From an executive search firm’s perspective, the decision as to your suitability for a role will never be made solely on the content of your cover letter. Providing your CV is fit for purpose, we will always talk to you about the role and assess your skills and experience verbally. If we feel you’re right for the position, the next step is to present your details to the client. 

With this in mind, does a cover letter really matter? The answer is yes. Absolutely.

Useful for all parties

For you as a candidate, time spent drafting a cover letter clarifies your thoughts. If you can’t explain in one page why this role is right for you, is it actually right for you at all? Tailoring your cover letter will tell you quickly how much you want this particular role, versus any other role you might consider. It can be seen as a tool for engaging yourself in the process. 

From our perspective as an executive search firm, a well-constructed cover letter shows you understand the role and have the skills and experience necessary to be successful.

Moreover, not only does it tell us you’ve thought about the role, it instills confidence by suggesting you are committed to making a move. While from the client’s point of view, a good cover letter creates a strong first impression. It shows respect for their process and genuine interest in their organization. 

Important points to remember

Brevity is the soul of wit. Keep it succinct. One page is enough.

Don’t regurgitate your CV. Instead, highlight three key strengths in relation to the role.

Importantly, sending the same cover letter for every role smacks of a lack of rigor. You might think we won’t notice, but we will! Adapt your letter to reflect the unique requirements of the role, every time.

Address your letter to the person leading the process. If you don’t know who that is, take the trouble to find out. “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern” won’t cut much ice with the individual who decides whether or not to progress your application.

Avoid sloppy errors

Proofread before sending. This is a chance to showcase your writing ability and a reflection of your personal brand.

It’s naïve to believe it doesn’t matter if you make a typo. They always get noticed. Check and double check every line. Be sure not to undo any good work by, for example, misspelling the name of the decision-making recipient.  

Standing out from the crowd

Once you have an impactful cover letter, how will it help in your search for a new role? For a start, it will give you an advantage over others who’ve not bothered to produce one, or who’ve been slapdash and unfocused while rushing one out.

Spelling out what you want and what you have to offer allows us and our client to clearly understand your strengths and value proposition. That means when we call you to discuss an opportunity the conversation is more likely to be positive and mutually beneficial. We won’t be wasting each other’s time.

So don’t disregard the opportunities a strong job application letter brings. It’s one angle you really ought to cover.

In the next article in this series, we’ll be suggesting how to get the most out of an executive search company.

To read more about Career Strategies:

Visit the full Career Strategies page

Ray Carolan

Ray is a Partner at Odgers Berndtson in Ireland. He has over 20 years search experience at Board and C-Suite level. In later years, he has specialised in Private Capital and the Consumer, Food & Re...

Rowan Hillis

Rowan is a Principal at Odgers Berndtson in Ireland where she works to appoint senior executives and board members across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. She is also part of the HR...

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