Many have emphatically declared cover letters dead in recent years but this fact remains in 2022: cover letters stand between you and many available jobs. In fact, 83% of recruiters say that a great cover letter can land you a job interview even when your resume is subpar. 

An often overlooked piece of advice when it comes to cover letters is that there are two audiences you need to impress – the hiring manager and the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) the company uses.

In this quick guide, you will learn how to create an ATS cover letter that beats the bots and increases your chances of getting your application read by a real person.

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What is a cover letter?

A cover letter introduces you to the recruiter and shows your story, career goals, skills, unique values, and relevant experiences. It is your first opportunity to convince recruiters that you are the best candidate and that they should hire you.

A professionally-written cover letter to complement a great resume increases your chances of landing your dream job.

Read our full guide: Cover Letter Writing Guide

Are cover letters still a thing in 2022?

The short answer is yes! 83% of HR professionals factor what they read in your cover letter into their hiring decision. 

Although not all companies require cover letters, sending one along with your resume bumps your chances of getting interviews.

77% of recruiters give preference to candidates who include a cover letter even when it’s not required.

ResumeLab

Make sure that your cover letter is well-written, impactful, and optimized for the ATS.

What do you include in your cover letter?

Your cover letter is your marketing tool where you outline why you are interested in the role and why you are the best person for the job. In this one-page persuasive letter, you can share the following:

  • Your professional goals and objectives
  • Reasons you applied for the position
  • Your career changes
  • Your employment history and gaps
  • Professional accomplishments
  • How you can add value to the company
  • Your relevant skills, unique story, and values
  • Your edge over other job candidates

Cover Letter Checklist

Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to include in your cover letter. 

  1. Contact Details
    Name
    Address (or City, State with zip code)
    Phone number
    Email address
  2. Greeting
    Whenever possible, address the hiring manager by name.
  3. Opening
    Who are you?
    What are your relevant skills and accomplishments?
  4. Body (1-2 paragraphs)
    What do you know about the company?
    Why are you applying for this job?
    What value can you bring to the company?
    Include measurable results when possible.
  5. Closing
    Reiterate your interest.
    Add a Call to Action.
    Mention any attachments.
    Use a professional sign-off like “Best” or “Sincerely” before your full name.

Why do you need a searchable ATS cover letter?

The first obstacle for your cover letter is getting past an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a bot that won’t be moved by your elegant prose or inspiring story. 

Instead, the ATS rates your cover letter and resume on how well it matches the job description of the position you are applying for.

Most companies use ATS to create a searchable database of job applicants. Rather than manually reading every single resume submitted, hiring managers shrink their pool of applicants by searching the database for specific skills and keywords. Any applicant without one of those keywords might be eliminated by the program, sight unseen.

Based on Jobscan’s research, Taleo, the most-used applicant tracking system, treats cover letters as searchable text just like the resume. 

The ATS rates your cover letter and resume on how well it matches the job description of the position you are applying for.

Other application processes require the applicant to attach their letter to the end of their resume document. In these scenarios, your letter could be key to surviving the first round of cuts before it’s ever even seen by human eyes.

Targeted Keywords Boost Searchability

Jobscan recommends tailoring your resume and your cover letter to the job description. 

How to Optimize Your Cover Letter for the ATS

How to optimize your cover letter for the ATS

Now how exactly do you optimize your cover letter so that it gets past the ATS and gets you noticed by recruiters? Here’s how.

1. Research the company and the position you are applying for

  • Do your homework and read about the company and the specific industry. 
  • Study the job you are interested in. Take note of industry-specific skills and competencies. 
  • Identify how your skills and unique background and experiences align with what the company stands for. 
  • Read the job description and understand what the role requires and what the company expects from you.

2. Keyword-optimize your cover letter

  • Write down the relevant keywords found on the job description. 
  • Take special note of skills that are frequently mentioned since ATS considers keyword frequency and will analyze such skills as highly important. 

    For example:

    If the job description mentions “SEO” 4 times, incorporating this keyword at least 4 times in your cover letter (or resume) will increase your ATS score.
  • Incorporate as many keywords into your cover letter as possible but don’t overdo it and don’t lie about it.

3. Differentiate yourself

  • Remember, your goal is not only to beat the ATS. You also need to impress the recruiter who has the final say about your application. 
  • Showcase your competitive advantage over others and why the company should pick you. 
  • Be authentic, creative, and professional. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.

4. Tailor your cover letter

  • Sending a generic cover letter does you more harm than not sending a cover letter at all. 
  • A generic cover letter signals to recruiters that you haven’t made much thought and effort into your application. It also shows that you are lazy. 
  • Tailor your cover letter to every job you are applying for. A tailored cover letter also helps you get past the ATS.

81% of HR professionals value job-specific cover letters over generic ones. Jobseekers who had tailored cover letters received a 53% higher callback rate compared to those who had no cover letter.

ResumeGo

Optimizing your cover letter with keywords for the ATS is just one part of the equation. You still need to write something that will win over the hiring manager once they finally read it. Jobscan’s Learning Center features in-depth cover letter resources to point you to the right direction. Here are a few.

Writing a highly-specific and optimized cover letter for every job might sound impractical. And you might not have the time to do it. Tailor your cover letter easily and painlessly with Jobscan’s Cover Letter Scanner.

Test Scan Your Cover Letter

In addition to unlimited resume scans, Jobscan Premium users receive unlimited cover letter scans

The scan makes sure your cover letter is the optimal length, contains contact information and measurable results, and doesn’t have any cliche buzzwords. Most importantly, the report generates a list of hard and soft skills (keywords!) found in the job listing that should be featured in your cover letter.

Jobscan Cover Letter Optimization Report

Find out where your cover letters are falling short free for two weeks.

Key Takeaways

Here’s a quick cover letter review of some important pointers:

  • Recruiters read your cover letter even when it’s not required since it gives them a deeper look into your unique story and experiences.
  • An ATS cover letter that’s keyword-optimized to the job description increases your chances of beating the ATS and getting your application to a recruiter.
  • Recruiters prefer a tailored cover letter over a generic one.

An ATS cover letter is just one part of the equation. You also need an ATS-friendly resume to land a job offer. Make sure your resume is optimized for Applicant Tracking Systems by using Jobscan’s Resume Optimization Tool.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the cover letter dead?

No. The cover letter is not dead and it is still considered by HR professionals when making their hiring decisions.

What is an ATS?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a digital gatekeeper that sifts through hundreds of job applications, streamlines the hiring process, and saves recruiters valuable time.

Do cover letters go through ATS?

Although there are hundreds of ATS in the market, most ATS scan cover letters and match them against the job description.

Does Taleo scan cover letters?

Yes. Based on our research, Taleo, the most-used applicant tracking system, treats cover letters as searchable text like the resume.

What is an ATS cover letter checker?

An ATS cover letter checker or cover letter scanner is a tool that assesses how well your cover letter matches the job description of the role you are applying for. 

Does Jobscan have a free cover letter checker?

Jobscan offers unlimited cover letter scans through our cover letter checker only to premium users. You can check our Plans page for more details.

How do you write an ATS cover letter?

Here’s how you write an ATS cover letter.

  1. Read the job description and learn about the company you are interested in.
  2. Understand how your experiences and skills align with what the company wants.
  3. Share about your expertise, key achievements, and the value that you can bring to the company. Include measurable results when possible.
  4. Take note of relevant keywords in the job description (especially those that are frequently mentioned.)
  5. Incorporate these keywords in your cover letter.
  6. Let your personality shine through.
  7. End with a Call to Action.

Read our full guide: What to Include in Your Cover Letter

Do companies scan cover letters?

Yes. Companies scan cover letters and recruiters read them. In fact, 83% of recruiters say that cover letters affect their hiring decisions.

Do you need a cover letter in 2022?

Yes. Even when it’s optional for some companies, including a cover letter will only raise your chances of getting interviews as they provide a deeper insight into who you are and what you can contribute to the company.

What do you include in your cover letter if you are changing careers?

Include key skills from the job description if you’re transitioning careers. If job-critical skills weren’t part of your past work experience, your cover letter must pick up the slack. Demonstrate knowledge of the missing skills and highlight non-professional experience in your letter to help you get past the filters and show the hiring manager that you’re qualified for the job.

Read the guide here: The Career Change Cover Letter: How to Get it Right

What are examples of editable cover letter templates?

You can download our free and editable cover letter templates here