Unlock the Power of Cover Letter Keywords for Job Application Success

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September 26, 2023
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • How to use cover letter keywords strategically to stand out
  • Incorporating relevant keywords into your job application materials
  • How to use the Teal AI Resume Builder to build and tailor your cover letter—incorporating the right keywords

If you've been applying for jobs for any length of time, you've probably wondered why some candidates seem to land interviews while others struggle to get noticed.

The answer may lie in the power of keywords—including cover letter keywords.

By strategically incorporating keywords in your cover letter, you can significantly increase your chances of grabbing the attention of hiring professionals.


Because keywords describe the exact skills, qualifications, and experience required to excel in a particular job. And incorporating them correctly into your application materials aligns your skills with the specific needs and expectations of the company.

Understanding cover letter keywords

Before you learn how to incorporate cover letter keywords, it's important to understand what they are in the first place.

Keywords are specific words or phrases a hiring manager, recruiter, or prospective employer uses in a job listing and (in their internal systems) to identify qualified applicants.

Typically, they're incorporated as hard skills (like technology or tools), soft skills (more personal attributes), emphasis words (like action words), and other important language (like industry jargon) in job descriptions.

How keywords make a difference in job applications

The role of your resume is to showcase the top 10% of your experience that's 100% relevant to the role you're applying to. And while cover letters offer a bit more space and opportunity for personalization and explanation, the final objective remains: for your qualifications and skills to align with the needs of the position.

Leveraging cover letter keywords emphasizes this alignment.

An image showing a sample cover letter with strategically placed cover letter keywords highlighted for emphasis.
Cover letter keywords

From a more granular point of view, keywords, as cover letter action verbs, can make your application more dynamic and engaging. Skill words highlight specific tools. Results-oriented words focus on impact. And recognition-related keywords showcase your attention to detail—all working together to help you create a good cover letter. Teal's Job Description Keyword Finder quickly scans job descriptions for keywords and uncovers the language that matters most, helping you stand out to potential employers.

Targeting the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

You've likely also heard you need keywords to "beat" Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). But the ATS are just digital filing systems companies use to organize job applications. You can't beat them. But you can work with them. And that's where keywords come in.

Hiring professionals search the ATS for specific keywords that align with what they're looking for. If your application materials don't have these words or phrases, you won't be found within the digital filing system.

Essentially, including relevant keywords in your cover letter, such as technical skills like Python, software development, or SEO copywriting, or action verbs like "generated" or "converted" can help you be found quickly.

Identifying the right keywords for your cover letter

To identify the right keywords for your cover letter:

1. Look at relevant job descriptions: Job descriptions offer an in-depth look at the responsibilities and requirements of a role.

2. Company research: By understanding culture, goals, and values, you can pick up on the language and terminology a company uses. 

3. Research industry-specific content: Industry-specific websites, forums, LinkedIn pages, and blogs can provide a wealth of information about terms and jargon that are relevant to your field. 

How to analyze job descriptions

Job descriptions typically include details such as:

  • Job title
  • Job purpose
  • Job duties and responsibilities
  • Required qualifications
  • Preferred qualifications
  • Other helpful information about the position

By carefully analyzing these elements, you can identify the exact job requirements and the skills and experience an employer is seeking. And understanding all of this will help you pinpoint the specific keywords that align with your background and should be incorporated directly into your cover letter.

The Teal Job Application Tracker and AI Resume Builder can streamline this process by pulling the most important keywords so you can quickly customize your cover letter keywords for each application. Teal+ offers unlimited keywords, while the basic Teal membership gives insight into the top five keywords you need to know.

Job description with keywords highlighted

Strategically incorporating keywords in your cover letter

Incorporating keywords strategically in your cover letter is essential for making an impact on hiring managers and ensuring your application stands out.

To make the most of your skills, experience, and qualifications, you’ll need to:

  • Use active voice and specific details instead of generic buzzwords
  • Highlight your achievements and impact efficiently
  • Tailor your keywords for each role you apply to

If you need some help, try using artificial intelligence (AI). ChatGPT cover letter prompts like the one below can help you incorporate keywords with ease:

"Draft a persuasive cover letter in 150 words or less highlighting my communication skills, experience in data analytics, my 25% reduction of page load time for the Data Analyst position at Teal using my resume achievements below." [Then, press "Shift" + "Enter," and copy and paste your resume achievements under the prompt.]

It’s important to remember you need to strike the right balance between using keywords effectively and avoiding overuse. Any hiring professional can detect keyword-stuffing practices, so it’s best to avoid doing this.

Instead, focus on:

  • Using a variety of different keywords
  • Making your cover letter engaging and interesting
  • Capturing the attention of hiring managers with impact

Examples of good phrases and power words to use in a cover letter

Cover letter words like action verbs showcase dynamic movement. These words can significantly enhance your impact because they demonstrate results.

Some excellent power words or action verbs to use in a cover letter (and your resume!) to showcase your top skills include:

  • Achieved
  • Led
  • Leveraged
  • Innovated
  • Optimized
  • Transformed
  • Pioneered
  • Implemented
  • Enhanced
  • Streamlined
  • Drove
  • Spearheaded
  • Resolved
  • Orchestrated
  • Mobilized
  • Amplified
  • Fostered
  • Cultivated
  • Negotiated
  • Generated
  • Delivered
  • Expedited

Then, include skills-based keywords as well as metrics as a complement to a power word like the example below:

At Dock, I successfully led cross-functional workshops with Sales and Customer Success teams. Leveraging advanced keyword research with Ahrefs, as well as customer data and interviews, we pinpointed specific pain points and set clear ROI expectations for our product. This collaborative effort generated a 46% lift in Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). My expertise in integrating keyword tools with hands-on team collaboration has proven instrumental in bridging the gap between marketing initiatives and tangible revenue results.

Balancing cover letter keywords to avoid overuse

While it’s essential to incorporate specific keywords into your cover letter, it’s crucial to avoid keyword stuffing.

To strike the right balance, read your cover letter aloud to a friend or relative to see if it sounds natural and genuine.

If not, consider revising your content to include fresh and relevant phrases and words that ensure your cover letter is engaging and interesting. If you find yourself struggling to balance keywords, try using ChatGPT to write your cover letter and mitigate repetition.

By avoiding the overuse of keywords and concentrating on using a variety of different keywords in your cover letter, your letter will be more effective.

Tailoring your cover letter for every role with Teal

To create a cover letter that stands out for each role, you need to:

  1. Emphasize the specific skills and experience required for the role.
  2. Research the company and the industry.
  3. Use the right language.
  4. Showcase specific examples of how your past achievements align with the needs of the role.
  5. Use industry-specific keywords to effectively demonstrate your understanding of the role and highlight your qualifications.

Teal’s AI Resume Builder has an AI cover letter generator that simplifies this process. Using AI, Teal pulls details from your resume and the job description, ensuring your content is tailored to the specific requirements of each role. By using Teal, you can:

  • Create a cover letter that effectively showcases your unique skills, experiences, and accomplishments
  • Make your application and cover letter stand out incorporating qualifications that actually align with the job
  • Increase your chances of landing an interview
AI-generated cover letter

Create cover letters with the right keywords

Now that you understand the importance of incorporating the right keywords in your cover letter, you can create ones with impact that increase your chances of job application success.

A tool like the Teal AI Resume Builder streamlines this entire process by combining the details of your resume with the information in the job description to align your qualifications with any job.

Sign up for Teal for free today to craft impressive cover letter that stand outs and gets you noticed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What 5 things should a cover letter include?

A cover letter should include your contact information, an opening paragraph introducing yourself and why you're interested in the position, at least one additional paragraph outlining your qualifications, and a closing paragraph summarizing your values and goals with a call to action.

How do you add keywords to a cover letter?

Add keywords to a cover letter by analyzing the job ad to pinpoint and prioritize the right words. Use them in both the opening paragraph and throughout the body of the letter, and incorporate them naturally and strategically to highlight your achievements, skills, and value proposition.

Does a cover letter need keywords?

Yes, keywords in your cover letter are essential to improve the chances of being selected by employers.

Kayte Grady

Kayte, Senior Copywriter at Teal and Champion of ADHD professionals, is a seasoned writer passionate about storytelling and career growth. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and a word-nerd knack for resume builder analysis, Kayte’s on a mission to empower job seekers to land a job they love. Constantly pivoting and reinventing herself, this social-worker-turned-marketer found growth and camaraderie in tech—a genuine surprise given her never-ending devotion to the paper calendar.

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