This is such a basic question I can't believe I haven't thought of it earlier. It's a bit tricky to state. I was taught when writing one should avoid overly long lists. I believe this applies doubly when writing a cover letter or resume. For example it's bad to write "I have programmed in x, y,z,...,a, b, c" because one should try to elaborate on the point for instance "I solved problem x by using the feature y in the programing language z".

So how do you indicate your knowledgeable when a job application has a large list of skills it's looking for?

In particular I have all the skills they state as:

Knowledge of web development ‐ PHP, SQL, HTML, CSS, XML;
Knowledge of cross‐browser solutions;
Practical programming / web development experience;
Experience with E‐commerce;
Experience with API integration;
Knowledge of Coldfusion.

I shouldn't just say "have used PHP, SQL, HTML, CSS, XML to build a web app while thinking of cross browser compatibility issues". On the other hand my resume/cover letter would be too long if I gave a specific example of a time I used each one and there's a lot of overlap.

  • What do you think the important or central skills are?
    – Nathan
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 7:47
  • 1
  • Somewhere in your cover letter you need to indicate you have "experience with all the technologies required" without itemizing them. That's pretty much what the HR person wants to know before giving you an interview.
    – user8365
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:26
  • 1
    Is there absolutely no overlap in your examples? If you've built an e-commerce site in PHP, for example, that would check off "Knowledge of web development", "Knowledge of cross-browser solutions" and "Experience with E-commerce" in one hit. Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 15:38

1 Answer 1


Cover letter is different from your resume. Your resume is the same (mostly) for all jobs, the cover letter should be highly customized to the specific job. It should

  1. Show that that you meet the stated requirements
  2. Explain why the job is good for you
  3. Explain why you would be good for the company and the job
  4. Demonstrate that you have done some research and thinking about this specific job and that's it not just part of a shotgun campaign.

To answer your question specifically: you should only list the skills that are specifically asked for. That's best done by directly referencing a specific requirement.

Keep in mind that in most cases the cover letter is read first by an HR staffer who has little technical knowledge and who's job it is to weed out the obvious no-gos for a large number of different jobs. For example if the requirement say "4 years of web development" and your cover letter says "HTML and CSS", he/she may throw you out because they have no clue that these are related terms. Better to write in your cover letter: "With respect to your requirement for Web Development, I have 4 years of direct experience including HTML and CSS programming".

  • +1 from me. It's important that your cover letter addresses the requirements mentioned in the job listing, to ensure that you will be taken into consideration. I personally believe that a cover letter is allowed to be fairly lengthy as long as you have a sort of tl;dr in the first paragraphs. This means a hiring manager looking to scan it will get the information they need quickly, and someone looking for 'that extra something' that makes you stand out from the crowd can read the rest for more in-depth info.
    – Cronax
    Commented Feb 23, 2015 at 16:46

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