A Guide on How You Can Find and Use Cover Letter Keywords

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 24, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Writing a cover letter is an essential component of the job application process. By using the job listing, you can identify keywords that allow you to enhance your skills, experience, and accomplishments. Whether you're a recent graduate or an established professional, understanding how to maximize the effectiveness of your job application can help improve your chances of finding employment. In this article, we examine the importance of cover letter keywords, explore the different types of keywords, explain how to feature keywords on your cover letter, and discover the benefits of using keywords.

What is the importance of cover letter keywords?

Job listings typically include several phrases and types of language relevant to the position that you can use as cover letter keywords. These phrases describe abilities, personality traits, experience, and job-specific qualifications that employers or hiring managers expect candidates to possess. Customizing and aligning your cover letter with the job listing is vital to demonstrate your professionalism and relevant qualifications. As a job seeker, you can increase your application's chances of passing the initial screening and receiving a positive response by strategically including keywords on your cover letter.

Related: How to Write the Best Cover Letter (Template and Example)

Different types of keywords

Whether you're an established professional or a recent graduate, it's vital to understand how to identify keywords in job listings. While some phrases or verbs may be more evident, you can improve your chances as a candidate by recognizing every keyword category. Here are the four different types of keywords you can expect to discover in job postings:

Keywords based on skills

Keywords based on skills can help you discover the type of abilities a company prioritizes and expects applicants to possess. You can identify these keywords based on your understanding of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are technical or job-specific proficiencies, and soft skills are universal capabilities, such as critical thinking, interpersonal, and communication skills. Job listings sometimes have an abilities section for reference, but it's essential to recognize that keywords based on skills also appear in other areas. Skill-based keywords include developed, solved, researched, directed, quantified, analyzed, designed, programmed, wrote, trained, planned, taught, and built.

For example, suppose you're applying for a program developer position. The job listing is looking for candidates with programming language knowledge and experience. You can write, Designed an algorithm using Python that improved the company's security system.

Keywords based on recognition

Keywords based on recognition refer to phrases or language that directly reference your professional excellence and past accomplishments. You can use these words to showcase how your expertise and personality surpassed expectations, allowing you to receive more significant responsibilities or duties in your previous position. These keywords can help impress prospective employers or hiring managers and elaborate more on your work ethic. Recognition-based keywords include awarded, lauded, recognized, credited, promoted, exceeded, distinguished, and selected.

For example, you're preparing a cover letter for a warehouse manager role. Managerial positions benefit from demonstrating your ability to create significant improvements. You can write Lauded for implementing an automated inventory control system leading to a 45% increase in item acquisition and order deliveries.

Keywords based on action

Keywords based on action are verbs or phrases that help you emphasize a specific skill or experience. You can use them to showcase what you did in a previous position that led to an operational improvement or professional achievement. These are the keywords hiring managers search in a cover letter or job application to gain a deeper insight into a candidate's work history. Action-based keywords include motivated, collaborated, streamlined, applied, initiated, achieved, empowered, restructured, presented, merged, assisted, optimized, augmented, and managed.

For example, suppose you're preparing a cover letter for a nurse position. The listing emphasizes effective patient care and communication. You can write, Managed patients' care by building trust and updating them every hour on the status of their newborn babies.

Keywords based on results

Keywords based on results refer to phrases that can help you showcase how you affected previous employers. They're words that highlight a quantifiable positive outcome resulting from your expertise, personality, and skills. Hiring managers search for results-based keywords to discover how you achieve significant results and assess the value you can add to a company. How you detail positive outcomes can help differentiate you from other candidates. Results-based keywords include reduced, gained, generated, upgraded, increased, contributed, reached, updated, leveraged, secured, organized, produced, and redesigned.

For example, suppose you're applying for a sales associate role. After reading the job listing, you identify that this company prioritizes results. In your cover letter, you can write, Increased the company's revenue by 30% by implementing a mentoring system that reduced turnover and improved employee satisfaction.

Related: How to Write a Cover Letter for Sales Associates (With Tips)

How to feature keywords on your cover letter

Companies posting job openings may use software or guidelines for hiring managers to scan candidate applications for keywords. Understanding how to include these specific phrases or words on your cover letter helps you submit an application that can impress prospective employers. Here are the two steps on how you can incorporate keywords on your cover letter effectively:

1. Review the job listing

Job listings communicate the type of professional a company wants to hire and are one of the essential tools you can use when creating your application. Consider highlighting action verbs, key descriptors, and job-specific phrases when reading a job listing. You can reference the types of keywords guideline to identify and separate words based on skills, results, and recognition. Writing them in a different document is a valuable reference that can help you assess their priorities and define a plan to integrate them into your cover letter.

For example, suppose you're applying for a research engineer position. You highlight, write, and separate 30 keywords into their corresponding categories as you read the job listing. Of all those phrases, you identify an abundance of results-oriented keywords. You can use this knowledge to prioritize results-oriented keywords on your cover letter and add the other types of keywords to complement your experience or expertise in delivering proven and effective results.

Related: 7 Key Cover Letter Parts to Include in Your Letter

2. Balance your experience and keywords

When you start writing your cover letter, it's vital to balance the job listing's keywords and your unique experience as a professional. While aligning position listing and application is valuable, hiring managers are often curious about the value you can offer within their desired expectations. Avoid writing a cover letter that repeats verbatim the job listing, and instead, consider using the keywords to enhance your expertise, accomplishments, and relevant experience. It's helpful to feature keywords precisely as they appear in the job listing.

For example, suppose you're preparing an application for a high-school teacher position. You identify the following keywords in the job listing, social-emotional intelligence, fostering school mission, and effective communication skills. You can use these keywords as references to directly address how your experience and knowledge implement those desired attributes.

Related: How to End a Cover Letter: Key Elements to Ensure an Ideal Cover Letter Ending

Benefits of using keywords on your cover letter

As a job seeker, ensuring the effectiveness of your application is essential. While writing a cover letter is a time investment, you can simplify this process by identifying keywords from a job listing and featuring them to enhance your expertise. Here are three benefits of using keywords on your cover letter:

Assesses qualifications

Identifying keywords in a job listing allows you to assess your qualifications for the role. You may encounter or read numerous job postings daily as a job seeker, but only a few listings align with your experience and goals. Instead of devoting your time and resources to applying to every job listing, it's helpful to focus on preparing applications for positions that match your qualifications. With this approach, you can showcase your qualities and achievements more efficiently.

Ensures job listing and application alignment

Job listings function as blueprints or guidelines for creating your job application. By identifying keywords and including them on your cover letter, you create an alignment between listing and application that positions you as the ideal candidate. By using the keywords to enhance your skills and experience, you offer insight into the value you can add to a company. Sometimes, hiring managers prefer to read cover letters that directly reflect or surpass the expectations established by the job posting.

Related: How to Choose a Cover Letter Font in 5 Steps (With Tips)

Improves chances for a follow-up

Many companies use automated software to scan job applications for critical phrases or language, while some hiring managers perform this process manually. In each case, the hiring manager is potentially reviewing or reading hundreds of applications to find the right candidate. You can distinguish yourself by adding keywords to your resume and cover letter. This method actively improves your chances of receiving a positive reply from a prospective employer.

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