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Resume Strategies: Core Competencies


A “core competencies” section or “areas of expertise” section is effective because this area can hold key words, which are important for the ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) and human readers. Your major job skills are communicated very efficiently. Before a human sees the resume, it is commonly screened electronically by the employer’s ATS. The employer sets criteria. If your resume holds the keywords, your resume is more likely to be “found” by the ATS and progress to a human reader.For the human reader, the section serves as a quick check list for the reader to be sure you possess the requisite skills.


Determine the employer’s required skills.

Review job postings for your target job. You may find postings in hundreds of job sites, such as or If the postings are lacking in detail, conduct supplemental online research to define requirements for your target job. Another online resource to gather requirements for a particular occupation is the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. LinkedIn is an important source to uncover job postings and also view profiles of candidates who currently hold the job you are seeking.

Identify the relevant skills that you possess.

Which skills do you have that match the requirements of your target job? If you need to fill gaps, consider tangential skills. Remember to focus on actual job skills and not soft skills or professional characteristics. For example, rather than writing a soft skill such as “Strong Communicator,” wtite a job skill, such as “Executive Presentations.”

Format the competencies.

To facilitate a quick read, present your skills in a concise manner. Strive for one or two words. Keep the terms consistent. For example, rather than writing “Preparing for Audits” in one column and “Analysis & Reporting” in another, write the terms like this to be consistent: “Audit Preparation” and “Analysis & Reporting.”

How many competencies?

In most situations, a chart with nine competencies is appropriate. Twelve should be the maximum. Displaying more than twelve can result in some of the skills being skipped when a reader quickly scans the resume.


The “core competencies” section (or an “areas of expertise” section) is an excellent way to communicate your top values relevant to your particular goal. However, it is equally important to have key terms in other parts of your resume. When an employer’s ATS evaluates your resume, context is a major factor. It may not be enough to include key words in the “core competencies” section. Be sure you integrate key words in the education and experience sections of your resume as well.

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