Winning the Job: Competencies and Accomplishments


You cannot tell ahead of time which interviewer will (or won’t) “fall in love” with you, but you can tell whether you are totally prepared for the content portion of the interview.  Your competencies are your strongest skill sets you will bring to a company (problem solving, analytical thinking, communications, etc.).  Your accomplishments are evidence you possess the skill sets.  These must be developed in a systematic fashion, as they make up the most critical content portion of your interview.


You probably have a great number of competencies, but that isn’t what you need to think about.  You will be asked to select your best competencies for this organization.  Think of the presentation of your competencies as focusing the interviewer on the skill sets that you could bring to the organization.  Since the interviewer is a busy person who hasn’t been thinking much about you before you arrive, it is helpful for the interviewer to understand your competencies.  One further point — do not be concerned that other candidates might have some or all of the same competencies that you do, especially when you are just starting out.  It is your accomplishments and how well you demonstrate them that will separate you from the rest.


Next, be prepared for the interviewer to continue the line of questioning.  “That’s interesting.  Can you give me an example of one of your competencies?”  Your examples need to be very specific and include not only what you did but why you saw the need and how you went about accomplishing the task,  and the bottom line is critical:  You need to show how you added value to the organization.  You will be asked follow-up questions concerning the value added; so be prepared.   You will be evaluated on the quality of your accomplishments, how you present them and the value that you added in carrying them out.

Plan to explain at least five specific accomplishments to illustrate each competency.  Give appropriate details to demonstrate clearly yet still present them succinctly.  By succinctly, we mean in under a minute – per our “60 second rule”.

The reason for having five accomplishments to illustrate each competency is that the interviewer may want to spend detailed time on one or two accomplishments, or hear a short analysis of all of the accomplishments.  The best interviewers will deal with your accomplishments and will bore down for details.

We have provided a series of examples of competencies and accomplishments for individuals both with and without work experience (i.e., students and recent graduates).

 You probably have many competencies but the interviewer will only have time and interest for a few.  So select the most appropriate competencies for the work that you will target.  Your first competency should be the one most directly related to the work you have targeted. For example,  if you have targeted a sales or marketing job then be prepared to defend skills in that area.  Your second through fourth competencies can be broader.  Examples might be strategic thinking, operations or execution, strong team player/leader, new product development, problem solver, outstanding communicator, etc.  As you construct your accomplishments be sure that you include how it benefited the organization you represented.  We have provided a worksheet you can download to help organize your key competencies and accomplishments.

Finally, your key accomplishments should appear as bullets in your resume under the positions where they occurred.  This is a further stimulus for the interviewer to ask about them and remember them after the interview.

What Makes You Unique

Once you have completed your competencies and accomplishments spend some time on the question, “What makes you unique?”  If you can answer this question well you will be well ahead of the competition.  Suppose, for example, that you wanted to work for an international company and, in response to that question, you said, “I believe my international studies major, ability to speak three languages, and extensive international travel make me unique.”  Or, suppose you were interviewing for a job in the FBI or CIA where you knew they needed analytical skills, risk taking skills and a perfectly clean record.  Your answer might be, “I believe that my computer science major, my interest in sky diving and the fact that I’m an Eagle Scout make me unique.”  Before interviewing decide on what makes you unique.


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