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 dear teacher,
when i do the task 3"These words still are used.". I remember there is a sentence in the test "find your english level". The question is give the correct order of the sentence: i have
" a black long leather coat" or "a long black leather" or "a leather black long coat". Can you tell me the rule of the correct order?

Hello zhuangxiaoming,

We have a page on the topic of adjective order in sentences. You can find it here and I think you will find the answer to your question there.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Yeah it's awesome. the first my answers is correct. I'd study hard for my skill english, Thanks Britishcouncil :)

This lesson is very interesting. I learned how competency is divided and how I can develop a better competencies.

This article is interesting and knowledgeable, I was not knowing about competency this much, with the help of this article it is clear now that what is competency.

Hello am a little bit confused in first paragraph the use of "are a"
"Competencies are a concept taken on board by Human Resource departments to measure a person’s appropriateness for a particular job.

Hello Ideo7,

It does look confusing, doesn't it? We have a plural noun and verb here ('competencies are') and yet a singular noun ('a concept'), which is quite strange at first glance. However, it is quite logical. Many individual things can form or be described as single concepts. For example, I might say:

Children are a source of happiness for their parents.

Children is plural because we are talking about more than one (we are talking about all children) but we say 'a source' because we are thinking about them as a single cause.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

this article is very intersting. However after reading whole passages, I have still confused about my conpetencies. By the way, what is different between 'word processing' and 'typing'? As I search in CambridgeDic, there is no verb 'word process' instead I find the noun 'word processing'.

Hello sambala,

Strictly speaking, word processing is just the ability to use word processors (e.g. OpenOffice Write or Microsoft Word), which includes such skills and opening new documents, saving them, copying and pasting, creating envelopes, etc.

Typing is the ability to use a keyboard efficiently, i.e. using all 10 fingers to type quickly. Nowadays if someone says they have word processing skills, we usually assume that they also have typing skills, even though it may not always be true.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

"These words are still used."
The sequence of "are+still+used" is under which grammar rule?