What are the
12 Core Competencies?

These are the 12 core competencies that have been identified as critical for successful job performance.  Each core competency is listed with examples. 

Different jobs demand different competencies, however these twelve key competencies are the most commonly recognized behaviors required for success in nearly all work and career fields.

Competence and skills keyword illustration with words "12 Core Job Competencies"

Organizations will explore these 12 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 does core competency mean?

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 with examples


Key Actions and Examples

1. Decision Making

  • Uses sound judgment to make good decisions based on information gathered and analyzed.
  • determines priorities and importance of action.
  • Considers all pertinent facts and alternatives before deciding on the most appropriate action for the situation.
  • Commits to the decision.
  • Acts on the decision in a timely manner avoiding procrastination

2. Teamwork

  • Interacts with people effectively. Able and willing to share and receive information.
  • Encourages and respects the input of other team members.
  • Communicates openly and honestly.
  • Co-operates within the group and across groups.
  • Supports group decisions and puts group goals ahead of own goals.
  • Commits to the common goal and fulfills individual responsibilities.

3. Work Standards

  • Sets and maintains high performance standards.
  • Establishes work procedures to achieve high level of quality, service, productivity.
  • Dedicates necessary time and energy to work tasks.
  • Pays close attention to detail, accuracy and completeness.
  • Shows concern for all aspects of the job and follows up on work outputs.
  • Takes responsibility for outputs and outcomes.

4. Motivation

  • Displays energy and enthusiasm in approaching the job.
  • Commits to putting in additional effort.
  • Maintains high level of productivity and self-direction.
  • Takes on extra tasks.
  • Proactively seeks self-development opportunities.

5. Reliability

  • Takes personal responsibility for job performance.
  • Clarifies expected work standards and outcomes.
  • Consistently manages workload in a responsible manner.
  • Completes work in a timely, accurate and consistent manner.
  • Conscientious in the absence of supervision.
  • Sticks to commitments.
  • Fulfills obligations.

6. Problem Solving

  • Able to detect, recognize and define problems.
  • Analyzes problem by gathering, reviewing and organizing all relevant information.
  • Uses available resources to assess the problem.
  • Identifies cause and effect relationships.
  • Comes up with appropriate solutions.
  • Decides on best option for problem resolution.

7. Adaptability

  • Adapts to changing work environments, work priorities and organizational needs.
  • Able to effectively deal with change and diverse people.
  • Able to react to disruptions and problems quickly and effectively.
  • Able to deal with multiple demands and expectations.
  • Applies knowledge and skills to new circumstances.

8. Planning and Organizing

  • Sets clear objectives.
  • Plans and organizes tasks and work responsibilities to achieve objectives.
  • Schedules activities according to importance and urgency.
  • Allocates and uses resources properly.
  • Coordinates with other stakeholders.
  • Monitors progress towards outcomes.
  • Reviews and modifies plans and activity as necessary.

9. Communication

  • Expresses ideas effectively and clearly.
  • Organizes and delivers information appropriately.
  • Listens actively.
  • Writes concisely and with accuracy.
  • Able to determine the most appropriate method of communication.
  • Able to interpret information correctly.

10. Integrity

  • Shares complete and accurate information.
  • Maintains confidentiality and  meets own commitments.
  • Adheres to organizational policies and procedures.
  • Resists pressure from others not acting with integrity.
  • Admits mistakes.
  • Takes stand based on values and principles.

11. Initiative

  • Takes action to influence events.
  • Initiates action without direction from others.
  • Recognizes opportunities and identifies problems.
  • Generates ideas for improvement, takes advantage of opportunities, suggests innovations.
  • Uses resources creatively and optimally.
  • Does more than required.
  • Proactive in seeking solutions and overcoming challenges.

12. Stress Tolerance

  • Displays emotional resilience and the ability to withstand pressure on an on-going basis.
  • Deals with difficult situations and adverse events while maintaining performance and poise.
  • Responds appropriately in the face of tension, emotion and resistance.
  • Seeks support from others when necessary and uses appropriate coping techniques.

Assessing the core 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

Green highlighter and text explaining what a competency is. List of 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

Go to job-related competencies to find out the competencies relevant to different job types.

Evaluating core competencies in an interview

Five core competencies for the world of work in 2023

The world of work has changed over the last couple of years. Here are 5 core competencies that are likely to be in high demand going forward.

1. Adaptability - the ability to adapt to the changes that are happening in the way companies operate and work is critical for survival going forward. Companies will look for employees  who can demonstrate agility and flexibility in responding to new demands and challenges.

2. Creativity - the importance of creativity and innovation has been highlighted both during the pandemic and by the current world economic outlook. Companies and employees have to come up with new ways of doing business in order to respond to new demands.

3. Critical thinking - the ability to accurately and objectively evaluate data has become essential in a world overwhelmed with different ideas, arguments and information. Employees who can identify and analyze data systematically will be able to make sound decisions and solve problems.

Problem-solving behavioral interview questions

4. Resilience - the ability to maintain effectiveness in the face of difficulties has been widely put to the test over the last few years.  Employees with strong coping skills will be able to remain productive in the face of challenges.

5. Self management - the ability to organize one's day, self discipline and the motivation to achieve goals independently is essential with remote work. Taking personal ownership of job performance is vital to goal attainment.

Time management interview questions

List of 5 competencies for the new world of work in an illustration

Core competency examples in a resume

Understanding and highlighting the core competency requirements for the job you are applying for is key to getting your resume noticed.

Many employers and recruiters use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to scan and rank resumes. The ATS uses selected keywords to do this. The keywords usually include the core competency requirements for the position. Using the right resume keywords will ensure your resume gets to the next level in the hiring process.

Hiring Managers will look for the right keywords in each resume they read through when selecting suitable job candidates. Knowing which keywords and competencies to focus on will get your resume noticed.

Resume Keywords List by Industry

Sample Resumes

Sample Job Descriptions

Core competencies for managers and leaders

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Visit these job description samples to find out which of the 12 core competencies are required for your specific job opportunity.

Job interview guides for assessing the key competencies required for over 35 different jobs.

Behavioral interview questions database for over 20 different competencies with sample interview answers.

Competency based interview questions

Highlighting competencies in resumes and cover letters

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