What are competences? Explanations & examples!

What are competencies?

Virtually every job ad or job description, nowadays, lists a whole bunch of ‘competences’ that the ideal candidate should have. But what do we mean exactly when we’re talking about ‘competences’? We’ll be answering this question with ten examples.


What are competences?

competence – a combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and/or personal traits demonstrated in a person’s behavior that allows them to achieve certain objectives in a work‑related setting

A competence is, in effect, a combination of the following three elements:

  1. Knowledge: information and experience
  2. Skills: primarily, highly developed physical and/or mental abilities and coordination required to perform a certain task
  3. Attitudes/personal traits: a person’s values in terms of how they define them as an individual and how they relate to and interact with their surroundings

We use these three elements to achieve work‑related goals, for example, higher productivity, increased turnover, improved work environment, or better brand perception.

Even though we often use the terms ‘skill’ and ‘competence’ interchangeably, there’s a big difference. As you read above, a skill is just one of the three elements making up a competence.

Read our article Skills & competences – the difference for an in‑depth discussion.



The explanation above may sound a little vague or abstract. So, let’s illustrate the term ‘competence’ further, using a few examples.

  1. Adaptability/Flexibility: an ability to act effectively even in the face of changing working conditions, tasks, and responsibilities
  2. Communicativeness: an ability to express oneself fully, both verbally and in writing, to formulate ideas clearly and concisely, and to communicate and present these to others
  3. Engagement: a state of being whereby an individual feels connected to the task they are performing or a profession they practice, and in doing so have a positive effect on others around them.
  4. Collegiality: an ability to take into account the needs and interests of other people in an individual’s working environment.
  5. Rallying Ability: an ability to garner people’s support in order to achieve an objective or to bring about change, and to turn potential resistance to new plans or reforms into a positive force.
  6. Learning Ability: an ability to take on, analyze, and process new ideas quickly and easily, and to apply these immediately in a work setting.
  7. Networking Skills: an ability to establish, nurture, and cement working relationships, coalitions, and partnerships, both inside and outside the organization.
  8. Leadership: an ability to unify and steer a group of people, and to establish and maintain enduring partnerships.
  9. Resilience: an ability to perform effectively, even when under pressure and/or in the face of setbacks and opposition.
  10. Self‑Reflection: an ability to see one’s own strengths and weaknesses, convictions, qualities, ambitions, and interests.



The focus is shifting towards skills in our modern‑day society and economy. Traditional schooling, qualifications, and ready knowledge are becoming less and less relevant as on‑the‑job learning becomes easier and easier with our ability to search and find information, and with the availability of a useful tool for every task.

It’s sensible for your company to keep track of which skills you already have and which you’re still missing. Skills matrices are useful tools for mapping your staff’s skills and competences.

If you’re curious what skills matrices look like, download our free Excel skills matrix template or take a look at our special‑purpose skills management software solution!


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