The executive CV cover letter is a value added document that essentially complements the executive resume when applying for jobs. There is an expectation to have an accompanying executive CV covering letter, though it is not always needed and there are good practices to follow. Ideally, the executive resume covering letter should be no more than a page long and highlight key areas contained within the CV. But how should CV covering letters be structured, what content to include and some obvious mistakes to avoid are important considerations.
Are Executive CV Cover Letters Needed?
When applying directly for widely advertised executive level jobs or opportunities found online, it is always best practice to include a covering letter. However, most executive headhunters will often ignore the resume covering letter as they tend to focus on the resume itself. In fact, during many recruitment processes the executive CV cover letter will be separated or discarded from the CV. This is because executive headhunters expect everything they require to have already been included in the resume, plus they do not have time to read both the CV and covering letter.
Executive Resume Letters: One Page is Optimal
The resume covering letter aims to draw out those value added elements contained within the main CV, including key credentials for target roles in question, main achievements, core expertise and how executives have impacted the wider organisation through decision-making, expert skills and subject matter expertise. Executive resume letters must be succinct, relevant and kept to one page because anything longer results in diminishing returns. Executives should be able to make clear points on one page otherwise they could be waffling on without any cause.
Executive CV Cover Letter Example: Think of the Audience
There must be direct positioning towards executive level roles otherwise candidates would not be taken seriously. In terms of the average person reading, assimilating and understanding key points contained within the document, the maximum points people can remember is 5 to 7. Therefore, it is all the more important to be both precise and concise. To keep it simple, each main point must be aligned to the position applied for (opportunity / job requirements), core competencies and value added elements that can help differentiate candidates and make them stand out (unique selling points).
Executive CV and Cover Letter Writing: Core Competencies
Deciding on content is crucial, though one rule is make sure everything contained within the covering letter is also included in the main resume. Both have to be aligned to avoid candidates going off at tangents by talking about things not contained within the executive resume (keep it simple and nicely focused). Targeting roles through the CV cover letter means keeping everything down to 5-7 key points.
The main point may include direct positioning towards target role by talking about most relevant things in their most current / recent role. This direct positioning gets recruiters interested about how candidates can fit into the role and demonstrate top-level capabilities / evidence of suitability for executive roles. Being realistic, credible and demonstrating capabilities in similar roles strengthens positioning for top-level roles (i.e. notion of similar experience, proven track record and matching expectations of most recent employment to the job on offer). It is a good idea to summarise and aggregate overall experience within the main point.
Once getting the direct positioning in place to set clear expectations that candidates can do the job in question going forward, there is a need to draw out 5 or 6 core competencies. Such competencies aim to directly underpin target roles. To give an idea, there needs to be something about strategy / leadership (strategic thinking), team leadership (building talented teams), relationship building (stakeholder influencing / negotiation) and other specific competencies relevant to the role. Wherever possible try to include an element of achievement for each competency.
Executive CV Cover Letter Examples UK: Cover Letter Layout
- Full Name (candidates can include credentials / letters after their name)
- Headline (optional to reinforce positioning and credentials for target roles)
- Contact details (make sure contact details are up-to-date to be contactable)
- Position applied for and company name (two target job titles for speculative letters)
- Why you want to apply for role (give some clear motivations about what you enjoy doing)
- Refer to the CV being enclosed as part of the application and lead into main point
- Main point – include this for direct positioning towards target roles (sets expectations)
- Subsequent points – outline 5 or 6 core competencies directly aligned to target role
- Letter closing – summary point and state what you want (an interview or discussion)
- Sign-off details – yours sincerely if you have addressed letter directly to a person
Common Executive Resume Letter Mistakes
We see many executive CV cover letters, so there is not one style or template to use. However, people fail to get basic presentation standards right with long paragraphs, unjustified sentences and spelling mistakes. The resume covering letter needs to be proof read, checked and sentences (paragraphs) shortened to make letters much more concise and readable. Candidates must also be selective about what to include and focus only on top-level competencies, especially as space is at premium and the bulk of the information should be contained within the executive resume anyway.
View the executive covering letter as an introduction, so keep recruiters guessing a bit and persuade them to read on (find out more about you) by not including everything and trying to hard. It should be enough to build up a picture about whether the candidate is capable of doing the job in question and can benefit their organisation going forward, without going off in a tangent. Finally, do not over-elaborate on points – make quick points and move on (maximum 5-7 points is sufficient).
Executive CV Cover Letter Tips: Conclusion
Following some simple guidelines should help executives critically think about what to include in executive resume letters. A good CV cover letter will be selective about what to include, think about the audience, align content to core competencies (main points) and make sure everything in the executive covering letter is already contained in the CV and candidates should not go far wrong. Avoid long paragraphs, refer to the job description for clues and make sure there is a good ‘strategic fit’ or positioning towards target roles. A nicely positioned, well-targeted and assertive covering letter can make all the difference about being shortlisted for interview.
Finally, let’s not forget executive headhunters often handle CV covering letters differently. They may or may not ask for a resume covering letter. Whereas, applying directly for executive jobs, recruiters would reasonably expect to receive one. Every employer has different expectations, so it is a judgement call as to whether to send across an executive CV covering letter depending on the recruiter and job hunting scenario.