How to Use Keywords in a Cover Letter

Cover Letter Keywords | How-to, Template & Example |

Using relevant keywords in your cover letter can show what you have accomplished rather than tells what you can accomplish. Writing an effective cover letter with specific keywords can sometimes make the difference between getting the interview and being passed over. This article explains how to use cover letter keywords that are specific and describe the achievements you have made, the contributions you have added and the value you can offer to your next employer.

What are cover letter keywords?

Cover letter keywords are the words that employers look for when screening the applicant pool for viable job candidates. Applicant tracking systems often screen cover letters and resumes by searching for specified words and phrases set by the employer. An applicant who does not use the appropriate keywords will be overlooked by the applicant tracking system and lose the opportunity to interview with the employer.

Employers grant a different level of importance to specific keywords depending on the industry, company and role, so it is highly suggested that you research all three when writing a cover letter for a particular job to ensure that you are targeting the appropriate words and phrases in your cover letter and resume.

Popular types of keywords

Here are the most common types of keywords:

Skill keywords

To decide on the correct skill keywords to include in your cover letter, pay attention to the job description and take note of the skills the employer is specifically seeking. These are skills that will help your cover letter stand out. Relate each skill word to a specific task or role in which you used the skill to achieve success.

Examples of skill keywords:

  • Analyzed
  • Achieved
  • Built
  • Created
  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Generated
  • Improved
  • Launched
  • Trained

Examples of statements using skill keywords: 

  • Created a calendaring system that streamlined the scheduling of conference room reservations, resulting in a one-hundred percent reduction in scheduling overlaps
  • Generated an additional sixty thousand-plus impressions on the company’s online advertising by redesigning the digital campaign materials
  • Launched a company-wide initiative to encourage more than one hundred employees to volunteer at least one day per month with Habitat for Humanity

Results-oriented keywords

Results-oriented keywords show employers how you will add value and generate positive results for their business. Your cover letter is where you can stand out by highlighting your accomplishments and accentuating them with your skills. Results-oriented keywords have the most impact when you include numbers to quantify your achievements.

Examples of results-oriented keywords: 

  • Generated
  • Implemented
  • Increased
  • Initiated
  • Produced
  • Redesigned
  • Reduced
  • Reformulated
  • Upgraded
  • Verified

Examples of quantified results statements:

  • Generated national interest in the company’s newest software project, resulting in new contracts worth two million dollars in the next two years
  • Implemented an employee retraining program that reduced time waste by thirty percent by increasing efficiency in assembly processes
  • Increased product visibility by 70% by implementing six new planograms (sales floor layouts)

Recognition keywords

Recognition keywords help hiring managers to envision you in the role by painting the picture of how you performed in your last role. Using these words solidify the idea that your previous employers have recognized and appreciated your valuable contributions, especially when you pair them with the title of the person or people who granted the occurrences of recognition.

Examples of recognition related keywords: 

  • Awarded
  • Chosen
  • Credited
  • Honored
  • Lauded
  • Promoted
  • Received
  • Recognized
  • Selected

Examples of effective recognition statements: 

  • Received a $50,000 research grant in recognition of my innovative theories and advancement ideas
  • Promoted to general manager due to the increase in revenue I generated with my staff retraining initiative
  • Chosen to represent the company at an international conference in Tokyo three years in a row

How to use keywords in a cover letter

Follow these steps to use keywords in a cover letter:

1. First, use the right keywords in your cover letter

Use the keywords that reflect the skills required for the role you are pursuing. Since many employers use automated applicant tracking systems to rank candidates, using the best keywords can help ensure that your application reaches the hiring manager. Once your cover letter is in front of the appropriate person, the keywords you chose can convince them to invite you—not your competition—for an interview.

2. Then, add in action words

When incorporating occupation-specific keywords in your cover letter, be sure to include action words that reinforce what you accomplished in your previous positions by having the skills or qualities you’re listing.

Examples of experience described using action words:

  • Published an in-depth 500-word article about fishing conservation in Anna Maria Magazine
  • Improved assembly process by streamlining the steps involved, saving approximately 30 seconds of assembly time per part
  • Managed a team of 13 sales associates and four administrative employees

3. Lastly, keep your cover letter brief

When writing a cover letter, it’s important to get your message across by being concise. Since hiring managers are typically pressed for time and tasked with choosing a small number of many applicants to interview, they must take your cover letter at face value.

Cover letter template

Here is a cover letter template that you can use to craft your own:



[Phone number]

[Email address]

Dear [Dr./Mr./Ms last name],

I am writing to apply for the position of [open job] that I heard about from [contact associated with the company or found on job site]. I have [number] years of experience as a [job title] and I believe I would be ideally suited for the position.

I have extensive experience with [list qualifications that align with the open position]. As a [job title] with [company], I was responsible for [key responsibility]. During my time there, I [name specific accomplishments you achieved while in the role].

With my passion for [industry], I believe I could offer [company] a fresh perspective and innovative ideas. Please review my enclosed resume.

I would love the opportunity to discuss the value I can bring to your team. Thank you in advance for your consideration.



Cover letter example

The following cover letter example incorporates effective keywords related to skills, achievements and recognition and is likely to stand out to employers:

Dear Ms. Cecelia Dawson,

During the course of my eight-year career as a paralegal, I have built and sharpened my legal research and writing skills. The attorneys I have worked with, including firm partners, have commended me on my excellent grasp of case law and litigation support. Casey, Ingram and Woods, P.A.’s three-generation record of professionalism, dedication and courtroom wins demonstrates the firm’s strong values and exceptional skills, which is why I would like to join the Casey, Ingram and Woods, P.A. team.

I currently serve as a paralegal for Copeland, Copeland and Copeland, Attorneys at Law, where I work closely with the firm’s partners and associates on many high-profile and high-priority cases. During my time with the firm, I have created and implemented an improved calendaring system to ensure on-time filing of case documents with the courts. This system has prevented missed deadlines and improved the coordination of staff and client meetings.

My further qualifications include a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a post-baccalaureate paralegal certificate from Nova University and advanced training in LexisNexis and Westlaw.

I would love the opportunity to discuss the contributions I can offer to your legal team. Thank you in advance for your consideration.


Joanna Payge

(555) 555-5555

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