Because so many companies use computerized tracking systems as a standard part of their hiring process, job applicants need to tweak their cover letters in a new way. Since your cover letter is just as searchable as your resume, using keywords is vital to bring your application to the top of the pile and snag that important interview. Here are some tips for using keywords in your searchable cover letter.
Analyze the Job Description
When your prospective employer scans your cover letter, tracking software looks for a match between the language used on the job description and specific words used in your cover letter. Take a close look at the job description, and highlight words and phrases that appear multiple times or that appear high on the page. Doing this gives you a good chance of figuring out how the employer is using keywords and which phrases the company may be emphasizing.
Target the Appropriate Keywords
Pinpoint the keywords used in the job description to describe skills, qualifications and work experience that the employer is seeking. Then take a look at your own resume and cover letter to see how you match up. Of course, you should tweak your resume as well as your cover letter to match the keywords, but your cover letter gives you an added opportunity to use keywords that might not appear naturally in your resume. Many companies search cover letters for keywords specifically looking for elements that might not be included in a resume.
Tweak Your Cover Letter to Add Keywords
Once you figure out what keywords to use, compose your cover letter around those words and phrases. Look specifically for opportunities to describe your skills, the results you've achieved in prior positions and any recognition you've received by using the keywords most appropriate to these points. Don't try to pack your cover letter so full of keywords that it reads unnaturally. Instead, try to pick out the eight most vital keywords, and use them naturally in your cover letter. Use keywords when you highlight your accomplishments, and make sure that the keywords you've pinpointed also occur in your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Even though keywords are usually nouns or noun phrases, look for ways to introduce them using action verbs to make your cover letter represent you as a dynamic, proactive employee.
If your searchable cover letter doesn't use keywords that match the employer's job description, it could end up in the reject pile before you ever get a chance to set foot in an interviewer's office. With over 80 percent of resumes searched for keywords, and the same search increasingly performed on cover letters, tweaking your cover letter by using keywords requires a small amount of effort but could pay off in a big way.
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