What are competencies, why are they so important nowadays?  How are competencies used in Human Resources and how can individuals use them to their advantage?

Read the text and then do the exercises.

What are competencies and why are they important?

  1. Some years ago when executives and managers talked about the type of employees they wanted to contract for their businesses they spoke of skills and qualifications. These words are still used but have been overshadowed by the term competencies. Competencies are a concept taken on board by Human Resource departments to measure a person’s appropriateness for a particular job.
  2. In simple terms a competency is a tool that an individual can use in order to demonstrate a high standard of performance. Competencies are characteristics that we use to achieve success. These characteristics or traits can include things like knowledge, aspects of leadership, self-esteem, skills or relationship building. There are a lot of competencies but they are usually divided into groups. Most organisations recognise two main groups and then have numerous sub groups which competencies can be further divided into.

    There has been a lot written about competencies. It is easy to see how people can become easily confused by what a competency actually is. It is also essential that people in the world of business have a clear understanding of what different competencies are and, in particular, which competencies are of interest to them – either as an individual interested in self-development – or as an employer looking for the best candidate for a job.
  3. Competencies can be divided into two distinct types; technical competencies (sometimes referred to as functional) and personal competencies. As the name suggests, technical competencies are those which are related to the skills and knowledge that are essential in order for a person to do a particular job appropriately. An example of a technical competency for a secretary might be: “Word processing: able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”  Personal competencies are not linked to any particular function. They include characteristics that we use together with our technical competencies in order to do our work well. An example of a personal competency is: “Interpersonal Sensitivity: Demonstrates respect for the opinions of others, even when not in agreement.”
  4. As you can see from the examples above there is a particular way of expressing a competency. First the competency is given a title; for example “word processing”. Then a brief indicator or explanation is given as an example of the person’s aptitude in that competency; for example “able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”
  5. Competencies are probably here to stay so it is worth thinking about your own competencies and trying to categorise them; first into the two sub-categories mentioned above and then into a more detailed list.

Language level

Intermediate: B1
Upper intermediate: B2


Hello Claire,

I wouldn't say 'no good'! Your English seems quite good to me, and certainly not difficult to understand.

The level test here is a guide, no more. If you find the tasks too easy then by all means try some higher level material and see if it suits you better.


Good luck!



The LearnEnglish Team

Why thank you Peter. Your compliment really means a lot to me since I am about to take the IELTS exam hopefully this year. But I kind of underestimate myself. I find everything I study so difficult but being here in this website makes me think that I can do good too, if not, better. Perhaps, I should try more advanced materials to study on.

Hi Claire de Lune,

I just wanted to point out that the British Council is offering a free MOOC called Understanding the IELTS later next month. I'm not sure if it could help you or not, but it might be worth taking a look at. Please see our MOOCs page for more information if you're interested.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I think my speaking English is my technical competency, and that my team work spirit is my personal competency.

Dear,British Council

I do really need your helping hand to explain of Slang word ?

I only knew that is mostly slang word consist of American slang,Aussie slang,South africa slang and Uk slang, yet i was missing the important explanation of them.

Would you like to help me for making of this subject be intelligble,properly please .

I could not even think that slang word has a lot of types ; acronym,clipping,blending,coinage and so-forth.

Thank You.

Your sincere.


Hello Aditya,

'Slang' is a descriptive term which refers to any informal, non-standard language. Different regions have their own slang but so do different groups (the young, political groups, fans of certain kinds of music, sports fans and so on).

There are many ways in which slang terms develop. Sometimes existing words are given new meanings, sometimes words are combined to create new words (portmanteaux) and sometimes entirely new words are created. Sometimes words are created from acronyms like 'lol'. However, these are simply descriptions of examples of slang. Slang itself is informal, non-standard language typically used within a particular group of speakers.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the explanation,Mr.Peter.

Hello Yshc,

'for' is definitely the most commonly used preposition after 'aptitude', but it isn't the only one. The dictionary you linked to is a good one, but please note that even very extensive dictionary entries don't necessarily explain all possible collocations. For that kind of thing, you can consult a concordancer -- the Corpus of Global Web-Based English, for example, shows some examples of 'aptitude in'.

Still, in most cases, 'for' is probably the best choice.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Excellent activities.