How to robot-proof your cover letter and pass an ATS hurdle

Robot on desktop

Robot being drawn in a notepad.


You’ve just graduated from university. Your degree hangs nicely on the wall.

Now—the pressure is on to get a job. Otherwise, you might have to move back in with your parents, and that’s probably the last thing you want.

So, you head over to LinkedIn in search of delicious job offers that could potentially launch your career into the stratosphere.

You stumble upon an offer that comes with sky-high pay and more benefits than you can believe.


You start to tailor your CV to the job description, making sure to pepper it with keywords and send out your application.

Three weeks later, you’re still in a jobless vortex living on Super Noodles.


The problem?

You didn’t robot-proof your cover letter (or you didn’t write one at all!)

Don’t stress.

In just a few short minutes, you’ll know how to ATS-optimize your cover letter to land your first entry-level job in a heartbeat.

Are cover letters still necessary in 2019?

You might’ve heard that no one needs cover letters these days.

A cover letter in 2019? It’s DEAD! Stick a fork in it.

In reality, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Have a look at these stats:

  • Roughly 26% of hiring managers read cover letters and consider them essential when making a hiring decision.
  • Around 56% of recruiters want job seekers to attach a cover letter to their CV.
  • A staggering 49% of HR managers believe that a cover letter is the second best thing to give your CV a boost (tailoring your CV being number one.)

What does it mean for you?

Maciej Duszynski, CV Expert & Career Advice Writer at Zety, explains;

At least half of recruiters and hiring managers expect a cover letter. If you don’t write one, it’ll cut in half your chances of landing your first entry-level job.

So, if you’re a recent graduate with limited professional experience, a cover letter is a must.

How to make sure your cover letter is robot-approved

It’s common knowledge that you need to tailor your CV to the job description. Why?

Companies can receive 250+ applications in response to a single job ad. To make the process easier, recruiters frequently use a special software, – an applicant tracking system –  to weed out bad eggs on autopilot.

This means your cover letter nowneeds to beat the bots to be able to reach a pair of human eyes.

Need proof?

According to Jobscan’s research, most companies use an applicant tracking system called Taleo, which treats cover letters just like CVs.

Here’s how to ATS-optimize your cover letter:

  • Go through the job listing and pick the words connected with responsibilities and requirements.
  • Just like you did with your CV, sprinkle your cover letter with the keywords you extracted from the job ad.
  • Consider test-scanning your cover letter via an online platform such as Jobscan’s premium feature to check your match rate.

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Pro tip: Don’t keyword-stuff your cover letter. At the end of the day, even if you pass an ATS hurdle, an actual human will go through your application.

Author Bio
Max Woolf is a career expert at Zety. He’s passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through the expert career industry coverage. Connect with him on LinkedIn.