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


This is very helpful

hi every one

can you explain please this word"conceptualise",i saw it task 2(Vocabulary: make nouns from these verbs.)

so the answer is "concept" it's understandable, but like this verb"conceptualise" i never seen before,how we use it.?

best wishes

Hello abdijamo,

The best place to get information on particular words and phrases is our dictionaries link. You'll find it on the right of this page headed 'Cambridge Dictionaries Online'. Just type the word into the window and click 'Look it up!' to get a definition, examples, grammatical and phonological information. It's a great tool!

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

I think the article and the exercises are very useful. I learnt something new about difference between the concept of skills and the concept of competencies. And the third exercise is great to improve your verbs and nouns vocabulary.

the meaning technical competencies&personal competencies is different

Why can't I print out the tasks anymore? I can only get the reading in printer-friendly version.
Help, Susan

Hello Susan,

Many of our pages have Support Packs which include the text (the transcript if it is an audio or video page) and the activities in printer-friendly form, but some are still without. Putting more Support Packs onto pages is one thing that we are working on but it does take some time to put one together.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Nice article, really helpful to make changes in our CVs.

Really the writer of the article has shot the head on the competency definition  and really all my life I was wondering the difference between being competent and qualified, in some how they are similar but one must have broader term than the other, for example qualification means some thing relate to the knowledge and the work experience of the person while competency reflects the persons' inborn trait  plus the academic knowledge and experience at  the workplace.
''competency:- tools that enable you to activate your character whether inborn or learnt one for the onward to success'' and guys we all know that success is really what we all want in life, that is the moment of joy.

I have a question. I read these sentences in different articles - a) if you find a "very" person that you hardest to forgive...; b) frustrates me about others' behavior is the "very" thing that i need to come to terms with about myself...
I checked dictionary and found out the meanings of "very" before noun are "own" or "same", but i can't link them to the above sentences. May i know the meaning of "very" to use on the above sentences? Thanks