How to Optimize Your Cover Letter for Applicant Tracking Systems

Updated Mar 5, 2023

Writing a cover letter is an important part of applying for a job, but optimizing it for applicant tracking systems (ATS) can be tricky. ATS are computer programs used by employers to filter out resumes and cover letters. Knowing how to make yours stand out can help you land an interview. This article will provide tips on how to optimize your cover letter for ATS, so you can get the attention of potential employers.

In this blog post, you will learn:

  • How Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) work and how to craft a cover letter to be compatible with them
  • How to make sure your application has the right keywords and is structured for easy scanning
  • Tips for keeping your cover letter concise and making it stand out from the crowd
  • Best practices for double-checking your cover letter before submission

Understanding How Applicant Tracking Systems Work

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are designed to streamline the recruitment process, allowing employers to easily store and filter applicants' resumes. They use automation to scan resumes and cover letters, flagging resumes and cover letters that match a job's criteria and discarding those that do not. It is important to understand how ATS works in order to maximize your chances of having your resume and cover letter seen.

Crafting Your Cover Letter for ATS Compatibility

When creating your cover letter, it is important to make sure it is ATS compatible. This means using a standard format, avoiding graphics and tables, and using easily-scannable text. Additionally, using [headers and subheaders]( understanding-semicolon/) can help make sure that your resume is properly read by the ATS.

Making Sure Your Application Has Keywords

Including relevant keywords in your cover letter and resume can help ensure that your application is properly read by the ATS. Keywords should be specific to the job you are applying for and should be used in a natural and meaningful way.

Structuring Your Cover Letter for Easy Scanning

In order for your cover letter to be easily scanned by the ATS, it is important to structure it in a way that is easily readable. This can be accomplished by having a clear structure and format, breaking up text into short paragraphs, and using headings and subheadings.

Keeping Your Cover Letter Concise and to the Point

In order for your cover letter to stand out, it is important to keep it concise and to the point. Avoid including unnecessary information and focusing on details that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

Making Your Cover Letter Stand Out

In order for your cover letter to stand out, it is important to make sure it is tailored to the position you are applying for. This means being specific about why you are the best candidate for the job and why you would be an asset to the organization. Additionally, it is important to include relevant examples from your past experience that demonstrate your qualifications.

Double-Checking Your Cover Letter Before Submission

Before submitting your cover letter, it is important to double-check it for any errors or typos. This will ensure that your cover letter is professional and of high quality. Additionally, it is important to make sure that the information in your cover letter matches the information in your resume. Below we answer common questions entrepreneurs have about these topics.

1. Understanding How Applicant Tracking Systems Work

How does an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) analyze and score resumes?

When you're answering the question, How does an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) analyze and score resumes?, it's important to remember that even though this is an automated process, it's still based on the algorithm that the ATS uses. So, if you have a resume with a lot of keywords, it's likely to be ranked higher than a resume without many keywords. It's also important to remember that most ATSs are going to be looking for certain things. For example, most ATSs are going to be looking for specific degrees, certifications, and years of experience. So, it's important to include these things on your resume if you want it to be scored by an ATS.

What criteria is used to determine the best-qualified applicants for a job?

The answer to this question should be short, sweet, and to the point. You don't need to go into a lot of detail, but it's a good idea to highlight the major points. Most importantly, make sure to mention that your resume and other application materials are reviewed for relevant experience and skills. The interviewer wants to know that your resume is being taken seriously and carefully reviewed for authenticity and relevancy.

2. Crafting Your Cover Letter for ATS Compatibility

What keywords should I include to make sure my cover letter is ATS-friendly?

A lot of people struggle with this question because they don't have a clear understanding of what an ATS is. Applicant Tracking Systems are software programs that help businesses automate the hiring process. They scan your cover letter and résumé for keywords that match the job description to determine whether your application should be considered.

If you're applying for a creative role, for example, you'll want to use words like "ideation" and "conceptualizing" in your cover letter to show that you have the creative skills required for the job. If you're applying for a tech role, you'll want to use words like "analytical" and "problem-solving" in your cover letter to show that you're tech savvy.

What formatting should I use to make sure my cover letter is compatible with an ATS?

If your cover letter isn't formatted correctly, it can mess up the ATS and cause the document to be rejected. You should always format your cover letter in a word processing program first and then copy and paste it into your email. This will ensure that your cover letter is formatted correctly and compatible with the ATS.

3. Making Sure Your Application Has Keywords

Did you include relevant industry keywords throughout your application?

It's important to show that you have the right industry lingo down by including keywords throughout your application. This can help you stand out from other applicants and demonstrate that you've done your research. For example, if you're applying for a job in SEO, you might want to include terms like "search engine optimization" or "SEO content". This can help demonstrate that you're familiar with the industry and know what you're talking about.

Are there any frequently used keywords or terminology related to the job that you think should be included in your application?

The job description may provide a list of keywords that the hiring manager would like to see in the applicant's resume and cover letter. You can use these keywords effectively to boost your resume's visibility and ensure that it makes it to the top of the applicant pool.

For example, if the job description mentions "expertise in marketing," you can make it clear in your resume that you are an expert in digital marketing. You can also use phrases such as "have worked as a" or "specializing in," along with the keywords provided in the job description.

In the cover letter, you can mention these keywords in your opening paragraph, and then use these phrases in the body of your letter.

4. Structuring Your Cover Letter for Easy Scanning

What is the best way to format my cover letter to make sure it is easily scannable?

The best way to format your cover letter to make sure it is easily scannable is to use a clear and consistent font. If you're using Times New Roman, don't switch to Calibri halfway through the letter. And if you're using all uppercase letters, don't start using lowercase halfway through the letter.

In addition, try to keep your paragraphs short – no more than three or four sentences each. And finally, use bullet points to break up your cover letter into sections. This will make it easier for the reader to find what they're looking for quickly and efficiently. By following these tips, you can be sure that your cover letter is easily scannable.

How can I ensure my cover letter stands out and catches the reader's attention?

For me, the most important thing is to write an outstanding cover letter. You may have a great resume, but if your cover letter isn't good, the hiring manager probably won't spend much time reading your resume.

It can be hard to stand out with a cover letter, but you can use something like a personal story to make your cover letter more unique. For example, you can talk about why you're passionate about the job, or how you've overcome challenges in the past and are ready to face new challenges in the future.

If you can make your cover letter more personal and interesting, you'll have a better chance of standing out and catching the hiring manager's attention.

5. Keeping Your Cover Letter Concise and to the Point

How can I ensure my cover letter is concise and to the point?

A cover letter should not be so long that it distracts from the goal of it – to get your resume looked at. Therefore, make sure to keep your letter concise and to the point. In the same vein, make sure to include all of the relevant information – it's okay to be selective. If you have a background that doesn't fit the job you're applying for, consider including it in a separate document. It's a good idea to tailor your cover letter to each job application, so it's okay if it is not the same for each one.

What tips can I use to shorten my cover letter?

The truth is, you can't shorten your cover letter. All you can do is be concise. A well-written cover letter should be a little less than one page. Do not exceed that. Get to the point quickly, and do not write the same information that you have already provided in the resume.

6. Making Your Cover Letter Stand Out

What unique qualifications do you possess that make you an ideal candidate for this role?

There are many unique qualities that make a writer a great fit for the role, but the most important is their ability to tell a story. Stories are what connect us to one another, and they're what inspire us to change. As a writer, you have the unique ability to tell the stories of others and share them with the world.

What sets you apart from other applicants and makes you the best choice for this job?

It's important to make sure your cover letter is well-written and that you include all the necessary information. Make sure to include your name, contact information, and why you are interested in the position. Also, include specific details about how your skills and experience make you a good fit for the position.

7. Double-Checking Your Cover Letter Before Submission

Have you proofread your cover letter for any grammar or spelling mistakes?

There are two parts to this question. One is the obvious answer, which is yes. You should always proofread your cover letter for any grammar or spelling mistakes. The other part is to make sure that your cover letter is error-free.

You should have a good understanding of the job you are applying for and the company you are applying to. Your cover letter should reflect your knowledge of the company and what you can do for them. It should also be free of errors.

Are all of the contact details in your cover letter correct?

If your contact details aren't up-to-date, it can be a red flag for an employer. They may consider this as a sign that you aren't organized, which is a negative quality in a candidate. It is always a good idea to ensure your contact details are correct and up to date. If your email address has changed, send an email update to the potential employer. If your phone number has changed, advise the company of this change. By ensuring your contact details are correct, you show initiative and discipline, both of which are positive qualities in a candidate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand how Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) work to ensure your cover letter is optimized for scanning.
  • Include relevant keywords to make sure your application is noticed.
  • Structure your cover letter for easy scanning.
  • Keep your cover letter concise and to the point.
  • Make sure your cover letter stands out and is double-checked before submission.


In conclusion, crafting a cover letter for ATS compatibility is an essential part of the job application process. By understanding how applicant tracking systems work, making sure your application has keywords, structuring your cover letter for easy scanning, keeping it concise and to the point, making it stand out, and double-checking it before submission, you can ensure that your cover letter will be read by the employer. With the right approach and attention to detail, your cover letter can help you stand out from the competition and make a great first impression.

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