It’s Time to Rethink the Executive Cover Letter

It’s true: cover letters have faced some harsh criticism in the recent past. Plenty of people claim that recruiters and hiring managers won’t even read a submitted cover letter.

There are some stats to back this up: Almost half of job seekers opted not to submit a cover letter in their most recent job application. Furthermore, according to the same source, only 26% of recruiters think cover letters are an important factor in hiring an applicant.

If you’re still drafting a formal cover letter, you might need to update your approach to get noticed by hiring managers.


Your “cover letter” probably won’t take the form of a letter at all. It may be a form field on an online application, a LinkedIn message, or an email (more on that below). Regardless of the method, the message should follow a few new-age guidelines.

To get the attention you desire, your approach must come down to two factors: creativity and efficiency.

Put a creative spin on the idea of a cover letter. Grab someone’s eye and stand apart from the rest. At the same time, know that hiring managers move quickly, and may only give your application or resume a few seconds—for this reason, efficiency is key. Keep your pitch skim-able, yet effective. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a compelling argument. One expert recommends that instead of listing the impressive things you’ve done, show why you’re a good fit for the open position and hiring company—how could you help the company reach its goals?
  • Be brief. Again, hiring managers and recruiters don’t have time to read a full cover letter, but good writers deliver the most imperative information with only a few words. Use bolding strategically to help a skimming eye see the most important parts of your message.
  • Name your referral source. Dropping a familiar name will likely grab a hiring manager’s attention much faster than a full introductory paragraph in formal cover letter. For example, in the body of an online application form field, you could write, “John Doe recommended I apply for this position based on his excellent experience consulting for your company.”
  • Prepare a verbal cover letter. This is akin to your elevator pitch, and you’ll use it if the hiring company has hired an executive recruiting firm to screen their candidates. When you get a phone call, be prepared to deliver a succinct, powerful argument for why you’re a great fit.
  • If possible, send an email. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate to send the hiring manager an email. If so, use that opportunity to attach your resume and use the tips above for a personal, impactful pitch.


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