31 Core Competencies Examples & What They Are [2020 Updated]

core competencies examples

Core competencies are a fairly new concept that managers look for during interviews. They are told through examples of your work history as well as your ability to answer interview questions.

A core competency might be shown during behavioral or STAR type interview questions. These are interview questions where previous work situations test your abilities as an employee.

Knowing what these core competencies are and how an interviewer might match your story with a competency can be immensely valuable for you.

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

What Are Core Competencies?

Core competencies are are the hard skills and soft skills that compromise someone's abilities in the workplace. It is a concept in management theory that was introduced by C.K. Prahalad and Gary Hamel. Employers care about core competencies because they are seeking to perfectly harmonize the efforts and capabilities of their fellow colleagues.

For example, they are looking to create a foundation of great communicators along with individuals who have the ability to manage change. There are harmonizing features amongst the employees who have matching or mismatching competencies.

In short, this creates an efficient workforce and an environment where each employee can work alongside one another to achieve greatness.

The competencies are in service of the customer at all times. A business is seeking to develop the perfect harmonizing workforce in order to better serve their bottom line. Meaning, competencies aren’t necessarily going to increase or decrease your odds of getting employed as you have no way of being able to differentiate which of your colleagues share or do not share your competencies. During interviews, sharing competencies will be beneficial to the interviewer but it will be by chance that your competencies match with what the manager, team or business is seeking.

If you desire to learn more about business management and how core competencies play a role, the book “Strategic Management and Core Competencies: Theory and Application” by Anders Drejer is a great start.

Frequently Used Core Competencies

These are the frequently used core competencies by the influence they provide within the workplace.

Leading Others or People Skills

Communication or Influence

Handling Business Matters

Achieving Results

Examples of Core Competencies In Use Through Storytelling

Core competencies aren’t measured while you’re in the workforce, they are measured during your interview. Being able to share stories that show your competencies indirectly is a skill that you will have to develop. Ideally, you pick examples that align with the core competencies that you feel are your strengths. Avoid mentioning those that are your weaknesses as it won’t directly align with your skills and could cause the interviewer to feel as though you aren’t telling them the truth.

Example of Having Focus

“I recall a few weeks before the end of the year, we were about to have a client meeting. And some media work wasn’t turned in entirely. We expected that if we didn’t finish certain parts of our proposed yearly plan that they might deduct it from the following year's compensation. Our team got together, put in the late nights and cleared out the glut we had. The point was that our team rallied around the mission and succeeded.”

Example of Motivational Support

“One thing I like to do every week is send someone an email and mention to them a great thing they did the week prior. This develops relationships and fosters great motivation in the workplace.”

Example of Fostering Collaboration

“Whenever I think of teamwork and collaboration, I always think of trying to make sure everyone has a chance to share their ideas. Even if it doesn’t always result in the same thing. Having the floor.”

Example of Empowering Peers

“I like to make sure that everyone is aware of what success looks like and how they might be able to contribute to it. I like to understand other people’s goals and how I can best align my own work to theirs to help them achieve that goal.”

Example of Managing Change

“I never like to limit my capabilities. Because of that, I’m open to new ideas and new ways of working. Always.”

Example of Developing Others

“Providing feedback can be hard. But I’m always looking for ways I can provide feedback that give them clear examples of how they might be able to better achieve their own goals. Align interests and achieve greatness.”

Example of Managing Performance

“Setting goals together is a wonderful thing. Every quarter I meet with my colleagues and we set goals together. Both personal and company-related goals.”

Example of Attention To Communication

“One of the ways I like to ensure that everyone is informed is by sending a weekly email update. This email acts as a way that my managers and peers can see progress. And it takes a lot of the guesswork out of what’s happened that week or what needs to happen in the coming weeks.”

Example of Oral Communication

“When I think of good communication, it is the ability to learn what others need to understand concepts. It’s not simply using language. It is finding the way language connects with others.”

Example of Written Communication

“Short emails are one of the best ways to communicate. I try to limit the number of words in an email to 350. If I can keep it short, I can keep it impactful. Anything longer than that and I tend to look towards phone calls as a way to exchange ideas.”

Example of Persuasive Communication

“Anytime I can use data to the advantage in the conversation, I will. I try to take bias and opinion of the scenario. I have seen that can be troubling to progress.”

Example of Influencing Others

“I try not to convince others but give them trade-offs. If we do one thing, this might happen. If we do another, this might happen. Presenting outcomes is the best way I can influence others in moments when it needs to occur.”

Example of Building Relationships

“Having lunch with someone is a simple gesture but important. It is important to connect with your coworkers on a personal level. That way they build rapport and trust with you.”

Example of Customer Service

“There’s no that we serve more than our customers. Knowing their pain points is the best way to guide our business developments. If I can gather that through data or by looking through customer call logs, I will.”

Example of Problem Solving & Information Gathering

“I see my role as a problem solver. Everything we do is about reducing friction for our customers and learning their pain points. If I ever feel like I’m missing information, I either decide to use my judgment or wait until I have all the information to proceed with a decision.”

Example of Analytical Thinking

“Whenever I can, I remove myself from the picture. I want to look at all the data and factors that go into a decision. I draw all the outcomes that might occur. And find the least restrictive and most risk-averse idea I can find.”

Example of Forward Thinking

“If I can dream of something great for our customers, I can try to make it a reality. It might be exactly what I dream, but there’s always ways to take a portion of that dream and turn it into something real. A fraction of the innovation and place it into something today.”

Example of Conceptual Thinking

“Taking concepts and turning them into reality takes the ability to think three-dimensionally. You need to visualize a complicated matter in your mind, place it into existence and then reverse engineer it. That’s the way I turn the concept into reality.”

Example of Strategic Thinking

“Looking at our competitors is a great way to find gaps in the market. Any gap that our competitors aren’t already in, will be a place I promote innovation and success.”

Example of Technical Expertise

“All business problems can be applied to some type of technical feat in today's world. Learning how to code and then learning how business problems can be applied to that is a great way to apply knowledge.”

Example of Entrepreneurial Abilities

“In high school, one of my businesses was a web design consulting business. At the time it was difficult to create a website. I remember charging $500 for it. And that created a lot of opportunities for me in life. Including our discussion right now.”

Example of Fostering Innovation

“Whenever someone feels like they have an idea but aren’t willing to share it, no matter how big or small, I try to encourage them. I want everyone to share ideas, no matter if we use them or not.”

Example of Being Result Driven

“Creativity is a great feeling. But achieving a goal feels better to me. I’d rather be able to measure my output than simply have someone appreciate my work.”

Example of Thoroughness

“Checking things twice is not just something that Santa Claus does, it’s something I appreciate as well. I can’t tell you how many times looking over a problem three times has resulted in better work.”

Example of Decisiveness

“Being able to make decisions feels great. But making the right decisions feels even better. That means looking at data, looking at research, coming up with an opinion and making a call.”

Example of Self-Confidence

“At times, I’ve had to defend my work. Especially when I’ve done the research and know the work is sound. I’m comfortable doing that, even to managers.”

Example of Stress Management

“One step at a time. This is the mantra I say to myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed with work.”

Example of Personal Credibility

“If I say I’m going to commit to solving a challenge, I’m going to do it. Being able to say this is the thing I’m doing to do and doing it. That’s the only way I will earn the respect of my colleagues.”

Example of Flexibility

“Sometimes things change. Change is okay. I’ve learned being adaptable to beliefs and ideas in the workplace is the best way to stay happy and produce great work.”

Core Competencies FAQ

Common questions from job seekers regarding core competencies.

What is the value of an employer measuring your core competence?

For the employer, they get an idea of how you might demonstrate your knowledge and skill in the workplace. It provides them the opportunity to effectively predict how you might have chemistry with your other coworkers and solve problems together.

What about common skills like communication skills and organizational skills, are these core competencies?

They certainly are. But they are more common than they are valuable. Try to use the list in this guide to identify what you do well in the workplace.

How can I better identify what makes my skills and abilities special?

Think about a work circumstance where you were able to solve problems in a meaningful way. And how you interacted with others in order to drive those outcomes. Then meditate on what you did that created that opportunity. What strengths did you show during that time? What did you do that was effective. Write those down and then draw conclusions to the list above.

Why do hiring managers care about the chemistry of the team?

When competencies align and connect in a meaningful way, teams have the right structure to process work in an effective manner. They have a keen and underlying understanding of one another more naturally. For example, one employee having leadership and the other employee having great direction following abilities. This allows the teams to communicate effectively while accomplishing work and tasks efficiently. For a manager, this feels like it provides them a competitive advantage over competitors when they have a team of executors that compliment each others competence and skill sets.

How should I think about developing core competencies as an employee?

Ask more questions and be involved in more conversations. Expose yourself to new risks but be sure you are approaching these new risks in a professional manner. Find a professional who you feel has a competence you would like to develop. Work closely with them to learn their strategies for working effectively and ask as many questions as you can to identify how they approach their job responsibilities with teams, individually, and with their managers.

What is a code of ethics?

A code of ethics is a guidebook on an organization's ethical guidelines and best practices to follow for honesty, integrity, and professionalism. Reading through this book can provide you an effective way to determine the development in the workplace your employer wants to see. This can help you to assess what work opportunities might increase your understanding of your own core competency or attempt the development of more.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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