How to Write an Executive Cover Letter

You may have written a cover letter before, but an executive resume cover letter requires something really special. It can't be "just another cover letter" that simply tells a prospective employer you would like an interview. Because these types of jobs are very high profile, because they have lots of competitors, and because you're going to have to really look like you know what you're doing, you're going to have to stand out from the crowd. And that means your cover letter must be absolutely perfect.

Don't simply send a cover letter that's "so-so," grammatically incorrect, boring, or otherwise simply "average" to substandard. Would you appear for an interview in faded jeans, a ratty T-shirt, and tennis shoes? Why not? Answer that question, and you know why your cover letter has to be perfect. In effect, it's your "first impression," the one you present to the prospective employer.

It stands to reason that because what you're applying for is an executive and therefore very high-level position, the standard for your cover letter, too, must be very high -- higher than it would be for even middle management or lower jobs.

Why should your letter be different?

For one thing, you're not just applying for any old job. Many more people are going to read your letter than would normally happen with "just any old job." They're going to be screening out unsuitable candidates before they handpick the very best to interview. That means that many people in the company, from human resources to the vice president or maybe even the CEO is going to read your cover letter (and your resume), too.

Because higher caliber people in the company are going to be reading your cover letter, it has to stand out and be much better than the average cover letter. Your cover letter has to be much more sophisticated than the average cover letter.

However, "sophisticated" doesn't mean using overblown, convoluted, flowery, "show off" language that will simply make you look insecure and downright foolish. Instead, simple, concise, straightforward language that gets to the point and then finishes quickly and cleanly is best. Remember that this is going to be the first impression they have of you, so you want it to showcase your best.

You want to show that you are willing to take charge, that you are efficient, intelligent, that you work well with people, and that you're easy to work with and get along with. Most importantly, you want to show that you are a problem solver, because that's why companies hire executives. You have to solve some sort of business problem that the company is facing, and you have to show them that you can fix it. You do this by showing how you fixed other similar situations elsewhere through job experience. In fact, make this the centerpiece of the letter, and make any other elements you use, such as credentials, simple supporting information to show that you can do the job, and do it well.

Finally, make sure the people who are going to be reading your letter understand that you have a "can-do" attitude and that you really enjoy the type of work you are applying for. After all, executives put in a lot of time on the job, so you have to show that you're willing to do just that.

One last thing. Close your cover letter with a directive that tells the reader what he or she should do to facilitate the hiring process. Something to the effect of, "I look forward to hearing from you so that we can discuss this position further. Please call me at [number] at your convenience, to set up a time to do so." Then, sign off with "Sincerely," and your name. That's it. That's a cover letter that should certainly get your foot in the door, and show that you're ready for the job.


Gail Esparan