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Know Your Competencies

Competencies  are made up of three elements:

  1. Skill: Doing something well — your ability to choose and perform the right technique at the right time. It’s usually developed through training and practice.

  2. Knowledge: Information you know, including theories, facts and procedures, and the ability to apply this information in different situations.

  3. Attribute: Inherent characteristic or quality and is often expressed through what you think, do, and feel.

Competencies are observable, measurable, performance-based, and transferable. Most companies hire, promote, and fire based on competency level for employees.  Some examples are delegating, presenting, energy, ambition, decisiveness, etc. Career Companion has a library of over 100 competencies you can choose from to keep track of your skills, and you can even add your own. 

Competencies are key for interviewing:

Employers often ask competency-based or behavioral questions during the interview process such as:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a communication breakdown with a co-worker

  • Give me an example of how you’ve used teamwork to solve problems

  • Describe an experience that demonstrates your strengths in research and analysis

Ways to develop competencies:

Applying your competencies in different situations helps you learn faster and gain concrete examples of how you’ve applied your competencies in diverse scenarios. Develop and practice your competencies through different types of experiences: 

  • Education (university, college or continuing studies)

  • Work experience (paid employment, contracts, volunteer work, co-op work terms, internships, etc.)

  • Training (workshops, seminars, certificates, professional training, etc.)

  • Life experiences (travel, recreational activities, interests, hobbies, community involvement, family commitments and more)

Competency Assessment Scale

Competencies are usually assessed on a scale based on levels: 

  • No demonstrated achievement: You are aware of information, ideas and situations related to this competency but have not yet had an opportunity to practice it.

  • Beginning: You’ve just started to find opportunities to work on this competency. You make initial assessments of what is expected of your role. Your understanding of the impact of your actions is limited. Your actions meet some performance expectations but you know that you could improve.

  • Developing: You’ve demonstrated this competency and think about how to develop it further. You engage in conversations with others about how you can best contribute and how this competency is important. Your actions usually meet the expectations of yourself and others. You look for opportunities to apply this competency in other areas of your life.

  • Accomplishing: You’ve reached your overall goals and often think about opportunities to use and practice this competency. You consistently meet the expectations of yourself and others. You consider your learning and appreciate the significance of this competency in relation to your experiences. You demonstrate high-quality work that has a positive impact.

  • Exemplary: You have an overall mastery of this competency. You understand and demonstrate it in all areas of your life. You are considered to be a role model by others and regularly exceed expectations. Your work is of very high or exceptional quality and has a significant impact.

Manage your competencies:

Step 1: Identify an experience. Pick an experience where you developed specific competencies and note down all the relevant information. 

Step 2: Identify relevant competencies. Think about what you’ve learned from your experience. Which competencies did you most strongly develop or demonstrate through this experience? Choose five-seven. 

Step 3: Write competency statements. Write a set of statements that describe the competencies you’ve developed and demonstrated through experience.  Sample competency statements:

  • Communication – Listened effectively to an average of 40 technical support customers a day to better understand their needs and successfully implement solutions

  • Research and analysis – Synthesized findings from 12 research studies on organic blueberry farming to identify best agricultural practices and prepare an information sheet for BC farmers

  • Project and task management – Used customized project management software to coordinate recruitment and training for 32 new employees over a six-month period

  • Teamwork – Collaborated effectively on a cross-functional team of five individuals in the daily operations of a small, independent insurance agency 

  • Customer service – Built customer relationships and satisfaction by seeking out in-depth knowledge about paint products and their uses to provide helpful tips and recommendations.

Step 4: Reflect on your learning. Review your competency statements and think about what you’ve learned. Which competencies did you develop the most? Where are the gaps in your competency development? Which competencies do you feel most confident and motivated to use? Which are you most interested in developing further?

Step 5: Use your competency statements in the "real world". Use your competency statements in résumés, cover letters, and ‘briefing notes’ to help you prepare for interviews, informational meetings, performance reviews and other professional conversations.


  • Use Career Companion: Career Playbook > Experience: Competencies to perform steps 1-5

  • Track and cultivate your competencies all in one place on a going basis 

  • To be more effective, try breaking down your competencies by role and position, as companies often have detailed frameworks of required competencies based on the job profile. These competencies will often have specific behavioral indicators and measurement criteria


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