You're looking for a job and you see a posting that's a perfect fit!

A woman in a car saying,

You really want to score an interview!

To help you get there, you'll need to write and format your cover letter so it has a better chance of getting through the company's Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

What Is An Application Tracking System (ATS)?

An Applicant Tracking System is automated software the company uses to screen applicants. The program sorts through applications and selects candidates based on the company's perception of suitable candidates.

The Rock suprised meme- he perfected his cover letter but the ATS screened it out.

Don't get screened out!

Even as a highly qualified and experienced candidate, your cover letter might get overlooked by the ATS if it doesn't fit what the company is looking for.

You can submit an ATS friendly cover letter by following a few simple do's and don'ts.

Do: Use Key Words

Carefully review the job posting and highlight the required skills.

Will Smith with magnifying glass.

The ATS screens for key words.

  • Include these key words in your cover letter.

  • Even if you don't have the skills listed, mention them in your cover letter as something you're working on or plan to work on.

Kim Soo's Cover Letter

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Kim Soo is applying for a research position in a lab.

Requirements include:

  • a bachelor's degree

  • Excel proficiency

  • strong writing abilities

  • lab experience

  • attention to detail

Kim Soo has all of these skills but only has an associate's degree.

What should she include in her cover letter?

A. Detail oriented and great with Excel

B. Plans to work on her bachelor's degree next year

C. Lab experience and good writer

D. Only has an associate's degree


Select the correct answer.

Do: Make Sure Your Contact Information Is Clear

Contact information should be in the body of the letter, not in the header or footer.

Where's my trophy meme- wants to be contacted, but contact info is in the header.

Many ATS programs don't search the header and footer.

You could be screened out if the program thinks your contact info is missing.

Don't: Include Images Or Charts

A woman saying

The ATS won't understand them!

Your unique additions could come out looking misaligned or unreadable.

Also avoid:

  • Columns

  • QR Codes

  • Fancy fonts — Times New Roman and Arial are best

  • Non-standard bullet points — avoid arrows, diamonds, etc.

Kim Soo's Cover Letter, Part 2

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Kim Soo made a website with examples of research projects she conducted. She created a cool QR code to direct people to the site. Kim Soo is super excited to include the QR code on her cover letter.


Should she try to sneak in the QR code on her cover letter?

Take Action

Take time to craft a cover letter that's not only catchy, but also ATS friendly. It could help you score an interview!

We want you! GIF

Get your cover letter ready!


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