How to Use Keywords in Your Cover Letters
When you are writing a cover letter to accompany your resume as part of a job application, it's important to make sure that every word counts. Your cover letter should enhance the employer's appreciation of your qualifications so you can move from applicant to interviewee.
Types of Keywords
Keywords are a vital element of a persuasive cover letter capable of portraying a candidate as a highly qualified applicant for the job.
These words fall into three general categories: skill words, results-oriented words, and words which show recognition for achievements.
Keywords work in a couple of different ways. First, the keywords you include in your resume and cover letter will be used to match your application with the skills required by the employer in the job advertisement. This matching process is often performed by automated applicant tracking systems (ATSs), programmed to identify specific keywords and to rank all resumes accordingly before they even reach the human eye of a hiring manager. If your cover letter and / or resume lack these keywords, they may be automatically cut from consideration at this stage of evaluation.
Secondly, keywords that are incorporated into a cover letter will show the hiring manager how and why you are highly qualified for the job, allowing them to rank you among your competition and, ideally, to offer one of their interview slots to you.
Job seekers should carefully analyze the skills required to excel in their target job and incorporate them into their cover letter. Those keywords should also be included in your resume. It will be more genuine if you paraphrase the skills mentioned in job ads as opposed to listing them verbatim.
Skill words are most effective when connected to a specific role or project where the skills were crucial to success.
For example, instead of saying "Quantitative stock analysis is an asset which I would bring to your firm," you could say, "I utilized quantitative stock valuation techniques to create a portfolio for high net worth clients which beat the market for three consecutive years."
The skills keywords included in your cover letters (and your resume) will help your application get selected by the software employers use to select candidates for further consideration. They will also show the hiring manager, at first glance, what skills you have that are related to the job he or she is hiring for.
Examples of skill keywords include “wrote,” “analyzed,” “quantified,” “planned,” “programmed,” “designed,” “created,” “built,” “taught,” and “trained.”
All employers are looking for employees who will add value and generate positive results for their organization. That's why it's critical to integrate results-oriented language into your cover letters. Think about the bottom line for each job on your resume and how you might have made things better in your role.
Your cover letter should showcase your accomplishments, not just your skills or personal qualities.
Providing these details will help to set your letter apart from those of other candidates who don’t highlight their professional achievements. Results-oriented words are most effective when coupled with some numbers which quantify your impact, as in "I reduced turnover amongst first-year hires by 20% by implementing a mentoring system." By using these types of keywords, you are clearing showing what you accomplished in your previous roles.
Examples of results-oriented keywords include: “increased,” “reduced,” “redesigned,” “upgraded,” “initiated,” “implemented,” “reformulated,” “generated,” and “produced.”
Hiring managers will be more likely to believe that you will be an outstanding performer if it is clear that previous employers have viewed you in this way. One way to do this is to incorporate language which demonstrates that employers have recognized your contributions.
Ideally, recognition phrases will include the type of individual who noted your achievement and the basis for your recognition. For example, one might say "I was designated as the team leader for the budget reduction task force by my Division Vice President based on my previous record of accruing cost savings." Recognition keywords attest to how you have excelled in your previous jobs and how you have accomplished more than was required.
Examples of recognition related keywords include “honored,” “awarded,” “promoted,” “selected,” “lauded for,” “received a bonus for,” “recognized,” “chosen,” and “credited.”
For more examples of keywords you should consider incorporating into your cover letter, please have a look at “List of Resume and Cover Letter Keywords” and “Keywords Lists for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Job Applications.”
Transferable Skills Cover Letter Example
When changing industries, or jobs, it is important to include the skills you have developed that will easily transfer into this new position in your cover letter. Including examples of projects, teams, or trainings you've been a part, allows the company to gain a better understanding of your background, and determine the impact you'll make on the business.
This cover letter example focuses on changing industries and emphasizes transferable sales skills.
Remember, this cover letter is a guide. It is important to tailor the letter to fit your situation and the job for which you're applying.
Transferable Sales Skills Cover Letter Example
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Dear Hiring Manager,
I have developed strong sales skills that have enabled me to build a record of sustained sales increases. I thrive on challenge and change, and I look forward to new opportunities to build positive customer relationships every day.
I believe that as a Sales Representative for [Company], my energy, analytic skills, organizational abilities, and creativity in tackling problems will make a positive contribution. I am equally comfortable working independently to meet company goals, as well as collaboratively as part of a team. I have always been able to establish and maintain excellent relationships with clients and coworkers at all levels. My professional skills include:
- Uncovering client needs and recommending appropriate products or services.
- Selling solutions to customers and then backing up those sales with top-quality service.
- Building relationships with coworkers, clients, and strategic partners.
- Developing processes and strategies to increase referrals and revenue.
- Accurately completing data research and analysis while demonstrating computer proficiency.
I would welcome the chance to provide you with additional information to supplement what appears in my enclosed resume. I am available for a personal interview at your convenience. I know you are busy and have many applications to review, so please let me know if you wish to further discuss your requirements and my ability to meet them.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Your Signature (typed letter)
Your Typed Name
How to Send an Email Cover Letter
If you're sending your cover letter via email, list your name and the job title in the subject line of the email message. Include your contact information in your email signature, and don't list the employer contact information. Start your email message with the salutation.