What is a Core Competency?

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Posted by The Editors on December 13, 2011
What is a Core Competency?

Since I’ve started interviewing recruiters for the Recruiter Q&A portion of the WetFeet Employer Profiles, one buzzword that I keep hearing is “core competencies.”  Most often, it comes up when I ask, “What do you look for when recruiting entry-level candidates?” The majority of recruiters respond that they hire candidates who demonstrate the organization’s core competencies.

Which prompts the question: What the heck is a core competency? And how can you figure out what an organization’s core competencies are?

So I did some research. According to Wikipedia, a core competency is a concept in management theory. It is a specific factor that a business sees as being central to the way it operates and the way its employees work.

For instance, a consumer products company may have a core competency of “Customer Dedication,” and always puts the customers’ interest as the number one priority. Another core competency that I hear a lot is “leadership”: Employers want to be leaders in their industry, and in turn, they want employees who can take initiative, lead a project, and guide their team members.

Knowing a company’s core competencies before you step foot in the recruiter’s office is key. Explaining to your interviewer how you fulfill the employer’s core competencies can make you a stand-out candidate.

That said, the best way to find a company’s core competencies is by clicking around its website. For instance, on management consulting firm Accenture’s site, I was easily able to click into “About Accenture” then “Company Overview” and then into a section called “Our Core Values.” There you can read about what values Accenture uses to “guide how we behave and make decisions.” Along with your other pre-interview research, you should track down and study the core competencies of the companies you’ve applied to, and think about how the answers you give in an interview can demonstrate these core values.

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