Applying for jobs has come a long way in recent years. It is rare for someone to submit a hard copy of their resume to a potential employer. Yes, there are exceptions such as job fairs or through mutual connections, but most applications are completed online or via email. And oftentimes an applicant tracking system or ATS is the first scan your resume will receive.

Given our highly digitalized and technical world, it’s important your resume appeals to these processes. One way to do this is to include a solid list of core competencies on your resume. These keywords serve a dual purpose. First, they align with the keyword scans of ATS to sort resumes by the skills employers seek. Second, they provide employers with a quick glance at your strengths and abilities.

Core Competencies and ATS

Let’s focus on ATS first. Employers identify specific skills that they want an applicant to possess. These keywords and short phrases are entered into the computer and as candidates submit their resumes, they are sorted based on how closely they match these desired qualities or how many boxes they check for keywords.

Your core competencies section allows you to target keywords you know employers want to see – and skills that you possess. Use the job description to tailor your resume accordingly and use the same terminology the employer does. Keep in mind that your core competencies section isn’t the only area that counts – you’ll always want to incorporate these same words and phrases into the content of your resume, using them in context with your experience.

Core Competencies and Employers

When your resume passes into a hiring manager’s hands, the core competencies section can grab their attention more quickly. Instead of scanning through your entire resume, they see up front what skills you bring to the table. They want someone who is trained in Six Sigma, adept at strategic planning, and has used XYZ software – and your core competencies show each of these elements. It can also show your potential and other relevant skills that make you a strong candidate.

Skipping the core competencies section of your resume can be a disservice to you and to potential employers. It can reduce your chances of making it past initial ATS scans and misses the opportunity to quickly catch an employer’s attention with just a few words. However, your core competencies section shouldn’t stand-alone – it should complement your summary of qualifications. This is where you add a few sentences really driving home your point and giving a clear impression of who you are and what you have to offer. Together these sections set the tone for your resume and emphasize your brand.

If you’re concerned that your resume is missing key elements or is not as impactful as it could be, contact Grammar Chic at (803) 831-7444 or Our team will work with you to create a positive reflection of your professional career while aligning with current resume standards.