Responding to job adverts

This post is part of a complete guide on writing CVs, dealing with recruiters and attending interviews. The complete guide can be found here:

Most job applications are in response to an online advert.

One of the first pieces of advice I ever got when it came to applying for jobs was “It is important to stand out!” It’s far easier that you may think to stand out and can be done in very little time.

We recently advertised a job and received 150 responses… only one application stood out. Why did this one application stand out? It was the only one with a personally written concise cover note. It was the only application for which I felt compelled to open the CV immediately, consequently I was on the phone to the candidate within minutes…

The problem with internet job boards these days is that they can make it very easy to be lazy, it’s easy to set up a profile, click a few buttons and automatically send 20 applications or more – the problem is that while you are doing this so are hundreds of other candidates, a recruiter can receive 50-200 job applications a day.

With the job market being so competitive the easiest way to stand out is by writing a brief cover note with the single responsibility being to encourage the reader to read your CV.

It can be difficult to get this bit right. Many people struggle to write these descriptions, they cut and paste things from their CV including lengthy descriptions of their attributes, experience or qualities.

How to write a cover note

The best way to do this is to keep things brief and relevant. Here is a great format to follow.

–        Address the email to the recruiter by their first name. NEVER write dear sir/madam or whomever it may concern.

–        Make a point of saying that you wanted to write personally to apply.

–        Point out that you believe the position sounds like a great fit, then start by writing what you can offer the company rather than what you want. This should be based on the advert.

–        Follow this with a sentence to say why you feel the role is a good fit for you and accompany with a real reason for why you may want to work there.

–        Add something about your commitment to software or your career

–        Make a note about following up.


Hi Dave,

I wanted to write a personal email to apply for the Java developer position ref: 2362 advertised on JobServe.

I believe I am a good fit for the role, I am a Java developer passionate about working on server side development. You mention in the ad you are looking for someone with an interest in Spring and Hibernate – I have extensive Spring/Hibernate experience having worked on five projects across two market leading companies.

I am ideally looking for a position working as part of a dynamic project team on a highly transactional web based application.

It is worth noting I am an active member of the technical community and have started to contribute to an Open Source project called Ikasan.

I will endeavor to call you at some point tomorrow, if you would prefer to get in touch at your convenience please call me on (your mobile number)

Kind regards,


Feel free to use this as a template to follow.

If you write a cover note accordingly you should guarantee that your CV is at the very least looked at. If it is a good CV then you should ensure that you get the interview.

Top 2% tips

Here are a few tips that the top 2% of candidates follow to help improve their ratio of applications to interviews:

Consider it your responsibility to follow up. The recruiter may have missed your first email as it could be one of 200, but if you follow up a day later, with a second email that is personally written and just a few lines long (e.g. did you get my CV? What did you think?) you will be far more likely to get a response.

Write each note personally. At the very least change the section that says “I read in the ad that you were looking for a…”

Make sure the note is seen. Write the same note in the body of the email and include the note as the first page of your CV.

If you feel that you are generally right for the position but not quite right, for example you have only two years experience and the position states that you need four years write a short e-mail to say you are truly interested in the role and have all of the other skills, but you only have two years.

If applying directly then do some research on the company before applying. If you can include details about a report you’ve read on them or an award the company has recently one you’ll be almost guaranteed of an interview.


This post is part of a complete guide on writing CVs, dealing with recruiters and attending interviews. The complete guide can be found here:

Originally titled ‘the top 2%’ the copy has been researched, compiled and edited continually over the last five years by the team at RecWorks Ltd. An IT recruitment consultancy aimed at spotting and developing technical talent with a focus in Java and Graduate developers.

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