If you’re currently in the job market, you probably already know the importance of a well-written, personalized cover letter to accompany your resume. You want to mention the name of the organization you’re applying to, the position or title you’re applying for, and, if possible, the actual name of the person who’s going to be reading your cover letter. In fact, research shows that the more personalization you can add to your cover letter, the better—and that personalized cover letters are the ones that are most likely to be read and responded to.

And no matter what, don’t even think of sending out a “to whom it may concern” cover letter! Your chances of receiving an interview callback are basically zero.

That’s just a quick “Cover Letter Writing 101” refresher course—I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those basic-but-essential points. However, there’s something more subtle—and yet equally important—that your cover letter should include: positive, intriguing information about you! Information that arouses the reader’s interest. Specifically, information about your soft skills. Why? Because information about your soft skills can’t be readily converted into resume form and communicated in a list of places you’ve worked or accomplishments you’ve achieved. In this sense, your cover letter provides an opportunity that your resume can’t, and you never want to underestimate the value of promoting your soft skills to a prospective employer.

Let’s begin by thinking about the process of getting hired. This is exactly what a recruiter, hiring manager, or interviewer does when he or she is perusing your cover letter and resume: they start by dividing up your skill sets into two categories—hard skills and soft skills. First, they’re going to ensure that you’ve got the hard skills necessary to do the job: a working knowledge of Excel, a degree in electrical engineering, a teaching credential, an ability to drive a forklift, etc. This sort of rudimentary, hard-skill candidate vetting is characteristically performed by reading an applicant’s cover letter to only some extent, but to a much greater extent, prospective employers will study your resume. And if you have the hard skills they’re looking for, congratulations. You get to proceed to the next level of scrutiny: your soft skills.

Next, when it comes to assessing soft skills, the importance of the cover letter vs. the resume reverses. Once a hiring manager can see that you possess the necessary hard skills, they move on to your soft skills—and that’s where a cover letter can be invaluable. In my professional opinion, soft skills are much more essential to a successful candidate/job matchup than hard skills—and much more difficult to discern before meeting the candidate face to face. And ultimately, like it or not, the candidates you’ll eventually be competing against will most likely have the exact same hard skills that you do—it’s the soft skills that are going to set you apart from your competitors.

Soft skills are essentially people skills: communication skills (both speaking and listening skills), leadership skills, teamwork skills, your ability to relate to and empathize with others (a biggie), time management skills, and personal organizational skills. And if you want your application package to land on the top of the pile, you need to stand out in these areas—and be able to illustrate those skills in a believable, appealing way. Hiring managers are scanning your application materials to make an educated guess about whether you can get along with others, have the energy to do the job, possess the same values and work ethics as the company, and whether you have the overall personal attributes to succeed. Enter, the cover letter.

The best thing about a cover letter is that it isn’t a list of accomplishments, or a series of summary statements, like your resume. It’s conversational. And this conversational format allows you to tell a few (brief) stories that can spotlight your soft skills and really gain the attention of the hiring manager.

Enthusiastic personal revelation is good! Talk about your love of working with customers. Or your ability to organize diverse groups of people. Or how much you enjoy the challenges of international commerce. Or how you’re at your best when you’re tasked with an “impossible” project. Or that you’re eager to be part of a successful, energetic sales team. Use this conversational opportunity to your advantage, and showcase your warmth, eagerness, and humanness—coupled with your professionalism and competence, of course. Together, your cover letter and resume should tell a complete story of you, hard and soft skills combined into an irresistible employee package—this is personal marketing at its best.

Do you have a question or a topic you’d like for me to cover in a future article? Just say the word! I’m happy to take requests. Feel free to contact me on my website—and even if you don’t have a topic request, I always love hearing from my readers! Drop a note to say hi.

Author's Bio: 

Dudley is a professional trainer and keynote speaker, author, business consultant, and founder and former CEO of SkillPath Seminars, the largest public training company in the world.  Dudley is a regularly featured speaker on the campuses of many universities, including Cal Poly, USC, UC Irvine, and UCLA, and the author of Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted. She speaks all over the world on a variety of topics, including body language, management and supervision skills, leadership, assertiveness, time management, stress management, communication, business writing and personal relationships.