Well-chosen words can enhance your job search strategy
Writing cover letters has changed over the years, especially as more applications are being screened by applicant tracking systems. Job seekers are trying to find the best way to get their applications noticed by these electronic systems.
At the same time, hiring managers seem to have increasingly higher expectations of job seekers. With large job sites like Indeed and Career Builder, hiring managers can recruit from a global pool of candidates. This makes the competition that much harder.
So, how can you boost your cover letter? When beginning your cover letter, it’s a good idea to review the latest cover letter writing tips and sample cover letters. In addition, there are two important strategies that can help improve your cover letter: (1) incorporating job keywords and (2) using power words.
Strategy 1: Incorporating Job Keywords
What are job keywords, and how do you identify them? Job keywords are the important words that describe the “meat” of the job that you are applying for. They are important because they are the words that the applicant tracker system is programmed to use to filter out which resumes/cover letters are the best fit.
While you will never know for sure which keywords the application tracker system is using, you can take a pretty good guess by studying the job posting carefully. Read the posting and ask yourself: What are the most important job-related words in the job posting? You will want to use the same terminology that the job posting uses when you write your cover letter. For example, let’s say you are applying for a nursing assistant position. If the job ad says you will need to know “aseptic practices,” and your current cover letter says “infection prevention,” you should change your cover letter to say “aseptic practices.”
While a person would know that “infection prevention” is similar to “aseptic practices,” the applicant tracker system will not know they are similar, and therefore would not know that you have the needed experience.
A few extra tips for working with keywords:
- If you are having trouble identifying the keywords, you can copy-paste the whole job posting into a program like Wordle to see what kind of word map it makes. The words that Wordle chooses to highlight will mostly likely be the main keywords in the job posting.
- Once you have identified the keywords, it’s important to weave the words into your cover letter naturally. You want to be sure the keywords are not just tacked onto your letter. They should be a part of the natural flow of your paragraphs.
- Most importantly, you need to stay truthful. You should not add a keyword if you do not have experience or training in that area. You should only use the keywords or key phrases if they are a true part of what you have to offer.
Strategy 2: Choose power words
Another best practice when it comes to cover letter-writing (and resume-writing) is to use power words. Power words are strong words—usually verbs—that describe your experience and what you are going to bring to the employer.
Power words should be strong, straight-forward verbs that succinctly describe your strengths. Use meaningful action words such as:
Achieved, accomplished, assisted, accelerated, boosted, coordinated, created, communicated, developed, demonstrated, expedited, facilitated, formed, guided, generated, improved, increased, identified, influenced, launched, led, managed, met, measured, navigated, negotiated, operated, organized, proposed, produced, participated, received, responded, resolved, reviewed, scheduled, steered, supported, supplied, secured, trained, targeted, verified, volunteered, won.
At the same time, there are some tired-out overused words that are best to avoid in your cover letter and resume.
Try to avoid words such as: synergy, value add, proactive, thought leader, dynamic, was responsible for, team player, hard worker, detail-oriented.
Putting it all together
Once you have incorporated the main keywords and key phrases, and have written your cover letter using power words instead of overused clichés, your cover letter should be on track to be more powerful and effective. We hope these tips have helped. Good luck with your job search!
The Harris Casel Institute in Melbourne, FL provides job search advice to our students as they begin their new career fields. To learn more about our job training programs, reach out to us today. We hope your new career path begins with us.