How to Write a Core Competencies Resume Section

Show employers you’re well qualified to perform the job.

How to Write a Core Competencies Resume Section

Weave core competencies throughout your resume.

Athletes know that developing a strong core is one of the best ways to enhance their performance. Washboard abs don’t just look good—they’re also the central base of support for the entire body. Similarly, building core competencies for a resume will support your application and strengthen your appeal to employers.

Mercifully, you can create core competencies in a single afternoon—no grueling workouts are required to reap the many benefits.

What Are Core Competencies?

Core competencies are skills, knowledge, and abilities relevant to your career field and job target. They show employers that you’re well qualified to perform the job that you’re applying for.

“The core competencies resume section provides a snapshot of your top skills and shows alignment with target jobs,” says Stacy Valancy, MBA, certified professional resume writer and founder of resume-writing and career-coaching firm Next Level Career Coach. 

Emphasize job-related skills in the core competencies resume section, says Phil Hurd, nationally certified resume writer and owner of Catalyst Resumes LLC, an executive resume service specializing in the technology sector. Job-related skills are unique to the target job and include specialized knowledge such as Java, lean methodology, or lead generation.

Soft skills—such as teamwork, communication, and adaptability—are fine, too, but avoid vague generalities. For example, specify ‘executive briefings’ instead of simply ‘communication skills,’” says Hurd.

Core Competencies Examples

Bookkeeper:

Accounts Payable | Accounts Receivable | Journal Entries

Account Reconciliation | Financial Reports | QuickBooks

Payroll Management | Month-End Close Processes

 

Sales representative:

B2B Sales Presentations | Proposal Development | Account Growth

Lead Generation | Pipeline Management | Territory Growth

Salesforce.com | Contract Negotiations | Opportunity Pipelines

 

IT solutions specialist:

Disaster Recovery | Cloud Migrations | SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS

AWS | Azure | Jira | DevOps | Agile | Scrum | SDLC

 

Why Should You Have a Core Competencies Resume Section?

Core competencies do double duty by appealing to both human readers and applicant tracking systems (ATS). “Not only do core competencies give the reader quick insight into what you bring to the table, but they also improve your resume’s performance with ATS,” says Hurd.

Core competencies often function as keywords used by ATS to sort and rank candidates, says Matthew Warzel, certified professional resume writer and president of MJW Careers, a career services firm providing resume writing, career coaching, and outplacement services. To improve your resume’s ranking and advance through the hiring process, “it helps to add a core competencies section.”

Of course, the resume will ultimately land in human hands. “The core competencies section helps readers quickly learn about the person’s skills and determine if there’s a good fit between the candidate and the job,” says Valancy. 

Where to Find Core Competencies 

Research is key to identifying competencies that employers find desirable. “Look at job postings that match your career goals, see what preferred qualifications keep showing up, and include your matching competencies on your document,” advises Valancy.

In addition to gleaning inspiration from job postings, review online profiles of professionals in similar positions to mine for important competencies. “Scour skills, endorsements, and recommendations sections to find competencies that you can add to your own resume,” says Warzel.

Job seekers with more than one career direction should source core competencies for each objective and create targeted resume versions. “If you’re targeting a sales representative role, you might highlight prospecting, negotiating, relationship building, and managing accounts,” Valancy says. “If you’re also targeting a sales manager role, you might highlight building teams, sales planning, training, and coaching.”

How to Incorporate Core Competencies

Hurd recommends not only adding core competencies in a designated resume section, but also incorporating them throughout the experience section. “Hiring managers want to see proof of stated competencies within the context of your job accomplishments,” he says. “The ideal is to have both a dedicated list and associated context.”

Weaving competencies throughout the resume could lead to a higher ATS score, according to Warzel. “The ATS may rank resumes by the number of times the buzzwords appear, so mention crucial competencies throughout the resume if they fit properly.”

Core competencies are typically placed near the top of the resume, such as after the qualifications summary, but can also appear toward the end of the resume. Work the section in so it flows seamlessly with the resume’s design and content.

There’s no hard and fast rule governing how many core competencies to list. “Think readability and impact,” Hurd suggests. “Avoid long, uninterrupted lists of more than ten skills.”

Have a More-Than-Competent Job Search

Your core competencies resume section is just one way to get a hiring manager’s attention. Want to know another super-easy way? Upload your resume for free to Monster and make it visible to recruiters who can hook you up with top jobs in your field.