I’ve been applying for a number of different project manager positions and I’ve noticed that some ask for a cover note with my application. What is the best way to write a cover note?
If a cover note is being expressly asked for when you make an application, the hirer will be looking for a number of things. The obvious ones are that they want to check that you have read the job specification or advert (you’ll be surprised how many people don’t read the whole advert!) and that you can follow instructions (i.e., include a cover note) They will want to see how you have interpreted that job advert and what experience and key skills you want to highlight in relation to it. They are also interested in how you write and how you convey information, after all, a project management job relies on this skill too.
Hirers want to be able to find the right person for the job amongst the many applications they receive and having a job applicant make their case for why they would be a good fit makes perfect sense. The problem is that many cover notes are not unique for each role an applicant applies for. A cover note is not about listing the key skills and experiences you have obtained over the years and hoping that these are the ones the hirer is looking for; it’s about listing the ones for that particular job with just enough context for it to make sense. The cover note should also not contain anything that is not in the CV too. The cover note acts like a summary of what the hirer can expect to read in the CV and if it’s not there you won’t be helping your application get further in the process.
If you take a look at any job advert for a project manager post you will see which requirements are the most important to the hirer. It’s the requirements that feature towards the top of an advert or within the first paragraph. If they are looking for a Project Manager, working with SAP implementation projects with budget and client facing experience, those are your cues. You should aim to include about 4 -5 points in your cover note which relate to these key requirements. You make sure that your language matches that within the job description so for example, if they are looking for not just budget management but mention P&L, you will do the same in your cover note.
The cover note is all about providing a summary which a hirer can use to do the initial shortlist. The note acts as a ‘do I read the CV or not’ marker. If you’re unable to convey within a few short bullet points that you are a very close match for the position, chances are the hirer will pass you over for someone who can.
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