Basic Job Skills to Include in a Cover Letter

8 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Cover Letters

Use skills language in your cover letter — including basic skills, people skills, thinking skills, and personal qualities — to communicate your expertise in fundamental job skills. These basic skills (also called foundation skills) are appropriate for everyone’s skill DNA.

Based on government and academic classification systems, here’s a no-frills framework that will guide you through the thicket of workplace skills and help you to identify your best foundation skills when developing your cover letters.

Basic skills

When you have basic skills, you can read, write, perform arithmetic and mathematical operations, listen, and speak.

  • Reading: You can locate, understand, and interpret written information such as manuals, graphs, and schedules.

  • Writing: You can communicate thoughts, ideas, information, and messages in writing and create documents such as letters, directions, manuals, reports, graphs, and flow charts.

  • Arithmetic/mathematics: You can perform basic computations and approach practical problems by choosing appropriately from a variety of mathematical techniques.

  • Listening: You receive, attend to, interpret, and respond to verbal messages and other cues.

  • Speaking: You organize ideas and communicate orally.

People skills

These are the skills that allow the “wonder of you” to mesh well with others. They include social, negotiation, leadership, teamwork, and cultural diversity.

  • Social: You respect the feelings of others, assert yourself when appropriate, and take an interest in what others say and why they think and act as they do.

  • Negotiation: You present the facts and arguments of your position and listen to and understand the other party’s position, create possible ways to resolve conflict, and make reasonable compromises.

  • Leadership: You communicate thoughts and feelings to justify the position you champion, encourage or convince others, and motivate people to believe in and trust you.

  • Teamwork: You work cooperatively with others, contribute ideas and effort, and do your share of the work.

  • Cultural diversity: You work well with people who have different ethnic, social, or educational backgrounds.

Thinking skills

These skills enable you to think creatively, make decisions, solve problems, visualize, and know how to learn and reason.

  • Creative thinking: You generate new ideas.

  • Decision making: You have the ability to specify goals and understand reasons not to do something.

  • Problem solving: You can recognize a problem and devise a plan of action to deal with it.

  • Visualizing: You can picture symbols and organize them in your mind’s eye.

  • Knowing how to learn: You are able to use efficient learning techniques to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills.

  • Reasoning: You concentrate on discovering a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects and then apply it to solve a problem.

Personal qualities

Classified as skills, these personal qualities include responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, integrity, and honesty.

  • Responsibility: You put forth a high level of effort and persevere toward reaching your goal.

  • Self-esteem: You believe in your own self-worth and maintain a positive view of yourself.

  • Sociability: You show understanding, friendliness, adaptability, empathy, and politeness in group settings.

  • Self-management: You have a realistic view of your knowledge and skills, set realistic personal goals, and monitor progress toward those goals.

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