Applying to an executive job posting, or pitching your leadership skills directly to a desirable employer? You might be confused about whether a cover letter is warranted.
Many job seekers (at all levels) find the advice on cover letters to be all over the map. Will you really need to send a letter for each job application?
And how can you be sure that employers are actually reading the letter you’re so carefully crafting?
Here are 3 key facts to consider when deciding if your executive job search requires a cover letter:
1 – Yes, cover letters ARE read by (some) employers.
Of course, you’ll find exceptions among different companies and their hiring practices, but many employers like to see your letter. According to Do You Need a Cover Letter? on About.com, an informal survey shows some employers believe a great cover letter will attract attention – and potentially boost your chances of landing an executive-level interview.
In addition, studies in the careers industry consistently show that nearly two-thirds of hiring authorities read cover letters, and of that group, almost half consider them important.
You’ll never know at the outset which third of hiring managers you’re dealing with, of course. Therefore, it’s better to be prepared than lose out on a great opportunity.
2 – Recruiters are typically not interested in your cover letter… but a short introduction is helpful.
Most executive recruiters will tell you they have little use for a cover letter. In fact, since they’re experts in drilling into the heart of your resume to see your true qualifications, they may even consider your letter to be a bothersome part of the job application.
However, you’ll find some recruiters advocate using a letter – even if they don’t personally prefer to review it, as outlined in this Forbes article, Why You Still Need a Cover Letter, Even If No One Reads It.
The reasons? You can often specify in a letter what is taboo to mention on a resume, such as relocation plans or a desire to return to work.
Therefore, if a recruiter is your intended audience, keep your letter to a short introduction centered on the facts (what executive title you’re pursuing, where you’re open to moving, etc.), preferably pasted into the body of an email message.
3 – Some hiring managers actually prefer your cover letter over your resume.
Believe it or not, many hiring executives like to read your cover letter (and may even place more weight on it than your resume!), as they believe it provides insight into your personality.
A CEO, for example, may skip over the resume entirely to read your cover letter – preferring it to the jargon of your executive resume. (If you’re presenting a case to become the next CFO, you can bet he or she will tend to your letter carefully.)
Where cover letters make the most sense is when you’re pitching a company directly – without a posted job opening (as in this example of a cover letter for a Vice President of Corporate Strategy).
You can use the letter to explain your interest in the company and your unique value-add to them. (Don’t know that? Get your research game on, using the firm’s annual report and performing a Google search for trends in their industry.)
Bottom line, an expertly written, compelling cover letter can be a potent job search weapon, even though your executive resume will often take center stage.
There’s always a chance employers will find your letter compelling enough to move you along in the hiring process.