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Finding out your Competence

Know what your professional competence is and be able to communicate it to your present and future employers both verbally and in writing.

Writing about your competence

When applying for a new job, you still need to send out a CV and an application letter. In the 21st century the media in use is often electronic but you still have to tell the employer the same message as “in the old days”:

  • Who are you?
  • What have you achieved?
  • What are you able to do?
  • Why are you the one who should be chosen?
  • Why would you like to work for them?

If you do not answer those basic questions, nobody else will answer them for you. The number of applicants for a certain job opening may be large, it is important to have a clear message and make the recruiter have the feeling that he/she wants to know more about you. The goal is to get into the interview.

Talking about your competence

Your verbal skills come into use, when you have an interview. In very few cases you are lucky enough to be the only one interviewed. That means there is still competition and you need to be able to impress the interviewers.

For the interview, be ready to discuss in more detail the information you have given on your CV and application. Again, you need to be clear, logical and concise. Do not ramble along endlessly and have a 15 minutes monologue – unless asked.

It is easier and more efficient to prepare for the interview in advance since the interview often digs deeper into your competences and personality. Some typical questions may be tough to answer if you have never even thought about what the answer might be. You may need to answer some of the following questions:

  • The best and worst moments of your career.
  • Things meaningful in your life/professional life.
  • Your long-term career goals.
  • Do you have experience in management or leadership?
  • Do you have experience in sales and marketing?
  • Your favourite ways of working.
  • The best kind of boss you could have.
  • The type of colleagues you work best with.
  • The type of organisation is the best for you e.g. large enterprise, SME, educational institution, research organisation, government, association?
  • Do you want to work with people or with things/ideas?
  • What kind of experience do you have with e.g. clients, products, services?
  • What kind of experience do you have working in teams or networks or virtually?
  • Would you be ready to work in another country?
  • Do you want to travel for work?
  • Important things that you have learned during your career.
  • What do you want to learn? (Future perspective is interesting for the recruiter).
  • How you would describe your personality? How would your colleagues or boss describe it?
  • What characteristics do you like and do no like about your present job?
  • What kind of strengths and weaknesses do you have?

When you prepare for an interview it is a good idea to write down your answers. This will also help you see if your answers are logical. Some of the questions seem very easy to answer but experience has showed that the reality is quite the contrary. Also, the pressure of the interview situation is enough to blur anybody’s thinking. You can even use a friend, spouse or a colleague to help you to get prepared. If they do no understand what you are explaining – do not expect that the recruiter will!

Use verbs when you describe your professional competence and what you have actually done at work and what you have accomplished. Verbs are active words and let the recruiter know what the actions have been. Here are some useful examples:

Add, Administrate, Analyse, Assign, Assist, Budget, Build, Buy, Communicate, Construct, Consult, Coordinate, Counsel, Cut, Decide, Define, Deliver, Design, Develop, Direct, Discover, Distribute, Draft, Edit, Educate, Eliminate, Establish, Estimate, Facilitate, Finance, Form, Found, Govern, Handle, Hire, Identify, Increase, Implement, Incorporate, Improve, Initiate, Interview, Introduce, Invent, Invest, Keep, Launch, Lead, Lift, Locate, Maintain, Manage, Market, Negotiate, Operate, Organise, Oversee, Participate, Patent, Pioneer, Plan, Process, Prepare, Produce, Program, Provide, Purchase, Raise, Receive, Recruit, Redirect, Re-engineer, Reduce, Refine, Renovate, Report, Research, Respond, Review, Schedule, Sell, Set, Solve, Start, Supervise, Systemise, Teach, Train, Transport, Work, Write.

I am staying with my current employer – why should I bother?

What if you want to stay with your current employer but just want to get a new position? Do you still need to know what your competences are? You often have to send a CV and an application letter even if you just apply for a new position with your current employer. Within large global companies, there is active job hunting and job changing going on. There is also competition to get the best jobs – and today, the competition can be global!

Several companies/organisations use some type of competence databases. Their staff needs to be able to analyse their personal competences and enter this information into the system. The database may be used as a tool to find qualified persons for new projects. Some companies/organisations expect their staff to be active and take a personal responsibility in finding what their next tasks will be.

CVs are also used as a tool to convince clients about the competences of the persons they might buy a service from. In these cases, CV's  are practically used as marketing tools.

How to analyse your competence?

Find answers to what are your strengths and weaknesses and what is important to you. The answers will help you when you are writing your CV and application letter. The following questions will help you analyse your situation.

  • Analyse what kind of things you want to accomplish during your professional career? What are your ambitions?
  • Analyse what you have already accomplished? Why were you successful? Where did you fail?
  • Analyse what motivates you to give your best at work?
  • Analyse what kind of people and organisations help you give your best at work?
  • Update your CV: make sure your competence, responsibilities and accomplishments are explained clearly.
  • Analyse your professional experience: What was good? What was bad?
  • Consult friends, family and colleagues to know yourself better.
  • Seek professional consultation to better understand your possibilities and capabilities (professional, social)
  • Attend lectures on career matters to broaden your views.
  • Attend lectures on your field of technology to increase your competences.