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Executive Career Brand™
Executive Job Search - Personal Branding, Executive Resumes, LinkedIn Profiles, Biographies, etc.
August 30, 2022 By Meg Guiseppi
Do Cover Letters Really Matter in Executive Job Search?
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Opinions vary on whether or not cover letters matter. Do people even read them? Do you really need to use them in your job search ?
It’s true that not everyone will read your cover letter.
But just the fact that you’ve included one gives a good impression of you. Not sending one can make you appear lazy and unprofessional.
The reality is that plenty of people will be expecting a cover letter (or covering email message). And, if it’s a good one that captures and holds attention, it will more than likely be read.
Those who DO read them favor candidates with well-written cover letters that convey personality.
Why cover letters are important
My research and 25+ years’ experience in the careers industry revealed that NOT having a cover letter may ruin your chances, but HAVING a strong cover letter will never hurt your chances.
Many people read them religiously and judge candidates by them as strongly as they do their resumes and online presence .
Are you willing to risk skipping the cover letter and take the chance that the people you’ve sent your resume to won’t care?
My advice? It just makes sense to include one. Take the time to write customized cover letters each time you send out your resume. And make sure they’re memorable, further support your personal brand and market your potential value, beyond your resume.
The vast majority of executive jobs, especially at the top executive level (VP, EVP, C-suite, President, General Manager, etc.), are often not advertised anywhere. They don’t come through job boards. They come through networking into “hidden” jobs at the companies and organizations you’re targeting.
Assuming that your main job search strategy is networking – NOT hitting job boards hard – you’ll be sending your targeted resume to various select people. You’ll need to introduce it with some kind of cover letter – whether you snail-mail it or email it.
At the very least, a covering letter or email message is an expected courtesy to the reader, and clarifies why you’re writing to them.
Something to keep in mind
Although your resume needs to be targeted towards specific employers and kinds of jobs, your cover letter should be even more specifically targeted.
Because it will be focused on just that one employer, you can name-drop, include more specific skills relevant to that employer, and include other smaller details you may not want to put in your resume.
So you can see that it’s wise to always include a cover letter with your resume.
But there is one exception: When you respond to a job posting that specifies NOT to include one.
Do’s and Don’ts for a Great Cover Letter
Sara McCord , an experienced hiring manager, discussed what things about cover letters turned her off and what captured her attention:
With the initial read-through, she’d put people in the “no” pile if their cover letter:
- Included typos, an impersonal salutation (“Dear Sir or Madam”), or a non-specific vibe that indicated find-replace.
- Had an over-effusive tone that reeked of desperation, thanking the reader profusely for taking the time to read it.
If the opening sentence drew her in with something that made the candidate memorable, she’d keep reading. And that applicant made it into the “yes” pile.
If the first line consisted solely of the anemic “I am writing to apply for [job] at [company],” she’d probably knock that person out of the running.
When providing examples of skill and expertise, instead of just including a laundry list, she suggests adding in splashes of personality:
“Make the case that you’re more qualified than all the other applicants. You want to make clear what distinguishes you, so the hiring manager can see why you’re worth following up with to learn more.”
How To Write a Cover Letter That Gets Read . . . and Positions You as a Good Hiring Choice
Personalize each letter..
Send them to actual people, putting their name in the salutation.
“Dear Sir”, “Dear Madam”, or “To Whom It May Concern” won’t do. Search online to find their name, or call the company if you have to. If you can’t take the initiative to find a person’s name, and you resort to “To Whom It May Concern”, you’ll appear to be not very interested in the company or the job.
Customize the content for the job and company you’re targeting.
One sure way to have your letters overlooked is to use a template, sending generic content to each employer. Remember I said earlier that your cover letter needs to be even more specific than your resume?
A cover letter is an opportunity to zero in on your ability to solve that company’s problems even more specifically than you can in your targeted resume. For added oomph, mention each company by name within the body of the letter once or twice.
And make sure the thrust of your letters takes the readers themselves into account. For instance, a cold-call letter may have a different focus and read a bit differently than a referral letter. [More on the different types of cover letters below.]
Don’t just copy and paste parts of your resume.
Simply rehashing your resume in cover letters can have a negative impact.
Cover letters should be regarded and written as one more stand-alone personal marketing piece in your brand communications plan, supporting your brand and good-fit qualities for the company.
Mine the information found in well-written job descriptions.
Since you’ll be networking into the companies you’re targeting, you probably won’t have designated job postings to work from. But you may be able to find job openings that look like a good mutual fit. They can be valuable resources for composing cover letters that will hit home. Use the same keywords in your cover letters.
But remember what I wrote earlier. Job boards are a very ineffective way to land jobs. Please don’t spend a lot of time responding to online job postings. But DO use the information for research purposes.
Be specific about your potential value.
Instead of just claiming you’ve mastered a certain skill or have an area of expertise, provide a specific example of how you used that skill to benefit a past employer.
Don’t be afraid to show your personality and passions.
Generate chemistry with personal branding ! This is one way to differentiate your unique combination of skills, motivating strengths and personal attributes over those you’re competing against.
Use cover letters to state certain things you wouldn’t say in your resume.
Cover letters are the place to include sensitive information you wouldn’t put on your resume, such as relocation or returning to work plans.
Write in an informal but professional tone.
According to a FastCompany article :
“Avoid overly formal language and long, complicated sentences that may disinterest the reader. Aim to make the letter friendly, clear, and professional. A good best practice is to research the company’s brand and tailor the wording in a way that speaks their language.”
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with each cover letter.
Because you’re focusing your search towards one kind of job, you may be able to re-use some of your cover letter content from one letter to the next, customizing the introductory paragraph and elsewhere as needed.
Try the “old is new again” approach with cover letters.
Snail-mail your resume flat, in a 9 x 12 inch envelope, with cover letter paper-clipped on top.
How To Send Your Cover Letter: Email Message vs. Email Attachment
Some people advise sending the cover letter as a separate attachment in the email (along with the resume attachment) and including a short e-note as the email message itself.
The e-note should have a compelling subject line with relevant keywords to capture attention. And the content of the e-note should be a quick sell that gets right to the point.
I prefer the second option: using the cover letter as the email message itself.
Think about it. Recipients of your email are already getting two versions of your resume as attachments: a highly-formatted version and a stripped down, ATS-friendly version .
I think adding the cover letter as a third attachment is too much. As with every aspect of your job search, be empathetic.
Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiters and other hiring professionals assessing you. Make it as easy as possible for these people to get right to the information about you they need to see.
Cover Letter Length and Formatting
Remember that since your cover letter is an email message, it will often be viewed on the recipient’s phone or other small screen.
And, along with your resume, your cover letter will probably be sent through their ATS.
- Make it easy to read and with plenty of white space.
- Break up the content into 3-4 paragraphs of no more than 4-5 lines.
- Keep it to around 200-250 words. Many ATS can only accommodate 250 words in a cover letter.
- Don’t use odd fonts, graphics, tables or columns. They may become corrupted through emailing and ATS may not be able to scan them.
Although how you set up the cover letter is not set in stone, here’s a typical breakdown:
As you would with any email, state the purpose of this email message, including the job you’re interested in.
Don’t start with a tired phrase like “I’m writing to express my interest in x position.” You’ve already stated this in the subject line.
Get right to the point in the opening paragraph. Let them know why you’re writing to them. I often frame this as a compelling question: “Are you looking for a [job title] who …”
If someone at the company referred you, by all means mention them once you okay it with the referrer.
The same FastCompany article as above suggests dynamic introductions like these 4 opening lines:
“While you won’t find the title “Community Manager” listed on my résumé, I’ve actually been bringing people together online and off for three years while running my own blog and series of meetups.” “I’ve wanted to work in education ever since my third-grade teacher, Ms. Dorchester, helped me discover a love of reading.” “My approach to management is simple: I strive to be the kind of leader I’d want to work for.” “In my three years at [prior company], I increased our average quarterly sales by [percentage].”
Main body of the letter
Differentiate and position yourself as a problem solver for that employer.
Here are some things you can do or include:
- Add a specific example or two of relevant projects you were involved with. For instance, instead of saying “I’m a problem solver”, provide an example.
- Add a list of 4-5 short bullet points to highlight top relevant contributions to past employers and top skills.
- Add a strong testimonial or accolade from someone you work with.
- Use storytelling to help them see how you accomplish things and to envision you on the job with them.
- Use headings to break up the content, such as “Game-Changing Initiatives I Introduced at [current or past employer].
- Refer to recent news about the company, such as what drew you to them. Make a connection to something about them.
- If your resume contains any red flags like employment gaps, address them here.
Something like the following is appropriate:
“I am confident that my background in ABC combined with my skills in XYZ will have an immediate impact as your next [name of position]. Thank you for your consideration and I welcome the opportunity to speak with you to discuss my potential contributions to [company name].”
Before you hit send!
Proofread your cover letter very carefully more than once. If possible, have someone else proofread it, too.
Up Your Odds with the Right Cover Letter
You’ll need various kinds of cover letters, customizing them for the various kinds of people you’ll send them to.
Here are some of the types of job search cover letters:
Letters to recruiters in your niche – let them know what kinds of jobs and companies you’re interested in.
Letters to HR professionals at your target companies.
Prospecting or cold contact letters , or letters of interest to top-level decision makers (not HR) at your target companies – to suss out unadvertised openings (or “hidden” jobs)
Requests for letters of introduction – typically to people working at your target companies, asking them to write you a letter of introduction to someone in authority at their own company or another company they have an in with.
Referral letters – when someone has already referred you.
Networking letters to various people you know – requesting job search advice and possibly assistance.
Requests for informational interviews with people you may not know – letters to various employees at your target companies and successful people in your field to request a bit of time to get information about working at the company, or job search advice. This type of letter may or may not be accompanied by your resume.
And of course, letters in response to job postings . Don’t spend much time doing this but, when you do, tailor each cover letter based on the job description and include plenty of the keywords noted in the description.
Where To Find the Right Information To Help You Write a Cover Letter
It all comes back to step one in launching any successful executive job search campaign – targeting your search to specific employers and knowing what it is about you that they need.
Research your list of target companies to determine their needs and problems, and how you are uniquely qualified to help them problem-solve and meet those needs.
Identify their pain points, and build your cover letter around what makes you a good fit for them.
More About Executive Job Search
25 Tips To Write an Executive Resume for Today’s Job Search
20 Job Interview Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore
Want a Successful Executive Job Search? Run It Like a Small Business
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Executive Cover Letter Examples and Tips for 2024
10 min read
Looking for your next executive role? Cover letters are a necessary evil of the job search process. No one really likes to write them. That’s mainly because most people don't know what to include to make the cover letter worth reading. Before you get started on your executive cover letter, chances are you will have a few burning questions in mind.
Should you restate your resume?
Should you tell your whole story?
What exactly are hiring managers looking for?
Let us put your mind at rest. Cover letters should be your introduction to the employer. It's your chance to say hello and explain why you would be an asset to the company. As an executive, it's even more important to perfect this part of the process. Your role will be monumental, so your first impression has to be on point.
An executive cover letter should be written in a compelling and professional manner. Be sure to mention your key skills in leadership, people management, and business growth. You can do this by highlighting aspects of your resume or briefly showcasing your story. You may choose to Include a short list of your strongest skills to demonstrate your leadership.
If you’re ready to get writing, you’ve come to the right place. A quick way to ensure you can efficiently write cover letters is to have a base template. In the following guide, we will detail everything that you need to know about writing an executive cover letter. Once you’ve read our 10 key tips, you will have no problem creating an application that wins you the interview.
What should an executive cover letter include?
First things first, you need to know what your executive cover letter should include. You have roughly 300-400 words to play with here. However, no hiring manager wants to read a long, meandering letter about your life up until this point. Save that for your memoir. Instead, you need to ensure that your cover letter has a solid structure, as follows:
Cover letter header
Sticking to this format will help your cover letter “flow” well. The hiring manager can quickly gain the information that they need by skimming the document. Much like a story, your cover letter should have a natural narrative. It starts with the beginning, moves seamlessly onto the middle (i.e. the main point), and concludes with a strong ending. If you manage to get that right, you will captivate the hiring manager with your professional history.
Effective executive cover letter example
Before we go anything further, let’s start with some inspiration. Below is an executive cover letter example that ticks all of the boxes. Check it out now:
Why this example excels
There’s a reason that this executive cover letter works so well. The letter includes everything that you would expect from a high-level professional. Here are five things that you may have noticed right from the offset:
It includes a professional letter format
The heading matches the resume
It’s short and sweet — one page with three basic paragraphs
It includes a professional greeting
The content is tailored and to the point
As a rule, the body of the letter should be no more than three short paragraphs explaining which job you want, why you want it, and why you are qualified to have it. You should support your claims with accomplishments and refer to your resume.
If you're starting from scratch, read our related post: Here is What a Good Cover Letter Looks Like . The guide gives you a good overview of how you can get started with your application letter. When you’ve read that, come back here and we will take things to the next level.
You know the drill. Hiring managers will expect more of you as you climb the career ladder. As an executive, your cover letter needs to be a cut above the rest. You have to showcase your strongest leadership skills while meeting all of the above requirements. If you create a basic template, you can quickly customize the document with the nine tips below.
9 Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out
Let’s say that you already have the basic structure down. What happens next? The answer is that you level-up your document. Starting at the top of your cover letter, here are nine tips from the executive resume writer team at ZipJob to get your cover letter noticed.
1. Indicate why you're writing
You may be writing to express interest in an unadvertised opportunity, but you're most likely writing in response to an open position. In the first paragraph, you should tell the reader exactly which job you are applying for and where you found out about the opening. Many HR offices track adverts and referrals, so it’s important to highlight these details.
But that’s not the part that will grab the reader’s attention. You need a hook. For example, you could list your credentials in the first paragraph to show why you would be an intuitive fit for the company. On the other hand, if you were referred by a person in the company, you can use this point as your hook. Figure out what information will make you stand out here.
I heard about (the job) from your (Title), (Name), and am eager to apply for the position. My credentials include….
2. Tell your story in a compelling manner
Language matters when it comes to your executive cover letter. Include your unique value explicitly, yet concisely. That is quite a challenge, but your hard work will pay off. You may use a variation of your elevator pitch, for instance, or a brief summary of why your work experience and qualifications is a perfect fit for the job in question.
To add some color to your cover letter, pick your words wisely. Use compelling verbs and avoid words such as "prepared" and "managed." Those words are passive, dull, and overused: your cover letter should be interesting and tell a compelling story.
3. Focus on up to four important facts
While your resume should be detailed, cover letters should be brief with only the most intriguing information and the highlights of your leadership story so far. To get that right, you can either showcase your accomplishments in a few paragraphs or bullet form.
Be selective about the accomplishments you include in your cover letter. Felicia Tatum, executive resume writer and CEO of Creative Career Solutions , recommends including “no more than four accomplishments” in your cover letter. “The resume can show the details, let the cover letter show the facts so it entices the reader to look at the resume,” she explains.
4. Showcase your leadership abilities in three lines or less
Using language such as "oversaw," "directed," "executed," "delivered," and "owned" will make your cover letter stronger. Including two to three sentences about your abilities to lead others, lead departments, or lead a company will showcase you as a strong executive.
The first sentence should have your strongest information and senior leadership skills, followed by one or two sentences to strengthen and prove the claims from the first.
Bullet points are a great way to draw the eye to your best accomplishments. This is only effective when used sparingly, though. Limit the number of bullet points and the number of lines they take up in your cover letter.
5. Provide value through your accomplishments
As we have already mentioned, listing accomplishments is a quick way to highlight your strengths. However, it’s vital that you also provide evidence to back up any claims that you make. You can do this by including numbers, such as costs saved or costs slashed, or mentioning awards, achievements, or projects you completed.
The more specific you are in your cover letter, the better your chances of success. Show the hiring manager that you’re more than just talk . Providing specific evidence of how you have performed in the past could make all the difference to your application.
Remember to use the same style as your resume so they look like a cohesive application. Use the same resume font , bullet point style, and numbers. That will leave a great impression on your reader, even when you reword the data to make a more persuasive narrative.
Related read: Using the STAR Method to Create a Superior Resume (+ Examples)
6. Address the reader directly (if you know the name)
“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”— Dale Carnegie
The more personalized the cover letter, the better it will be received. So, if you know the hiring manager’s name — through online research or even LinkedIn— you should include it now. Addressing them directly is likely to win you some points. Of course, there are times when you won’t know their name and need to use a standardized greeting instead.
Before you start writing your cover letter, do some research. Take a look at the company’s website and LinkedIn page, for example. This is a great way to know the key players and be more prepared to write a customized application. It can also give you clues to the company's goals, visions, current projects, recent media attention, and current leadership team.
7. Include a call to action
At the end of your letter, include a call to action. This is the action you’d like the employer to take after reading your letter. Here are some examples of final lines you may use:
“Please contact me at your earliest convenience.”
“I look forward to speaking to you and encourage you to reach out with any questions.”
“Please let me know when you’d like to discuss my resume further.”
Remember, the call to action should always be in the very last sentences before you close out the letter. Make it conversational, but never pushy. It is the hiring manager's job to review applications and contact the best candidates, so be polite without sounding desperate.
8. Add your signature
It goes without saying that you should include your name to the end of the letter. However, add that personalized, executive touch, paste in your actual signature. It takes minimal effort but can go a long way. The visual impact of your signature carries more weight than you might imagine and will help you to make a lasting impression on the hiring manager.
There are a couple of ways to achieve this look. First up, you can take a picture of your actual signature, scan it to your computer, and upload it to your word processor. Some software, such as Adobe Acrobat, will also allow you to draw your signature directly into the program.
9. Take the time to edit first
When you’ve done all of the above, you might think you’re ready to hit “send” on your executive cover letter. However, before you do that, there’s one last thing that you should take care of. It’s crucial that you edit your document before you submit it.
There are two reasons for this. First of all, you need to ensure that no sneaky typos or spelling mistakes have gotten through the net. These errors will put the hiring manager off fast. Secondly, this edit will give you the chance to cut out any content that doesn’t add value to your application. Read through each part of your cover letter and make sure that each element of it will help push your application over the line.
In conclusion, your executive cover letter should be a short highlight reel that engages the reader. Personalizing your cover letter with your most impressive accomplishments will make it stand out. However, you need to make sure those accomplishments are related to leadership, motivation, and business development. That savvy move will position you as an executive with plenty to offer.
If you follow the above guidelines, you can write a killer executive cover letter in no time and increase your opportunities for interviews.
Please Find Attached My Resume: How to Use This Phrase
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Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer, Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer
Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer living and working in Sheffield, UK. She has a passion for career development and loves sharing tips and advice. Follow her on Twitter
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5 Cover Letter Examples For Executives
August 1, 2022
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If you’re not 100% sure whether writing a cover letter is worth your time, here’s some food for thought. 83% of recruiters say that, although not necessary, a compelling cover letter allows you to showcase your commercial value.
In fact, not only do most hiring managers find cover letters crucial to their hiring decisions, as many as 64% of HR professionals will interview a candidate based on a strong cover letter – even if they think their resume isn’t strong enough.
With this in mind, I will show you how to write a cover letter that helps you stand out in a crowded job market and amplifies your value to your potential employer.
The Basics Of A Great Cover Letter.
Your cover letter has to be both concise and compelling. The ideal length is between 250-350 words and at most, a page. And yes, you need to tailor it for every role that you apply for.
Keep the design and format simple and in sync with your resume (related: best executive resume writers to help you succeed ). This will reinforce your personal brand and help hiring managers recognise your application.
Include your name, title, email address and mobile phone number. Don’t worry about a physical address or a landline.
Also, avoid using generic salutations such as ‘To whom it may concern’. Use the name of the recruiter or hiring manager – or simply delete the salutation if a name isn’t listed in the job ad.
Finally, include the role you are applying for. (Pro tip: there is no need to say where you originally saw the job listing – this is all tracked online).
The Structure Of An Effective Cover Letter.
A well-written cover letter is typically comprised of three or four paragraphs.
The first paragraph must capture the attention of a hiring manager . Ideally, it is where you combine your skills and experience in a way that demonstrates how you can solve a specific business problem.
Refer back to the job ad – what is the role’s overarching mandate? How can you help the employer achieve this mandate?
‘I am an executive leader with 20+ years’ experience delivering rapid profitability uplifts in challenged markets. With a background in business development and operations, I optimise P&L outcomes by meeting ambitious revenue targets whilst maximising efficiencies through robust operational discipline.’
The middle paragraph expands on the first paragraph, confirming your suitability for the role.
If you’re a manager, a team leader or an executive, this should include your unique approach to leadership and how this contributes to business success.
‘Passionate about data, I bring a track record establishing reporting frameworks that provide transparency over performance and enhance decision-making. Never content with the status quo, I build cultures of innovation where teams can ideate and test new ideas, helping businesses stay ahead of the curve.’
Next, it’s time to prove that you are a strong candidate for the role by listing 5 of your most notable achievements. These should directly align with the role you are applying for and offer tangible evidence of your capabilities.
‘Proven success in business transformation, e.g. leading a turnaround of XYZ from a loss to a $2M profit through product innovation, creating new revenue streams in mature markets.’
‘Champions data & analytics to enhance decision-making, demonstrated by deploying data visualisation software to provide real-time analytics for executives and board members.’
Finally, wrap up your cover letter by including any relevant qualifications, and thank the hiring manager for the opportunity.
Maximise The Impact Of Your Cover Letter.
To create a cover letter that pump up your value even more, follow the following tips and tricks.
Make it personal, but professional.
A good cover letter provides a mixture of your personality and your USP. Storytelling is still one of the best ways to capture the attention of a busy recruiter.
If you have a unique story relevant to the role that you are applying for, do your best to subtly weave it in. But remember, it needs to be sincere and authentic.
Prove you’ve done your research.
Demonstrate that you’re serious about the role. Take the time to understand the employer’s current challenges, then subtly tailor the content of your cover letter to your discoveries.
Don’t make it all about you.
Although a cover letter is a marketing exercise, it is not a place to demonstrate how great you are. Instead, it is a tool you use to highlight what you can do for the employer within the context of the role.
Be explicit in how your skills and experience can help the company achieve its objectives, and you will attract the right kind of attention.
Don’t rehash your resume.
A cover letter should complement, not parrot your resume. To avoid repeating the same information in two places, create a narrative that brings your professional story to life in a succinct, yet compelling way.
That’s all for today, folks. Go unleash your amazing cover letters on the world, and all the best in your job search.
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CEO & Executive Cover Letter Sample
If you are searching for a job as an executive or CEO, it's important to follow best practices for executive cover letters, including proper formatting and language. Many employers are using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sort and screen job applications, so using a writing service that specializes in executive cover letters, like TopResume, can ensure your application sails through those systems – and doesn't get tossed in the trash.
CEO & Executive Cover Letter Errors to Eliminate
As you apply to executive or CEO positions, it's important to avoid cover letter mistakes that could ruin your chances. Such errors include:
- Making unsupported claims. It's one thing to claim you're an expert at improving company profit margins and increasing revenue, but it's another to prove it. Do you have the evidence to back up your claims? You should. And it should be in your cover letter.
- It's not addressed to a specific person. Always do some digging so you can address your cover letter to a specific person. Avoid addressing your executive cover letter with “to whom it may concern” – this is an immediate red flag that you didn't take the time to research the target company.
- It's selfish. What's in it for the employer? How would hiring you benefit their company? Those are the questions your cover letter and resume should clearly answer, rather than strictly talking yourself up.
- It rambles. When applying to an executive or CEO role, it's likely you have many years of experience. However if your cover letter is borderline novel-length, it's too long. Your cover letter should be no longer than a page. Ideally, it should be somewhere between three to four paragraphs.
Do you have the cover letter that will avoid the trash pile and get you the interview? You can. Two of our resume packages (Career Evolution and Executive Priority) include cover letter writing. We guarantee you'll get 2x more job interviews within 60 days or we'll rewrite your resume for free.
The better the cover letter, the more likely the interview. Use our executive cover letter writing service today!
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Cover Letters , Job Search
Strong cover letters: three reasons why executives need them.
Why is a strong cover letter so important, even for executives? First of all, employers expect a cover letter. Not writing one when a cover letter is expected can hurt you far more than writing a cover letter when one isn’t explicitly asked for can hurt you. After all, when have you ever been upset about an employee putting in the extra effort?
Beyond that general reason, though, there are specific ways that a good cover letter can help you land an executive position. Let’s look at three of them.
You Need a Prospective Employer to Pay Attention to Your Resume
When you’re asking yourself, “What should an executive cover letter accomplish?”, the heading above is an excellent answer to that question. It should get a prospective employer to pay attention to you. An executive resume is likely somewhat lengthy—possibly two or three pages—and you need to grab a prospective employer’s attention before they even get to it. A strong but brief cover letter is an effective way to get them to spend a little more time on your resume than on those from other applicants.
Of course, an effective executive resume needs to be impressive on its own. But using a cover letter to explicitly state why you are a good fit for the job can help direct their attention to the impressive information about your accomplishments and skills contained in your resume.
Conversely, a weak cover letter—or no cover letter at all—is a missed opportunity to elaborate or make a point about your experience that can resonate strongly with a hiring manager and make them want to learn more about your work experience.
Ideally, a great cover letter will hook them from the first sentence, and they will continue to be interested right through their reading of your resume.
An executive cover letter can also accomplish the secondary goal of explaining anything that needs to be explained but isn’t on your resume. Not everyone will need to do this. But if you have a varied work history or a job you’ve listed on your resume that isn’t quite relevant to the executive position you’re applying for, your cover letter can give you a platform to offer an explanation. Doing so removes the need for a hiring manager to read between the lines, and ensures they won’t miss your point altogether as they sift through dozens of other cover letters and resumes from people applying to the job. You can’t afford for a hiring manager to miss a thing about your experience or achievements when you’re applying for an executive position.
Introduce the Prospective Employer to the You They Need to Know
Personal connections are always important in a job search, but you can’t count on them to be the sole reason you get a job. One reason that some executive job candidates may believe they don’t need a cover letter, or only need a simple one stating something to the effect of, “My resume is attached and this is what I’m applying for…” is that they already know the hiring manager or have a connection at the company.
Even if you do—and even if you know the hiring manager well or have a strong connection with someone in human resources—you still need a strong cover letter. Why do you need an effective cover letter if you already know the prospective employer?
The easy answer is that in many cases, especially for an executive position, more than one person will be reading your cover letter and resume and considering candidates. You cannot rely on someone else to convey what you could and should convey in a cover letter to every potential reader of your resume.
You need to get the message across about yourself and your professional qualifications and interest in the job the way you want to and you need to. Write your cover letter as if the person reading it does not know you at all—chances are someone who doesn’t know you will be reading it as you move through the hiring process.
It is especially important to write a strong, detailed cover letter if you only peripherally know the hiring manager or another executive at the company. Even if they approached you about the position, you cannot assume that they know or remember the details of your career that make you an excellent fit for the position. They might know you’re a good fit, but do they know why you are better than the candidate another person recommended? Only you know the ins and outs of your career and your qualifications. Use your cover letter to explain why they make you an excellent fit for this executive position—doing so can only help you. Yes, it takes a little bit of extra time to write a strong cover letter, but as I said before, you can’t trust that someone else will be able to—or want to—speak up on your behalf and mention the most relevant points about your skills and abilities. You need to do this in your cover letter.
The Position Isn’t Listed
Once you’ve reached the executive level, you may be scouting out positions that aren’t listed, or simply want companies to know you’re on the lookout and willing to move if the right opportunity comes up. As a result, you will probably be sending your resume to people who might not be expecting it or know exactly what job you are sending it in for.
In this case, a cover letter is an absolute necessity. Imagine receiving a random resume in your inbox when you aren’t on an interview committee or aware of open positions. Without any sort of introduction, you’d probably just be confused and move it to the trash, or forward it on to someone else without a second glance. The same will probably happen to your resume if you just send it to a company without a strong cover letter attached.
Even a couple of sentences in the body of an email alerting someone to the attached resume and your interest in the company are not enough in this case. To get your resume looked at when you are essentially doing the equivalent of cold-calling, you need to really compel someone to look at it. If they don’t have an open position, why would they be spending time on your resume? You need to give them a reason to want to open your resume and want to keep it on file. A persuasive, well-written cover letter is the best way to grab the attention of a potential employer and let them know you are someone they should know.
Now I Know Why I Need a Strong Executive Cover Letter. What Makes It Strong?
I have a few primary tips to help you write a cover letter that gets results. In brief, they are:
● Have an impactful first line ● Connect the dots between your experience and the company’s needs ● Keep it to one page ● Write a tailored cover letter for each company/position ● Don’t just repeat the work history that’s on your resume ● Don’t use a cover letter template—recruiters and hiring managers know when someone does this
Want more cover letter help? Download my newest guide How NOT to Start Your Cover Letter (Plus 7 Examples of What to Say Instead).
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About the author
Jessica hernandez, president, ceo & founder of great resumes fast.
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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