Nursing information systems

Elementary school teacher example

Reagan Garcia

Energetic and competent school teacher with four years of experience looking for a long-term position with a charter or private institution.

Core competencies include: 

  • Classroom management 
  • Parent discussion 
  • Interpersonal communication 
  • Lesson design and planning 
  • Discipline and guidance 
  • Identifying students with special needs or challenges 
  • Collaboration and teamwork 
  • Commitment to ethics and integrity 
  • Teaching a variety of class sizes