A core competencies (also known as a core qualifications) section on a resume could really help you stand out to both hiring managers and ATS systems. ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) are utilized by most employers today which automatically screen resumes to determine if they’re a good match. The core competencies section is the perfect place to spotlight the best resume skills you have as an applicant that the employer is seeking.
Every resume today should include a core competencies section, yet very few job seekers utilize one. We’ll show you what a core competencies section is, how to include one, and some great examples.
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What are core competencies on a resume?
Core competencies on a resume are your core skills and competencies that relate to the position you’re applying for. They should be listed in bullet points: not sentences.
Keeping it short will make it clear, concise, and more ATS friendly--which we'll discuss in more detail at the end of this post.
The core qualifications section is important for two reasons:
1. It catches the hiring manager's attention
A core competencies quickly tells the hiring manager how you’re qualified. Your resume is only skimmed over for a few seconds before the hiring manager decides to either reject your resume or look at it in more detail. A core competencies section allows you to quickly show the hiring manager that you’re a perfect fit for the position.
2. It gets you past ATS scans
An ATS system screens your resume for keywords and other information to determine if you’re a good match for the position. Why does this matter? Because over 90% of employers utilize an ATS and they reject over 75% of resumes submitted.
The core competencies section is super helpful for including keywords on a resume that the ATS may be searching for. It’s also really useful because you could tailor your resume for different positions by swapping keywords in and out.
Examples of core competencies on a resume
Here is an example of what a core competencies section on your resume should look like:
As you see this is a resume for a person in the sales and marketing field. It quickly and concisely shows the hiring manager what skills and knowledge the candidate posses without having to dig into the work experience section.
Once a hiring manager sees that the candidate's information is relevant, they're more likely to read into the resume in more detail.
Let's take a look at how we can quickly tailor this to another position.
Say another marketing position interests this candidate and "Content Marketing" is listed as a required skill. We can simply remove a less relevant skill and include "Content Marketing" instead.
Take a look now:
You can see that tailoring your resume is much easier with a core competencies section. Now if this were run through an ATS and it was searching for that particular term, it would rank the resume as good match for the position.
Tip: Do not use buzzwords like "Goal Oriented" or "Problem Solver." Hiring managers don't like seeing these overused soft skills on a resume. Stick to hard skills and keywords that are relevant to the industry or position.
How to find the right core competencies
You need to find the right competencies to include if you want to stand out and get past an ATS system.
Step #1: Come up with a list of skills that relate to the position or Industry you're targeting.
Step #2: Check the job descriptions to positions you want to apply for. You will find many of the same keywords listed which you should be using on your resume.
Step #3: Include the top 9 to 12 competencies under your summary.
Remember that you don't need to change each one when applying for different positions, but you should be swapping some in and out so it stays tailored.
Here is an example of what someone in sales might include:
Core Competencies List Example:
Strategic Market Planning
Tips for writing your core competencies
Keep it short. Don't use full sentences as it doesn't appear as clean and concise as short and relevant keywords.
List it under the summary. Listing your core competencies under your resume summary makes it easy to spot at first glance. You want to capture the hiring manager's attention from the start and show that you're a good match for the position.
Tailor your resume. You should be swapping keywords in and out for each position you apply to. Look at the job description to get ideas of keywords that an ATS would be looking for. Major responsibilities and skill requirements from the job description should be listed in your resume.
Don't keyword-stuff your resume. Thinking about stuffing a tons of keywords to rank your resume high in an applicant tracking system (ATS) test? It's not going to work. As quickly as an ATS rejects a resume without relevant keywords, it also rejects one that's stuffed with tons of them. Keep it between 9 to 12 core competencies, with additional skills throughout your resume.
A core competencies section can really help give your resume that boost it needs with all that competition. It allows you to pass ATS systems and capture the attention of a hiring manager. Remember to tailor your resume with relevant keywords for each position you apply for.
Good luck with your job search!
Leo Bastone, Editor & Content Writer
Leo Bastone is an Editor with a passion for using words to empower high-growth and mission-driven organizations. He’s worked in startup, non-profit, and enterprise environments across various sectors and currently serves as an editor at ZipJob. Based out of the greater New York City area, Leo enjoys traveling frequently throughout New England, one of his favorite hideaways being the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.