General Skills for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews

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When you're writing resumes and cover letters and applying for jobs, there are certain skills that employers expect job applicants to have. These are general skills that apply to almost any job. Make sure that you highlight these skills when you're job searching and emphasize them in job applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

How to Use Skills Lists

You can use these skills lists throughout your job search process. Firstly, you can use these skill words in your resume. Include keywords in the description of your work experience or the summary section of your resume as shown below:

Screenshot of a resume with skills listed
©TheBalance 2018

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 those skills at work.

Finally, you can use these skill words in your interview. Make sure you have at least one example of 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 listed by the employer. To draw attention to a skill, highlight it on your resume when you describe your previous positions, and possibly also in a separate skills list section. As you prepare for your interview, ready specific examples of times you embodied that skill in a professional context.

Communication Skills

Communication is a critical soft skill. No matter what your job is, you will have to interact with employers, colleagues, and/or clients. You might have to engage with people in person, on the phone, via email, or a combination of all three.

Employers look for job candidates with strong written and oral communication skills. They want to hire people who can speak and write clearly, accurately, and professionally.

You will probably also have to do some writing, whether that involves making reports, creating signage, filling out records, or something else. Broadly speaking, communication skills break down into either written or oral skills, although there are areas of overlap, such as email. Good communication must be accurate, easy to understand, and appropriate.

That means employing tactful, professional speech and correspondence, and it also means creating well-crafted writing in the correct format. Appropriate communication might mean very different things for different positions, and good communicators know which standards apply to which context. While it’s true that communication is much more important in some jobs than others, it is always a factor to some degree.

Related Resume Keywords: Administrative, Advising, Being Artistic / Creative, Business Storytelling, Coaching Individuals, Collaboration, Communication, Conducting Meetings, Conflict Resolution, Confronting Others, Consultation, Counseling, Customer Service, Demonstrations, Dispensing Information, Displaying Ideas, Editing, Expression of Feelings, Fundraising, Handling Complaints, Human Resources, Interpersonal, Interviews, Language Translation, Listening, Monetary Collection, Negotiation, Networking, Nonverbal Communication, Oration, Personal Interaction, Preparing Written Documents, Proposals, Proposal Writing, Publications, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Questioning Others, Reading Volumes, Recommendations, Reporting, Report Writing, Screening Calls, Sketching, Training, Updating Files.

Computer Literacy/Information Technology

Even if your job does not directly involve information technology, every employer expects you to have a basic understanding of how to use a computer.

You should be comfortable with word-processing and email, as well as spreadsheets and programs like Excel. Any additional computer skills you have will only enhance your resume.

Related Resume Keywords: Budgeting, Calculations, Classifying Records, Compiling Statistics, Computer, Financial Report Auditing, Information Search, Locating Missing Documents / Information, Maintenance, Managing Finances, Microsoft Office, Numerical Analysis, Scheduling, Technical Support, Technical, Technology.

Learning

Being a fast learner is an important skill for almost any job. Yes, employers want to know that you have the basic hard skills for a job, but if you are a quick learner, you can expand your skill set over time.

Learning is actually a group of skills, some of which are themselves learned and can be improved with practice, while others are probably inborn. You are likely to be much faster at learning some types of material than others and much better at learning in some ways than others. Your prospective employer might not care whether you are a visual or an auditory learner, but if you know your own style, you can be a much more effective learner.

Related Resume Keywords: Assembling Apparatus, Construction, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Decision Making, Detail Management, Equipment Operation, Independent Action, Knowledge of Current Governmental Affairs, Learning, Logical Thinking, Organizational, Organizational Management, Organizational Tasks, Principal Concept Knowledge, Prioritizing, Reasoning, Remembering Facts, Time Management, Transferable Skills.

Problem-Solving

In all jobs, there are problems, so problem-solving skills will make you a much better employee. Depending on your responsibilities, the scope of the problem you are expected to solve, and your level of independence, the degree to which you problem-solve might vary. For some positions, the problem-solving ability will be seen as critical, while in others you will be expected only to follow instructions. And yet, acknowledged or not, problem-solving will help you do your work better.

Employers seek employees who can use reasoning and analysis to solve difficult problems. In your resume, cover letter, and interviews highlight any examples of times when you used creative problem-solving to find an inventive solution to a work issue.

Related Resume Keywords: Accuracy, Analysis, Analytical, Being Thorough, Creating Ideas, Creating Innovation, Creating New Solutions, Creating New Procedures, Defining Performance Standards, Defining Problems, Evaluating, Innovation, Inventing New Ideas, Investigation, Measuring Boundaries, Prediction, Problem Solving, Regulating Rules.

Teamwork

Almost every job involves working on a team in some way. Whether you work regularly on team projects, or simply need to work as part of a department, you will need to be able to get along well with others.

The ability to work on a team is critical in some jobs and almost incidental in others. Yet even the most independent positions sometimes involve shared goals and difficulties. A company is a team, so the better you can work on a team, the better employee you can be.

On your resume and cover letter, and in your interviews, emphasize your ability to work with others to achieve success.

Related Resume Keywords: Adaptable, Challenging Employees, Emotional Control, Encouragement, Entertainment, Goal Setting, Involvement, Leadership, Maintaining High Levels of Activity, Management, Meeting Deadlines, Motivation, Multitasking, Overseeing Meetings, Overseeing Operation, Plan Development, Planning, Promotions, Rehabilitating Others, Responsibility, Service, Supervision, Team Building, Teamwork, Toleration.

Resume Example Focusing on Relevant Skills

This is a resume example with a list of relevant skills. Download the resume template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see the example below.

Download the Word Template

Resume Example Focusing on Relevant Skills (Text Version)

William Applicant
Street Address
City, State Zip
(000) 123-4567
email@email.com

HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER

Building quality workforces through targeted recruitment and retention strategies

Respected HR manager with 10+ years’ experience creating and leading highly effective human resources departments for both newly launched and established organizations. Seasoned problem-solver, adept in creating new processes to heighten employee morale, defuse workplace conflicts, and ensure compliance with EEOC mandates. Expert coach and career counselor, using engaging oral and written communications talents to deftly build consensus across multiple organizational levels. Hold PHR and SHRM certifications.

Key skills include:

  • Recruiting & Staffing Initiatives
  • Benefits Administration
  • Active Listening & Employee Advocacy
  • Conflict Resolution / Negotiation
  • Team Building & Leadership
  • Customized Training Programs
  • Internal & External Communications
  • Procedure Redesign & Change Management

••• PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE •••

ACME MANUFACTURING CO., City, State
-- Human Resources Manager (Mo/20XX – Present)

Excel as HR Manager for historic manufacturing firm employing a workforce of 1500+ personnel. Hold scope of responsibility for talent acquisition and onboarding, employee relations and career counseling, management coaching, benefits administration, and legal compliance. Notable accomplishments:

  • Championed changes to a compensation structure that averted a strike and increased overall employee morale by 47%.
  • Conceptualized and initiated targeted talent acquisition strategy that filled 10 high-priority supervisory positions within a 30-day window.

LAKESIDE INDUSTRIES, City, State
-- Human Resources Specialist (Mo/20XX – Mo/20XX)

Brought on board to assess and devise solutions for employee relations issues. Conducted internal investigations to analyze the effectiveness of current HR and Affirmative Action policies; worked collaboratively with management and 3200-member workforce to optimize internal communications. Notable Accomplishments:

  • Organized on-time administration and submission of EEO-1 surveys to the EEOC.
  • Introduced new staff referral initiative that increased affirmative action hires by 30%.

••• EDUCATION AND CREDENTIALS •••

STATE UNIVERSITY, City, State
Bachelor of Science in Business (Emphasis: Human Resources Management), 20XX

Information Technology: Microsoft Office Suite ∙ ADP / Workforce Now ∙ HRMS

Certifications: Professional in Human Resources (PHR) ∙ Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

More Skills Resources

While these critical “top five” skills are those which are most sought by all employees, you should also be prepared to describe job-specific skills. To help in this, have a look at “Employment Skills Listed by Job” and “Lists of Skills for Resumes.” At the same time, it’s equally important to be aware of skills not to put on your resume. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to ensure that your resume and cover letter are the perfect match for the qualifications an employer is seeking.

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