Write a good cover note


Many times hiring professionals do not actually read your cover note and want to get straight to your CV to qualify your relevance and potential for the job position. In another instance, some recruiters will first look at your CV to qualify on a basis level, and then read the cover note if wanting a bit more info about yourself and expectations. The purpose of a cover note is to quickly sum up your area of expertise and career intentions, highlighting why you should be employed. It should be punchy, weighty, and to the point. It is not a rewrite of your CV, but simply a brief overview of your industry relevance.

1. Dear who?

As far as you possibly can, find out who specifically to address your cover note if the position you are responding to has the relevant contact by name as opposed to just a generic company email address. It is always better to personalise your cover note rather than addressing your application with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. Obviously this is not always possible, but if you have a specific contact, use that. If you don’t have a specific contact, don’t address anyone. Just get straight to the body of the letter.

2. Why this job?

If you are sending your CV to recruitment agencies, make sure that you are dealing with agencies who specialise in your profession or the sector you work within. In this instance, your will not necessarily be applying to a specific job position but sending in your CV for them to keep on file for future reference. When applying to a specific company, you need to mention the name of the company in your cover note and why you want to work there. Make sure you do a bit of research on the company by going to the website as this will add weight to your approach as someone who has made an informed decision about applying. Remember that a generic cover note that you use for every application will by no means hold the weight if could have being targeted towards a specific job, carefully thought out and strategically written. Avoid generic cover notes. They will be pretty obvious to the audience and probably won’t attract the attention you would have liked.

3. Don’t regurgitate your CV

A cover note is not a sum up of your CV. Rather, the purpose of a cover note is to express your personality, brief background and interest in the position with a very short overview of your experience to validate your suitability for the job. For example you could mention that you have 18 yrs experience as a professional geologist of which the last 5 years has been that of Chief Geologist. There would be no need to elaborate any further on this experience as one would get this from the CV.

4. Keep it short

Lengthy cover notes are tiring to read and generally end up being the result of unnecessary waffle. A long cover note does not mean a good cover note. A cover note should be half a page at most. Punchy, relevant and impressive. Short enough for someone to scan through it quickly and be impressed enough to want to read your CV without hesitation.

5. Format required:

First paragraph – This is a brief introduction of yourself with a short explanation of why you experience makes you the best candidate.
Second paragraph - You can describe how you will contribute to the company and what value you can bring (based on your research of the company).
You can mention key factors in this paragraph that will not be evident on your CV for example: In having a reputation within the industry for training up and developing teams, I believe that my strengths and experience may align with company goals to educate and empower people to achieve a common goal. (Take a couple of points from the actual job spec that you are strongly familiar and experienced in to bring emphasis on your contribution in light of these company requirement/s.
Third and last paragraph - Close strong: Be positive, to the point and punchy. You can close with something like: ‘I welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the value that

I can bring to your organization.‘ Whatever you do, don’t beg and plead for the opportunity promising that you won’t disappoint.

6. Send as a PDF

Most people can open a PDF file without problems or needing to convert it as with other file formats. A PDF will not display formatting errors produced when converting other files like .docx or pages files to be read. In addition to this, it can’t be tampered with. It is your safest bet and the least likely to offer complications that other formats can.

7 Never ever introduce yourself as:

“My name is ___, and I am applying for the position as ____”. They already know this, and you’ll sound inexperienced. Rather you can start off with for example: ‘In applying for the ……….. position, having 14 yrs experience in ………. I believe that I would be a valuable asset to be considered having the management experience required for this position.

8. Grammatical suicide

Once you have completed your cover note, make sure that there are no spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors whatsoever. Do not use abbreviations or emoticons, slang or jargon. This is a formal document and must be viewed as such. As important as it is in applying these principles to your CV, if you lack attention to detail and excellence in presentation, it may affect your chances before your CV has even been read.

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