Cover Letters Need Keywords

John Krautzel
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The advent of applicant tracking systems has made it more crucial for job seekers to pay careful attention to the phrasing of their cover letters, especially in terms of cover letter keywords. While many job candidates take care to tailor their resumes to use searchable keywords, fewer people are aware that cover letters are also searchable. Pay attention to your cover letter's keywords to make it stand out.

The Searchable Cover Letter

It is increasingly the case that cover letters are as searchable as resumes. When you upload a resume and see a dialog box that asks for a cover letter, even if the cover letter is optional, always assume the cover letter's keywords are searchable in the company's applicant tracking system. Many companies realize that job seekers include vital information in their cover letters that does not appear in their resumes; these companies deliberately choose to search cover letters for keywords.

Keywords for Your Cover Letter

Look at the keywords in the job description to determine which cover letter keywords you should focus on. Pinpoint keywords covering your skills, results and achievements, and find a way to work these words naturally into your cover letter. Focus on verbs such as "quantify," "design," "teach," "analyze" and "create" to show off your skills. Verbs such as "redesign," "implement," "produce," "upgrade" and "generate" indicate that you are a results-oriented person. When you mention ways in which you have been recognized for your achievements, find ways to use verbs such as "promote," "credit," "select," "recognize" and "award." Always compare your choice of verbs to those used in the job description for the position you are trying to get.

Tips to Moving Past an Applicant Tracking System

The goal in writing your cover letter is to move your resume up to the top of the pile so that it makes it into the hands of a human hiring manager. While cover letter keywords are designed to do just that, getting the interview means appealing to an actual person, not a keyword-tracking system. Make sure you also use your cover letter to indicate you fit well with the company to which you are applying. Refer to the company's website and mission statement to gather information that demonstrates you are a great candidate for this position as well as for the company as a whole. Of course, one of the most important keywords to use at this point is the name of someone well-known to and respected at the company who has recommended you for the job.

Use cover letter keywords wisely to get an applicant tracking system to discover your cover letter and resume and move them into a hiring manager's hands. A searchable cover letter can make the difference between getting an interview and waiting for the phone to ring.


Photo courtesy of patpitchaya at


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