Top 5 Life Skills for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews

People looking at tablet at work
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Life skills are abilities and behaviors that help you effectively deal with the events and challenges of everyday life. They are the skills that allow you to handle everything from interactions with others to identifying and processing your emotions.

Life skills” is a broad category, because any skill that is useful in your life can be considered a life skill. Necessary life skills also vary by culture and by a person's age. However, there are certain life skills that almost every employer looks for in his or her employees. After all, employers want job candidates to be able to handle common challenges that might come up at work, and life skills help employers do just that.

How to Use Skills Lists

You can use skills lists throughout your job search process. Firstly, you can use these skill words in your resume. In the description of your work history, you might want to use some of these keywords. You might also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

Secondly, you can use these in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, you can mention one or two of these skills, and give a specific example of a time when you demonstrated each of those skills at work.

Finally, you can use these skill words in an interview. Make sure you have at least one example for a time you demonstrated each of the top five skills listed here.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully, and focus on the skills mentioned by the employer.

Top Five Life Skills

1. Communication
Communication skills are critical for life and work. Communication refers to one’s ability to convey information to others, either verbally, in writing, or through body language. These are important abilities in the workplace, no matter what your job. You need to be able to communicate with your employer, your colleagues, and your customers and clients.

2. Cooperation
In life, you need to be able to get along with others. Cooperation is especially important at work. You need to be able to work well and get along with others in meetings, on team projects, and in other collaborative settings. 

3. Decision Making
There are countless times in your life that you will have to make important decisions. This is true in the workplace as well. Employers want job candidates who can analyze situations, weigh options, and then make decisions on important matters. They do not want candidates who waffle and can’t make clear choices.

4. Handling Criticism
In work, you will have to receive lots of feedback from your employer. It is important that a job candidate thoughtfully and professionally receives feedback, and grows from it. Being able to handle criticism well takes a number of other life skills, including self awareness, thoughtfulness, and professionalism.

  • Adaptability
  • Apologizing
  • Asking for help
  • Coping
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Professionalism
  • Resilience
  • Self-awareness
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Willingness to learn

5. Information Technology
In this day and age, information technology (IT) is definitely an important life skill. People need to know basic information technology skills (sometimes know as information communication technology, or ICT, skills) such as how to use smart phones and the Internet. IT skills are also critical for almost every job. You should be able to use common computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel. Any additional IT experience typically makes you an even stronger candidate.

Sample Resume Highlighting Life Skills

This is an example of a resume that highlights life skills. Download the resume template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or review more examples.

Screenshot of a resume highlighting skills
©TheBalance 2018

Sample Resume Highlighting Skills (Text Version)

Caroline Candidate
123 Main Street, Greeneville, TN 37744 | | 000.123.1234 (H)

Skills Summary

Communication: Fluently communicate both orally and in writing with clients, associates, and across management levels in both English and Spanish. Proactive in identifying and addressing individuals’ needs and requirements, contributing to consensus by using positive mediation and active listening skills.

Cooperation and Teamwork: Work well both as a member and a leader of team projects, ensuring high team morale and work ownership through open dialogues, recognition of successes, creative goal-setting, and skillful conflict resolution. Proactively solicit feedback and analyze criticism to define new directions for personal and team improvement.

Decision Making and Leadership: Astutely analyze situations and resources to inform effective decision-making. Willingly assume leadership roles requiring solid organizational and motivational talents.

Information Technology: Solid command of Microsoft Office Suite, QuickBooks, and Adobe Creative Cloud.

Professional Experience

ACME United – Greeneville, TN
Customer Service Agent, June 2015 to Present
Provide attentive customer service and support to clients, communicating via telephone and email to address queries and implement solutions to issues. Describe product offerings, assess client needs, and assist with order placement.

  • Gathered and analyzed customer feedback to develop new process that reduced trouble ticket response time by 40%.
  • Earned ten “Employee of the Month” awards over course of tenure.

Orville’s Merchandise – Greeneville, TN
Sales Assistant, June 2013 to June 2015
Greeted and assisted customers in product selection at historic downtown department store. Merchandised and restocked clothing displays, operated point-of-sale systems, and opened and closed store.

  • Created engaging morale- and confidence-building exercises adopted by senior management for training of new hires.
  • Led team of five sales assistants tasked with developing innovative sales events that more than doubled daily sales proceeds.

Associate of Arts in General Studies
Graduated Magna cum Laude, Student Orientation Leader