March 29, 2023

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 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 and Examples

1. 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 the decision.

2. Teamwork

  • 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

3. 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.

4. Motivation

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

5. Reliability

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

6. Problem Solving

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

7. Adaptability

  • Adapts to changing work environments, work priorities and organizational needs.
  • Able to effectively deal with change and diverse people.
  • applies knowledge and skills to new circumstances and demands.

8. Planning and Organizing

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

9. Communication

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

10. Integrity

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

11. Initiative

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

12. 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 key 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

Behavioral Interview Answers

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

5 core competencies for a new world of work

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.

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.

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

Leadership and management competencies

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

Leadership Competencies

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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 Descriptions for over 70 different jobs.

Job Interview Guides for assessing the key competencies required for over 35 different jobs.

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How to focus on relevant job competencies in your resume and cover letter.

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