Cover letters are another necessary evil of the job search process. No one really likes to write them…mainly because most people don't know what to include to make the cover letter worth reading.
Should you restate your resume?
Should you tell your whole story?
What exactly are hiring managers looking for?
Cover letters should be your introduction to the employer. It's your chance to say hello and why you would be an asset to the company. As an executive, it's even more important. Your role will be monumental, so your first impression has to be fantastic.
While your resume should be detailed, cover letters should be brief with only the most compelling information regarding what job you are applying for and the highlights of your leadership story so far. You can showcase your accomplishments in paragraph or bullet form.
Felicia Tatum, executive resume writer and CEO of Creative Career Solutions, has this to say about highlighting accomplishments on executive cover letters:
I recommend no more than four accomplishments and to focus on facts. The resume can show the details, let the cover letter show the facts so it entices the reader to look at the resume.
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 through highlighting aspects of your resume or showcasing your story in a short manner. Including a short list of your strongest skills is a great way to include leadership skills, too.
A quick way to ensure you can efficiently write cover letters is to have a base template. See the tips below for the basic elements of a cover letter and make sure all are included in every letter you send.
Further down this article, we have 7 tips to ensure you customize your letter to spotlight the executive you are.
Effective executive cover letter example
Why this example excels
You should pay attention to these five things right off the bat:
Professional letter format
Heading matches the resume
Short: one page, three basic paragraphs
A professional greeting
Tailored and to the point
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, head over to our related post: Here is What a Good Cover Letter Looks Like. Then come back here for the tips you need to take your letter to the next level!
As an executive, you want your cover letter and resume to showcase your strongest leadership skills while meeting all of the above requirements. If you create a basic template, you can quickly create a customized document with the seven tips below to make each and every letter personalized for the company you are applying to.
7 Ways to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out
Starting at the top of your cover letter, here are 7 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 ads and referrals, so it’s important to highlight these.
You can also list your credentials in the first paragraph to show why you would be an intuitive fit for the company. If you were referred by a person in the company, you would indicate it in the first paragraph.
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
Include your unique value explicitly yet concisely. This may be a variation of your elevator pitch, or possibly a brief summary of why your work experience and qualifications is a perfect fit for the job in question.
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 in a short amount of space.
3. 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. Writing two to three sentences about your abilities to lead others, lead departments, or lead a company will showcase you as a strong leader.
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 also effective when used sparingly, though! Limit the number of bullet points and the number of lines they take up in your cover letter.
4. Provide value through your accomplishments
Listing accomplishments to showcase your abilities is a strong way to highlight your strengths. You can do this by listing a few numbers, such as costs saved or costs slashed, awards/achievements, or big projects you completed.
Highlighting your accomplishments with bullets and bolded text make them stand out on the page and will draw the reader’s eye.
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.
5. 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.”
If you know the hiring manager’s name, through research on the internet or LinkedIn, you should include it instead of a standard greeting. The more personalized the cover letter, the better it will be received!
Researching the company’s website and LinkedIn page is a great way to know the key players and be more prepared to write a customized cover letter. It can also give you clues to the company's goals, visions, current projects, recent media attention, and current leadership team.
6. 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.
Cover letter samples include:
“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.”
The call to action should always be in the very last sentences before you close out the letter. Make it conversational, but not pushy. Remember: it is the hiring manager's job to review applications and contact the best candidates, so be polite without sounding desperate.
7. Add your signature
Obviously, you will add your name to the end of the letter but to add that personalized, executive touch, paste in your actual signature. It takes minimal effort but can go a long way.
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 allow you to draw your signature directly into the program.
In conclusion, you should have a short and professional cover letter. Your executive cover letter should:
Start with a personalized greeting to the person you want reading your cover letter.
Tell the hiring managers who you are, what job you are interested in, and why you should be interviewed.
Stay brief and to the point, with accomplishments and highlights to strengthen your claims.
Include a brief call to action at the end.
Close with a professional salutation.
Personalizing your cover letter with your most impressive and relevant accomplishments will make it stand out! Ensuring those accomplishments are related to leadership, motivation, and business development 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!
Having trouble thinking of how to best display your leadership experience and qualifications in your executive cover letter? ZipJob now offers an executive resume writing service. Take advantage of our experienced executive resume writers, premium resume templates, and top-tier service options:
Special thanks to Felicia Tatum for her extensive input and advice for this article. Felicia has an MBA with a concentration in Human Resources. She has a passion for writing and helping people. We are proud to have her on the new ZipJob Executive Resume Writer team!
Felicia Tatum, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP)
Resume writer and job coach by day, author by night. Felicia Tatum has a deep passion for writing and helping people. Securing the USA Today Bestseller title in August 2016, she's excited and determined to make it happen again while providing readers with captivating stories that prove love conquers all. She's a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) through the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.