The Cover Letter, Executive Style
A Job at the Top of the Ladder Requires a Cover Letter with Executive Class
For those job seekers wanting to secure a really top job, the cover letter for an executive position needs to be more than just another piece of paper telling the reader that you are available for an interview. In any company, it's the best paying and highest status jobs that people fight the hardest to get. To win one of these jobs from the masses of fellow job seekers means making sure that every element of your presentation is perfect.
Sending in a cover letter that is ungrammatical, boring or obviously second-hand material that's been copied out of a book or a website would have the same effect as appearing for the interview dressed in a dirty shirt and old flip-flops.
For a couple of reasons, the standard of letter writing in cover letter for executive positions has to be higher than the standard for entry level or middle level jobs.
Why the Cover Letter for an Executive Job Must Be Better
In the first place, the people reading the letter will be different. For starters, there will be more of them. Everyone from the HR to the VP is going to be taking a look at the executive cover letter and resume that you send over. If you might have had a chance to make a type that slipped past one or two people, it's not going to happen for an executive position. Sooner or later, some eagle-eyed grammarian will spot a misspelling or misused word and circle it.
Additionally, the caliber of employee that will read the executive cover letter is going to be higher. To join the ranks of a company's executives, you've got to be approved by the executives. This is going to be a much more educated, accomplished and sophisticated group than is going to be looking over the entry level job cover letters. Consequently, your level of accomplishments and sophistication must be higher to meet their approval.
Once again, this means perfect grammar and no typos! But it does NOT mean fancy words and convoluted, elaborate, formal, flowery verbiage. Get to the point quickly and cleanly, say what you need to say, then sign off. Remember, that when the reader has this letter, this is the only way they will get to know you until you meet them. So you want this letter to highlight the best parts of your personality. You want them to get the impression that you are intelligent, sharp, efficient, creative and easy to work with.
Simple, evocative words, short sentences and good transitions between ideas convey what you want to say in a manner that paints a flattering portrait of your personality.
Which brings us to the next area in which a cover letter for executives is different from an entry level and middle management cover letter: Namely what do you need to say?
If the Cover Letter Works, So Do You
The best way to answer that question is to note that to stand a chance in the competition for the very important jobs, the cover letter has to perform some very important duties.
If the corporation is like a body (and that is indeed what the word "corporation" comes from) then the executives combine to form the brain of that body. While the other members of the corporation are doing their jobs, and completing the tasks that they are paid to do, the executives are doing tasks as well, but also more sophisticated duties. For one thing, they are setting the course that the company will take going forward. They are also deciding how the company will react to events in the marketplace. They are working on ways for the employees to do their jobs better and faster and more efficiently. They are thinking about how they are going to market the product of the company, and educate the marketplace about the company's products and secure even more business.
I could go on forever, but you get the idea. In the end, it all comes down to problem solving. The executive needs to be the sort of person that can solve the business problems that are placed in front of him or her.
As a matter of fact, that is how the company sees the new hires they make at every level, and especially the executive level --- as the solution to a problem. The company is facing a business problem of some sort, and need someone that can come in and fix it.
Problem Solving is the Key
For this reason, the executive cover letter that clearly shows that the candidate can solve the business problem that the company is trying to solve will get the job. Of course, you can't say this in your cover letter for executive positions unless you know what those problems are, so a good start to writing the perfect executive cover letter is to do some research into what the company would most love for the executive to come in and fix for them.
Once that's done, the best way to show that you CAN fix that problem is to show them that you HAVE ALREADY SOLVED similar or identical problems in your job experience. In fact, showing this should be the focus of your letter. Every other element you put in --- your credentials, your job experience, your awards and recognitions should all be used as support for the argument that you are a seasoned veteran at solving the problem that the company needs solved.
I can't overemphasize that that is the big task that a cover letter for an executive position must fulfill. Once you've gotten that one covered, then the next one is easy.
Namely, to show that you not only are CAPABLE and EXPERIENCED in performing the task, but actually ENJOY doing it. For many businesses, the executives are expected to be practically "married" to their job. Whether that's a reasonable attitude or not is something that each employee needs to decide for him or her self. But if you want to get the job, you are going to have to play along. The part of your letter where you do this is called the "passion paragraph." In the passion paragraph, you write about the satisfaction that performing your job well gives you and how much you enjoy solving the problems that you fixed for your company.
Here's an example:
"For me, finding ways to increase workflow efficiency is more than just doing my job. It's a personal challenge that I enjoy. I get great satisfaction out of learning new techniques for improving work processes, then sharing them with others and watching the benefits. I believe that there is always room to do things better, and that it's my obligation to find a way to make it happen."
You're Ready to Make Your First Executive Order
Lastly, you have to tell the reader of the letter what he or she needs to do to move the hiring process forward.
In most cases, that thing is to pick up the phone and make a call to set up an interview. So come out and say it in a polite and clear way like "I look forward to the chance to share my enthusiasm in person. Please call me at 399-876-8345 to set up a time for us to talk.
Executing perfectly on showing the reader that you are an experienced problem solver and asking for the interview will put your cover letter for an executive position in the top ten percent of cover letters.
However, to put it "over the top," to put it in the TOP ONE PERCENT of letters, there are a few other tricks that you can use to separate it from the others in the pile.
The first is to lead the executive cover letter with a headline that grabs the reader's attention and lets them know that the solution they are looking for can be found inside the cover letter. A good way to do this is with a headline that reads something like "EXPERIENCED EXECUTIVE AVAILABLE FOR NEW CHALLENGES" or something similar. The whole point of this is to give a one sentence summary of the benefit that you offer which will catch the eye of the busy executive scanning cover letters in his or her inbox.
Another attention getting tactic is to end the letter with a post script or P.S. For some reason, study after study shows that people will read the post script of a letter before they read anything else and often instead of everything else. For that reason, adding one to the bottom of your letter will certainly help it to stand out among the competition.
All of these tips work equally well for emailed cover letters for executive positions as well. However, in an emailed cover letter for an executive position, there is even more pressure to keep the letter short and sweet. For a paper cover letter, the rule is no more than a couple of paragraphs, well under a page in length.
For an emailed cover letter, the rule is two or three paragraphs at most.
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