That hard fact is that soft skills are often what will get you the job. The smartest and most talented jobseekers around will lose the job to another candidate if they’re missing one critical element: soft skills. Although soft skills are harder to measure than hard skills, their value can’t be underestimated.
Years ago, recruiters and hiring managers coined the phrase “soft skills” to describe social savvy and the ability to connect with others. Soft skills sometimes took a back seat to hard skills, which included specific training relevant to a given position.
By this definition, the ability to diagnose a problem with a broken machine is considered a hard skill. But the ability to explain the problem to someone else and give clear instructions on how to fix it is a soft skill.
Similarly, producing high sales numbers is a hard skill. Demonstrating charm, generating trust, displaying comprehensive product knowledge, and forming a connection with clients are all soft skills.
The idea that hard skills are more important than soft skills is flawed. Most hiring managers across almost all industries would agree on this. At this point, the distinction between hard and soft skills is outdated, and most hiring experts have actually come full circle on the perceived value of one versus the other.
Today, the best companies choose attitude (including the ability to get along with others and adapt to the company culture) over aptitude (job-specific training) every time. Managers have learned that job skills can be taught, while people skills are harder to find. In addition, soft skills can be transferred across job functions and industries while hard skills cannot.
If you’re starting your own job search, your cover letter is a great place to feature the soft skills your future hiring manager is looking for.
6 tips on how to use soft skills to improve your cover letter
1. Showcase your verbal and written communication skills
It may seem fairly basic, but communication skills are at the top of any hiring manager’s wish list. Don’t overlook this important soft skill in your cover letter, according to a 2018 LiveCareer study. Share an accomplishment related to your verbal or written communication skills, whether it’s a presentation you recently gave or a paper you’ve written. Whatever your industry, your ability to communicate is key.
And don’t forget–the way you write your cover letter communicates something, too. Watch out for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. These can be a quick way to eliminate yourself from the competition.
2. Be a team player
The next soft skill everyone needs is the ability to work in a team environment. Your cover letter is the perfect place to share a narrative about an experience you’ve had successfully working with others. Whether you helped to negotiate a deal, resolved a conflict, or coordinated an important project, this is a great time to share it with the hiring manager.
3. Highlight any sales or customer service experience
Another great way to grow your soft skills is through sales or customer service roles. If you’ve had an experience in either of these areas, you may want to include mention in your cover letter. Sales and customer service both require the ability to handle difficult situations with grace, while also representing the company’s best interests.
4. Share your ability to solve problems
One of the most critical soft skills you’ll bring to the table in your next role is problem-solving. Whether you’re in sales or engineering, problem-solving is at the core of what it means to get the job done. Share an accomplishment you achieved using your problem-solving skills that benefited the company in some way.
5. Let your organizational skills shine through
Organizational skills are another top priority for hiring managers. Share a workplace story about a time you helped to organize or manage a large project. Show that you’re able to multitask and still come out ahead when things are tough.
6. Don’t undersell yourself
Very often, job seekers tend to assume that because they don’t meet every requirement listed on the job description, they aren’t qualified. This prompts them to overlook jobs that may be a great fit.
If you find a job that you think you can do, take the time to apply. You’d be surprised at how important your soft skills are to your future hiring manager. They can send you back to school for additional training, but it’s hard to train someone to be better with people. Don’t discount the importance of your soft skills.
Sometimes you just need a little extra help to write a great cover letter. For more information, take a look at our How to Write a Cover Letter page.