Optimising Cover Letters for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)


At CV Experts, we understand the importance of optimizing your cover letter for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) in the modern digital job application landscape. Employers leverage ATS to automatically filter and rank job applications, making it essential for your cover letter to be ATS-friendly to stand out. With CV Experts’ guidance, learn how to craft a cover letter that navigates through ATS efficiently, ensuring it reaches hiring managers successfully. Let us show you the way to make your application shine in the competitive job market.

1. Use Keywords Effectively

ATS algorithms are designed to scan for specific keywords related to the job posting. To optimize your cover letter:

  • Match the Job Description: Carefully read the job listing and note the keywords related to skills, experiences, and qualifications. Use these exact phrases in your cover letter.
  • Context Matters: Simply listing keywords isn’t enough; integrate them naturally into descriptions of your accomplishments and skills.

2. Stick to Standard Formatting

ATS can struggle with unusual formats or designs. To make your cover letter ATS-friendly:

  • Use a Simple Font: Stick to standard fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
  • Avoid Headers and Footers: Information in headers and footers can sometimes be overlooked by ATS, so keep all important information in the main body of your document.
  • Use Standard Headings: Stick to traditional headings like “Experience,” “Skills,” and “Education” if you include any of these sections in your cover letter.

3. Avoid Graphics and Images

While visuals can make your application stand out to human readers, ATS cannot interpret images or graphics. This means any text contained in these elements won’t be read and could result in missing crucial information. Keep your format text-based and straightforward.

4. Be Wary of Using Tables

Some ATS systems can parse tables, but others may have difficulty with them. To be safe, format any information you might put in a table in standard text format instead.

5. Use Bullet Points Sparingly

Bullet points can be used to organize information effectively, but they should be used sparingly. When you do use them, ensure they are the simple, solid round bullets and not any special characters that an ATS might not recognize.

6. File Format Matters

Submit your cover letter in a format that is ATS-friendly. While PDFs are often preferred for preserving formatting, some ATS systems parse Word documents (.doc or .docx) more effectively. If the job listing specifies a preferred format, always use that.

7. Tailor Each Cover Letter

Just as with your CV, it’s important to tailor your cover letter to each job application. This doesn’t just mean swapping out the company name and job title; it means revising your cover letter to reflect the keywords and requirements listed in each job ad.

8. Keep It Professional and Concise

An ATS-optimized cover letter should still follow best practices for cover letters, including professional language, correct spelling and grammar, and a concise presentation of your qualifications and how they align with the job.

9. Review and Test Your Cover Letter

Before submitting, review your cover letter for any errors or formatting issues that could confuse the ATS. You can also test how ATS-friendly your cover letter is by using online tools designed to simulate how your application might be read by an ATS.


Navigating the ATS is a critical step in the modern job application process. By optimizing your cover letter to be ATS-friendly, you increase the likelihood that your application will pass through these digital gatekeepers and land in front of a human recruiter. Remember, the goal is not just to get past the ATS but to make a compelling case for why you’re the best candidate for the job, blending ATS optimization with genuine enthusiasm and relevant qualifications.

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