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Resume Writing 101: Core Competencies Section

The key to keywords

In order to filter through resumes more efficiently, nearly all employers are using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These systems allow employers to search for applicants by using keywords and phrases to match the skills they’re looking for in a candidate. However, not all job seekers know how to use keywords in a resume to get past the ATS.

If you've ever applied to a position that you were well qualified for and received an automated rejection email less than 24 hours later, chances are your resume failed the ATS scan. Without the right keywords in your resume, your document may never make it to the HR Manager's desk. In this Resume Writing 101 article, we’ll go over how to list core competencies in a resume so that you can use ATS technology to your advantage.


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General Guidelines

The core competencies section is where you’ll list your key skills and strengths, and it should fit right in with your title and summary on the top half of your first page.

Here’s how to list core competencies in a resume:

  1.  Scan the job ad you’re applying for and gather a list of skills and key phrases that are mentioned in the posting.
  2. Select around 10 keywords form the list that highlight your top skills and areas of expertise. The ATS will scan your entire document, so your list doesn’t need to be comprehensive.
  3. Arrange them in a visually appealing way (remember, a human will be reading your resume after the ATS does).


For a closer look at how to use keywords in a resume, check out the following sample resume and job ad.


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This is a strong example of how to list core competencies in a resume. The job seeker picked out a handful of key strengths that make them stand out as a candidate and that recruiters may search for in an ATS. Hopefully this candidate also made sure to include skills and keywords that they found in the job posting they’re applying for.


example of core competencies section



This is a job ad for a Teller position with CapitalOne. We’ve highlighted skills and phrases that a recruiter may use as they’re searching for qualified applicants. If you were applying for this position, you could include keywords like “supply management,” “customer service,” and “cash handling” on your resume.


Bank teller job description with keywords highlighted


Now that ATSs are the norm, it’s important that you learn how to use keywords in your resume. A strong core competencies section will highlight your top talents and include skills listed in the job posting to ensure your resume is seen by the recruiter. Once you’ve mastered your core competencies list, take a look at our final Resume Writing 101 article on supplemental sections.

By Natalie Winzer, iHire | December 16, 2019
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