Core competencies are skills, attributes and knowledge … essentially it’s a way of combining activities, resources and operations to help distinguish one company from the next. Yes, it is agreed, this is irrelevant to you – or it will be until the light bulb turns on over your head and you realise that you can bend this information to its knees and place it on a CV and cover letter. Now you may be thinking, ‘Great! But what exactly are they?’

Spilling the beans

Before we open the door to the wondrous competencies garden, let’s first take a moment to realise that you can enhance your CV to fit the needs of the company you are applying for. ‘How?’ you may ask. By using a magical device known as the Google search engine or using a variant of the legionary search engine on the company’s home webpage that you are applying for. There you can search for [insert company name you are head over heels dying to enter] + ‘competency skills’ then, in theory, you will see the core values of the company. Let’s give you an example.
In Google, search ‘IBM Competencies’ and find a box magically appear:

IBM’s Core Competencies:

Client Focus
Communication Skills
Creative Problem-Solving
Passion For IBM
Taking Ownership


Each of these words can be weaved into your CV and/or commented on in the interview. This will also prove to your interviewer you care enough to research the company. If, however, this does not work … well then, good luck!

Another place you can stalk – carefully read that is, is the ‘about the company’ website page. There you can allow the keywords to penetrate your mind, take root in your eyes … and write about them in your CV and cover letter.

The breakdown

Now that we understand why the core competencies are important/how they are applicable to you, let’s talk about what they actually are:

  • Thinking! Thinking can be split into a few different categories. There’s creative, conceptual, analytical and forward thinking to list a few. Each of these take different aspects of the concept. For example …
  • Creative Thinking is all about how you gravitate to the abnormal, come up with a new approach and unique ideas. This can be anything from thinking outside the box to putting salt in your Ketchup instead of on your chips.
  • Conceptual Thinking meanwhile is using abstract, theoretical or holistic approaches to solve a problem – such as using graphic design PowerPoints to prove a point or using metaphors to explain a situation. Here you can draw on your experience of easily noticing patterns of similarities or differences between unrelated situations. 
  • Analytical Thinking – if you are thinking ‘Vulcan’ you are correct. Analytical thinking uses logic to help solve problems. If this is one of your specialties, then making systematic comparisons is your cup of tea. You are rather good at finding inconsistent information and are gifted in breaking down complex tasks by considering each detail part by part.
  • Forward Thinking is how you can predict what may happen and think-up different ways to anticipate it, but more importantly, knowing how to avoid following the usual trends/come-up with ideas to plan and create different opportunities to promote the company and hopefully not create new problems.

Thinking is significant, but (spoiler!) it’s not everything. It’s important to know how to make decisions, empower others, evaluate and have great communication skills. Each of these points you can elaborate on, morphing into a grand scheme that could win over the heart of your dreaded interviewer, allowing you to sail up to the top of the job application slush pile.

  • Communication! Communication is another fun competency skill that can be broken down into various categories. These involve the typical oral and written communication, as well as persuasive and attention to communication. Let’s take a closer look:
    • Oral Communication is pretty self-explanatory. This covers speaking clearly, easily relaying information/being comprehended, how well you are at organising and presenting your speech patterns, maintaining eye contact …. If you are not a native speaker it can also refer to your English level as well. This can overlap with our next topic ….
    • Written Communication includes spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you are creative enough you can tap into your conceptual thinking and use graphics and other visual aids to clarify your point.
    • Persuasive Communication is crucial for upper-management and sales positions as it is much needed to impact your target audience. It is drawn by selective language, experience, relatable stories – pretty much anything that can be twisted and hammered into a weaker individual to convince everyone that your way is the only way and their way is simply wrong.
interview carrier pigeon
  • Attentive to Communication, aka listening and more meaningfully, passing the right information on to the correct person with your personal filter getting in the way. Another good trait is being able to identify a brilliant idea and passing it onto another person who can execute it. Essentially, you must ask yourself, are you a good carrier pigeon?

As you can see, competency skills are skills that everyone uses. It’s much like grasping what kind of personality traits you have and displaying them on a silver platter for your interviewer to see and choose to taste by accepting you (or not) for the position of your choosing.

Other fun articles you can read are soft skills, teamworkcommunication and more. If you still feel you need help with this, or a more thorough comprehension of what a particular job’s hiring process is, go to our main website, JobTestPrep for more information.