What are the
12 Core Competencies?

These are the 12 core competencies that have been identified as critical for successful job performance. Different jobs demand different competencies, however these twelve competencies are the most commonly recognized behaviors required for success in nearly all career fields.


Organizations will explore these core competencies in the job interview by asking competency-based interview questions, otherwise known as behavioral interview questions.

First it is important to understand what a competency is.

What is a competency?

You will find many different definitions of this concept. Generally a competency is described as the knowledge, skills and behavioral attributes necessary for acceptable job performance.

Knowledge refers to previous education and experience, skills refers to the technical or practical skills required to perform the job and behavioral attributes refer to personality characteristics that are key to successful job performance.

The 12 core competencies for job success


Key Actions

Decision Making

  • Uses sound judgment to make good decisions based on information gathered and analyzed.
  • Considers all pertinent facts and alternatives before deciding on the most appropriate action.
  • Commits to decision.


  • Interacts with people effectively. Able and willing to share and receive information.
  • Co-operates within the group and across groups.
  • Supports group decisions and puts group goals ahead of own goals

Work Standards

  • Sets and maintains high performance standards.
  • Pays close attention to detail, accuracy and completeness.
  • Shows concern for all aspects of the job and follows up on work outputs.


  • Displays energy and enthusiasm in approaching the job.
  • Commits to putting in additional effort.
  • Maintains high level of productivity and self-direction.


  • Takes personal responsibility for job performance.
  • Completes work in a timely and consistent manner.
  • Sticks to commitments.

Problem Solving

  • Analyzes problem by gathering and organizing all relevant information.
  • Identifies cause and effect relationships.
  • Comes up with appropriate solutions.


  • Adapts to changing work environments, work priorities and organizational needs.
  • Able to effectively deal with change and diverse people.

Planning and Organizing

  • Plans and organizes tasks and work responsibilities to achieve objectives.
  • Sets priorities. Schedules activities.
  • Allocates and uses resources properly.


  • Expresses ideas effectively.
  • Organizes and delivers information appropriately.
  • Listens actively.


  • Shares complete and accurate information.
  • Maintains confidentiality and  meets own commitments.
  • Adheres to organizational policies and procedures.


  • Takes action to influence events.
  • Generates ideas for improvement, takes advantage of opportunities, suggests innovations.
  • Does more than required.

Stress Tolerance

  • Displays emotional resilience and the ability to withstand pressure on an on-going basis.
  • Deals with difficult situations while maintaining performance.
  • Seeks support from others when necessary and uses appropriate coping techniques.

Assessing the competencies

This is done by asking the job candidate competency-based or behavioral interview questions that explore these competencies. A competency-based interview question will ask the candidate to provide an example of when he or she displayed the required competence or behavior in the past. For example:

"Tell me about a recent problem you discovered. What steps did you take to sort it out?"

A more detailed explanation of this type of job interview can be found at the behavioral interview guide

12 core competencies

Exploring the 12 Core Competencies

A list of behavioral or competency-based interview questions with sample behavioral interview answers can be found at behavioral interview questions

Behavioral Interview Answers

Go to behavioral interviews to find out the competencies relevant to different job types.

Find out about management competencies at What Makes a Good Manager?

Readers Recommend

Visit these job description samples to find which competencies are required for your specific job opportunity.

Job InterviewsInterview Questions  > 12 Core Competencies

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