Are Cover Letters Needed for An Executive?

John Krautzel
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Whether or not you need to include a cover letter to apply for an executive job ultimately depends on the job posting you are replying to. Although research suggests that only about half of employers take the time to read cover letters, including one does not negatively impact your chances of getting an interview. In fact, including a cover letter often improves your chances of getting hired.

Although your cover letter may not be read by every employer, it is a good idea to add a cover letter to your resume. According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, about two-thirds of all applicants include a cover letter with their application. Of the employers surveyed, 70 percent reported that a lack of a cover letter did not hurt an applicant's chances of being hired. However, 28 percent reported that applications lacking a cover letter were occasionally rejected and 2 percent would not consider an applicant for a position without a cover letter.

These numbers reflect the importance of cover letters and suggest that not including one can actually result in an employer not even considering you for a job. When it comes to executive-level positions, the number of employers who reject applications without cover letters may even be higher. Executive jobs often have a unique set of qualifications that are unlike entry-level positions. Consequently, many employers expect applicants to submit cover letters that describe relevant information such as leadership style and managerial skills.

Whether you are an experienced executive or are looking for your first executive job, as a general rule, if a job posting asks for a cover letter, always include one in your application. Failing to do so shows you cannot follow the employer's instructions. If there is no request for a cover letter, send one anyway as long as the employer does not specifically state not to. There are also a couple of other times when a cover letter is not necessary. If you are applying for executive jobs through a recruiter, more often than not, your cover letter is not needed. Also, for employers who use applicant tracking systems, a cover letter is not generally accepted because these systems pull out key words from your resume.

Although a quality cover letter does not hurt your chances of getting an interview, a bad one just might. It is important to write an effective cover letter by beginning with a strong, eye-catching opening statement. Quantify your skills, and turn your work experience into a compelling story that highlights the reasons you are a great fit for an executive job. Above all else, avoid the most common cover letter mistakes and check your cover letter for spelling errors.

It does take a lot of time and effort to write a cover letter for each job posting, but it is definitely worth the effort. Without a cover letter, the odds of your application being rejected are significant. Maximize your search for an executive job by writing an effective cover letter that gets noticed by employers.


(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles /


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