No matter what industry you work in, there are certain skills that translate across all professions and job levels. The perfect cover letter focuses on these universally marketable skills and gives the reader a comprehensive overview of your qualifications in a concise way.
1. Read the Job Description
Look at the job description to find out what specific skills the employer wants. You might have to extrapolate if they aren't explicitly stated. For example, a developer position likely requires critical thinking skills.
2. Research the Company
It's a good idea to use the internet to research the company to find out what traits would be a good fit in the corporate environment. Use social media and the company's website to learn what skills they value most.
3. Consider the Five Skill Clusters
Nearly all job-related skills can be simplified into one of five categories:
• Work-ethic characteristics (diligence, internal motivation, etc.)
Decide which categories to emphasize when describing your experience.
4. Expand to Other Sought-After Skills
Along with the general categories listed above, there are several other universal skills sets. These include self-confidence, quick learning ability, organization, time-management, and flexibility.
5. Break Down Previous Job Experience
Once you understand which skills the employer wants and how your previous positions have improved those skills, it's time to write. Highlight your marketable skills with a couple specific examples. Even if your work was in a different industry, you can translate the core skills to those that the employer wants.
6. Relate Education with Job Skills
If you don't have a long work history yet, consider your educational background and draw specific skill sets from there. For example, completing a group project shows teamwork skills.
7. Choose Skills to Highlight
Your cover letter should be concise and as such, it's essential to pick one or two specific skills and focus on those. Avoid giving too much detail and keep your writing tight.
8. Summarize Your Skills in Relation to the Company
While you're highlighting your particular marketable skills, be sure to relate them clearly to the job description. For example, a small start-up company will probably value flexibility, creativity, and self-motivation.
9. Be Positive and Honest
You should present yourself and your skills in the best possible light, but make sure you aren't exaggerating or lying.
10. Read Cover Letter and Resume for Cohesiveness
The perfect cover letter should encourage the recruiter to continue on and read your resume, so be sure the skills you emphasize in the letter also shine through in your resume. Read both together to verify cohesiveness without repetition.
Take it a Step Further
You want to make your job application as attractive as possible to an employer and a large part of that is including the skills that are most desired by the company. Once you've identified those skills and decided which ones to focus on, you may want to consider using a couple extra techniques to truly make your writing memorable. Relating your work history and qualifications in story form can be extremely effective in holding a reader's attention. Be as concise as possible, and briefly outline an instance of problem-solving or achievement in your work history. Tailor to story to showcase at least one marketable skill, and you will be well on your way to completing the perfect cover letter.