What are Core Competencies on a Resume?
You’ve probably seen the term core competencies in articles about how to write a resume. However, you do not know what they are.
This article gives you an overview of core competencies and their role on a resume (or branding / career profile). It explains the difference between hard and soft competencies. You’ll also learn how to use core competencies to get you past ATS screeners.
Hard and Soft Skills
Core competencies are the skills you bring to a job. They can be either hard skills or soft skills. Hard skills are specific, quantifiable knowledge and abilities. If you’re a web designer, companies want you to have hard skills such as HTML and Adobe Creative Suite.
Soft skills relate to interpersonal relations in the workplace. Interviewers find it more difficult to define these skills. Communication and collaboration are two soft skills that recruiters would want to see on a web designer’s resume.
Determine Which Core Competencies to Use
You want to do a quick survey of job descriptions that interest you and look for keywords that consistently appear in those postings. If you’re applying for an accountant position, you’ll see targeted keywords such as GAAP and account reconciliation. Companies often want accountants to have expertise using certain software such as Excel and/or QuickBooks.
Even the most technical positions require soft skills too. Be sure to examine posting for keywords such as leadership and communication skills and incorporate them into your resume. Professional writers recommend you list 8-12 core competencies on your resume.
You can list licenses and certifications under core competencies too. On a Registered Nurse (RN) resume, you’ll want to include your nursing license, CPR certification, and any discipline-specific credentials such as the CDN (Certified Dialysis Nurse) and AOCN (Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse). For IT candidates, it is important that you list all relevant certifications.
Getting Through ATS Screeners
Studies in the last few years indicate that only a minority of resumes are seen by human eyes. The reason is because more companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to rank the received resumes. These computerized systems look for certain keywords affiliated with the job.
If you’re targeting two types of jobs such as purchasing and human resources, you need two separate resumes with two different core competency sections. When people try to put all of their skills in one resume, it does not read well.
How to Structure a Core Competencies section
A core competencies section needs to be in the top third of the resume. Many people put it underneath a Professional Summary of 3-4 sentences. You can put your skills in columns. A Senior Accountant resume that highlights a mix of hard and soft skills looks like:
- Financial Statement Preparation
- Account Reconciliations
- System Implementations
- Cash Flow Projections
- Cash Flow Management
- JD Edwards (ERP)
- Problem Solving
- Leadership Skills
Don’t Assume Anything
Applicants often make the mistake of assuming that a resume is reviewed by a person who understands the position. False! A computer and then an assistant will see your resume before any hiring manager. They both look for targeted keywords. A core competencies section showcases relevant keywords. It helps your resume rank higher and increases your odds of getting to interview with a decision-maker.