Your cover letter is your chance to sell yourself to potential employers. It is an opportunity to prove that you are the obvious choice for the job. Of course, you must include your relevant hard skills if you want to even get your foot in the door, but your soft skills really separate you from the rest of the herd.
Avoid clichés. Anybody can do a quick search online for a cover letter template and pull out a few buzzwords. While you may actually be a team player, there are much better ways to convey that aspect of your professional prowess. There are ways to say the same thing without using contrived words and phrases. Nobody wants to read a stiff list of your soft qualifications; portray them organically.
Subtlety is important in a cover letter, and so is straightforwardness. At the risk of sounding conceited, you want your employer to be left with no doubt that you are a worthy investment. Your cover letter needs to prove that you have more soft skills than other applicants without directly saying so. Instead of saying that you are a team player, provide examples that demonstrate that you have been a team player. Write about that time you worked with the IT department to improve system functions or about the time you spearheaded a collaborative marketing campaign. Don't just state your soft skills in your cover letter; prove it with real-life examples.
Although many companies these days use computer-based sorting systems that choose the most relevant and promising candidates, a human hiring manager is still the last person that sees your cover letter and resume. Your goal is to connect with that person. Nobody wants to read the same cover letter over and over. The hiring manager has probably read multiple cover letters before yours and is likely to read plenty more afterward. Make yours significant.
Use your cover letter to paint a clear picture of yourself that stands out. Succinctly explain your value, prominent examples of your soft and hard business knowledge in action and why the company cannot afford not to hire you. Keep it professional without being stale. Many job descriptions state exactly what hard and soft skills are required, so highlight those skills in your cover letter without directly repeating them word for word. Anybody can claim to have necessary soft skills; you have to prove it with hard facts and pertinent examples.
Keep your cover letter fresh, unique and relevant. Stories – not buzzwords – are how you connect with people. These days, all of the tricks in the book have been used. The Internet has made it possible for anyone to copy and paste a professional cover letter. Make sure the organization you are applying to can see that your applicable soft skills directly fit the position's requirements.
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