What’s an ATS cover letter? It’s a cover letter that’s been optimized for application tracking systems, or ATS.

An ATS is a computer software program that most companies use today to sort and filter job applications. When you submit your application, it doesn’t go to a hiring manager – it goes directly into an ATS database.

Hiring managers search the database for job candidates by typing keywords into the ATS search bar. These keywords are usually job titles or skills that are relevant to the job position.

If your cover letter doesn’t contain these specific keywords it won’t be found by the hiring manager. That’s why it’s so important to optimize your cover letter for the ATS.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about writing an ATS cover letter, including how to use an AI-powered cover letter generator to create one for you.

What should your cover letter include?

A cover letter is your first opportunity to convince hiring managers that you are the best candidate for the job.

Although not all companies require cover letters, sending a well-written letter along with your resume can increase your chances of getting an interview.

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


Your cover letter is a great way to sell yourself to potential employers. Think of it as your personal elevator pitch, where you concisely present your most compelling attributes and make a case for why you’re the best candidate for the job.

Here are some of the topics you can include in your cover letter:

  • 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

Remember, while your resume lists your experience and qualifications, a good cover letter can bring them to life. It’s your chance to add a personal dimension to your application, which will help you stand out to potential employers.

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, 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.

Read more: Top 5 Strategic Cover Letter Formats to Get You an Interview Today

How to write an ATS cover letter

Now how exactly do you optimize your cover letter so that it gets past the ATS and gets you noticed by hiring managers?

Just follow these four steps:

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

Understanding the company not only demonstrates your interest in the role but also allows you to tailor your message to align with the company’s vision.

How to research the company and desired role:

  • 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. Add the right keywords to your cover letter

By incorporating the right keywords into your cover letter, you’ll make it easier for hiring managers to find.

How to add keywords:

  • Write down the relevant keywords found on the job description. 
  • Take special note of skills that are frequently mentioned since ATS considers keyword frequency.
  • Incorporate as many keywords into your cover letter as possible but don’t overdo it.
  • Don’t lie! Only incorporate skills and job titles that accurately represent you.

3. Highlight relevant experience

Highlighting your relevant experience is about pointing out your past roles and achievements that match what employers are looking for.

How to highlight your relevant experience:

  • Study the job description to identify key responsibilities and qualifications. 
  • Focus on your experiences and accomplishments that directly relate to the job.
  • Use quantifiable achievements when possible, such as “increased sales by 20 percent” or “led a team of five members.”

4. Show your unique value

Remember, your goal is not only to make it past the ATS but also to impress the hiring manager. Do this by highlighting what sets you apart.

How to show your value:

  • Explain why the company should pick you over other candidates. 
  • Be authentic, creative, and professional.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine.
How to optimize your cover letter for the ATS

How to use an AI-powered cover letter generator

Most job seekers don’t tailor their cover letters. There are two reasons for this:

  1. People hate writing cover letters.
  2. Tailoring cover letters takes too much time and effort.

This is why job seekers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to help them write their cover letters. Free tools like ChatGPT are a good place to start.

To use ChatGPT to write a cover letter, paste in your resume and the description of the job you’re applying to. Then tell ChatGPT to write a cover letter for that job.

The cover letter ChatGPT produces should be considered a first draft. You’ll still have to work on it to make it good enough to send out.

The biggest problem with using ChatGPT is that it won’t write an effective ATS cover letter. To do that, you’ll have to use a tool like Jobscan’s cover letter generator.

This AI-powered tool has been specifically designed to write tailored, personalized ATS cover letters with just a single click.

Watch this brief video to see how Jobscan’s cover letter generator works:

Read more: Should You Actually Use ChatGPT to Generate Your Cover Letter? (11 Pros and Cons)

Professional ATS cover letter example

Below is an example of a job listing followed by an ATS cover letter tailored for that job.

As you can see, the cover letter uses the same language as the job listing. (The important keywords are highlighted in yellow).

By tailoring your cover letter like this, you’ll increase the chances that a hiring manager will find it during an ATS search.

Note: Only add skills and job titles to your cover letter if they accurately reflect your experience and qualifications. Don’t lie!

Job listing for a software engineer:

A sample job description with keywords highlighted.

Tailored ATS cover letter for this job listing:

A sample ATS cover letter with keywords highlighted in yellow.

Read more: Cover Letter Examples for Job Seekers

Key Takeaways

Here’s a quick review of some important points covered in this ATS cover letter article:

  • 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 scanner.

Make your resume stand out and get noticed

Upload your resume to see what’s missing and get a free match rate.

View full results and optimize your resume

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 to.

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 percent of recruiters say that cover letters affect their hiring decisions.

Do you need a cover letter?

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 changing 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

More expert insights on this topic:

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