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Not sure if you need a cover letter for executive jobs? The advice on letters-and who reads them-can be downright confusing.

Here’s the straight talk on how a cover letter can distinguish you in the quest for an executive role: it must be carefully designed, compelling, and creative enough to warrant a response from your target audience.

Some employers will open your resume first, while others will find the message in your letter more intriguing. Therefore, your best strategy is to write a letter around your leadership capabilities and promise of results.

Read on for 3 key facts to consider when it comes to the executive cover letter question:

1 – Yes, cover letters are read by (some) employers.

However, this varies among different companies and their hiring practices. An informal survey posted at shows how some hiring managers are emphatic that a great letter will boost your chances-even at the executive level.

In addition, studies in the careers industry consistently nearly two-thirds of hiring authorities read cover letters, and of that group, nearly 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 – Some hiring managers actually prefer your cover letter over your resume.

Believe it or not, many hiring executives like to read your 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 letter – preferring it to the jargon of your executive resume. Focused on the bottom line and your ROI, an executive at this level will be interested in how quickly you’ll deliver value.

If you’ve created a target list of companies to pursue, sending a cover letter directly to the hiring authority makes tremendous sense. This example of a VP-level cover letter shows how to present your case – even if there’s no posted job opening.

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.)

3 – Recruiters aren’t likely to read a long message… but still need an introduction.

Most executive recruiters will tell you they have little use for a cover letter, since they’re experts at drilling into the heart of your resume to see your true qualifications.

However, they do make use of an introductory message that spells out your relocation plans, target job types, desired salary, or career aspirations. Here, you can also mention information that might be taboo on a resume, such as your plans for returning to work after a long absence.

Therefore, if a recruiter is your intended audience, limit your note to 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 or LinkedIn InMail.

Bottom line, an expertly written, compelling cover letter may prove to be a potent job search weapon, especially when it’s aligned closely with the goals of your executive resume.

There’s always a chance employers will find your message compelling enough to move you along in the hiring process.

Executive resume writer Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CIC, TCCS is an award-winning Executive Resume Writer and former recruiter who has achieved a 98% success rate opening doors to prestigious jobs through personal branding techniques. The Executive Director of An Expert Resume ( ), she partners exclusively with CIO, CTO, COO, CEO, CMO, CNO, SVP, VP, and Director-level candidates.

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