One thing that Chief Executive Officers, or CEOs, and any other professional have in common is having to go through the scrutiny of the recruitment process every now and again.
While cover letters are regarded as a nice bonus in many job applications, in the case of CEOs, a well crafted cover letter is what will set you apart from every other eager and highly experienced professional applying for the same position.
CEOs may be very well versed in business strategy, financial planning and people management, but translating those hard-earned skills into a compelling cover letter presents a whole new set of challenges. You might be asking yourself:
- How do I narrow down years of noteworthy accomplishments into 1-2 brief paragraphs?
- How do I convey confidence and leadership skills, while also sounding humble and grounded?
- Do I follow a conventional cover letter format, or do I choose something that will make me stand out?
- Do I tailor my CEO cover letter to the company and job I’m applying for, or do I center it around my own career path and capabilities?
This is why, in this article, we will:
- Answer all these questions, and more;
- Give you real life CEO cover letter examples you can study and use in your future application;
- Show you exactly how to format your CEO cover letter;
- Teach you what key components to add to your CEO cover letter and how to best phrase them.
Need guidance with your CEO resume as well? Or looking for tips on resume and cover letter writing for other specific executive roles? See our articles on:
- CEO Resume
- CFO Cover Letter
- Chief of Staff Resume
- VP of Business Development Cover Letter
- Fractional CEO resume
CEO cover letter example
Here’s what works in this cover letter:
- Emphasis on Strategic Alignment: The letter effectively demonstrates how the candidate's strategic vision aligns with the company's goals. Specific examples, such as implementing a global CRM system to redefine customer engagement, underscore this alignment.
- Quantifiable Achievements: The candidate uses concrete metrics, like a 35% increase in customer retention and exceeding targets by 15%, to quantify success. This adds credibility and shows results-oriented leadership.
- Expertise in Mergers and Acquisitions: Mentioning experience in this specialized area directly addresses likely challenges the company may face in market expansion, making the candidate more valuable.
- Skill in Breaking Down Silos: The letter highlights not just technological or strategic prowess, but also the ability to create a collaborative, agile work environment. This is a softer skill that is nonetheless crucial for effective leadership.
How to format a CEO cover letter
As a CEO candidate, you will be competing with other highly skilled individuals with similar expertise, years of experience and ambitions, which makes it that much harder to stand out.
Which is why, the first thing you need to ace in your CEO cover letter is the formatting.
Good formatting will:
- Help you appear organized, precise and attentive to detail - skills, very much valued in CEO applicants;
- Keep the reader’s attention while still conveying the important message that you want to send: your fitness for the CEO position and clear strategy for the company’s future;
- Help you convey a CEO’s confidence and competence without sounding self-serving or arrogant.
Here’s what CEO cover letter tips to follow:
- Contact Information: Always add yours and the company’s contact information, even though you’ve already added it to your resume. It makes it even easier for the hiring manager to contact you straight after reading your cover letter; and it shows you’re not sending the same cover letter to every employer out there looking for a CEO.
- Length: Keep your cover letter short. Being a CEO means having lots to say about your experience and motivations, but one page is enough. Keeping the reader’s attention is paramount.
- Spacing: Format your cover letter in 4-5 bite sized paragraphs to keep it concise and following a flow.
- Font: There’s no need to stand out with a new or more creative font. Keep it simple and professional by using Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri and the default size of 12pt.
- Spelling: Attention to detail is one of the most important skills to have as a CEO. So make sure your cover letter has no spelling mistakes. Re-read and edit it as many times as you need to and run it through spell check software.
- Wording: Use professional language and CEO and field specific terminology. (Especially if it’s featured in the job ad. Recruiters and applicant tracking software flag related keywords.) Just make sure to still keep it easy to read and not unnecessarily complicated just to sound more sophisticated.
- File Formatting: When saving your cover letter as a file, make sure to choose PDF. The PDF format is readable by all software and it keeps your word formatting, alignment and any design assets as intended.
How to write your CEO cover letter salutation
The salutation is the opening section of your cover letter where you formally address the hiring manager, team, or recruiter who will be reading it.
We encourage you to do some research on the company you’re applying to and finding out who is in charge of their CEO recruitment process. The company website, their LinkedIn page, or the job ad itself usually have the information you need.
How to write your CEO cover letter intro
The cover letter introduction is the section immediately following the salutation. It aims to grab attention and give a quick preview of what the letter will cover, often explaining why you're interested in the role and what makes you a good fit.
Here’s what to include in your CEO cover letter introduction:
- The position you’re applying for: Mention the company by name, e.g. “I am writing to express my strong interest in the open CEO position at BlueSky Enterprises.” Companies are looking for future CEOs who know the company well and have a specific vision for it. Highlighting your interest in this specific company with your opening statement will make a good impression.
- Your eagerness to fill this role: Emphasize your excitement to fill the open CEO role. You want to seem motivated and eager to take on this new challenge. Companies looking for a new CEO want to find someone with the passion, vision and energy to take on the challenges of an executive role.
- Why you’re the right candidate: In one sentence describe what you bring to the table for this CEO position, e.g. “I’m excited to bring my expertise in company acquisitions and expansion to Company X”; “I believe my managerial skills and extensive years of experience in the IT field will benefit Company X in its future goals”; “I am eager to apply my extensive knowledge and experience in the biorobotics niche in setting new bold goals for Company X.”
Those are the three key components to your CEO cover letter introduction. There’s no need to list all of your qualifications or rely on verbose terminological language. Keep it clear and to the point.
Here’s what makes the second example better:
- It names the company the candidate is applying to. It shows the candidate is interested in this specific company.
- It conveys eagerness and strong, founded motivation to fill this CEO role.
- It shows the candidate knows what the company does and how their experience and skillset fit that well.
How to write your CEO cover letter body
The body is the core section of your cover letter where you build upon the introduction. Its main purpose is to describe your biggest achievements and unique expertise from previous executive/managerial roles in a way that focuses on how they fit into the current company’s agenda, goals, values and future performance efforts.
Here are the best rules of thumb to follow when writing this section:
- Build upon your resume. Don’t just list your previous experience and achievements. Focus on what skills and knowhow you gained from them and how they will be useful to the job you’re applying for.
- Keep it short and concise. Being an executive means you have a lot to say in your cover letter, but you can still send a compelling message while narrowing it down. One to two paragraphs will do. Focus on your biggest and most relevant achievements only.
- Add specifics. Quantify those achievements by giving exact examples. Use numbers, percentages, any relevant data-driven metric. It validates and enhances any such accomplishment.
- Tailor it to the company you’re applying to. Do your research on the company. Big tech conglomerate? Highlight any relevant experience / knowhow in the tech field. Mention your executive experience in big corporations. Applying to a small startup working in a new niche? Highlight relevant executive experience in startups or the niche itself. Reuse any relevant keywords you find in the job ad too.
- Have a clear goal. Show the hiring manager you’re already thinking as a CEO in their company. Impress them with how much you know about their company and current goals, how your past experience fits their needs and how you will utilize those gained skills in any future plans for the company. They’re on a trajectory of acquisitions and expansions? Mention it, include any such relevant experience / skillset you may have and how you will apply it to keep the company successful in its next steps.
Here are the differences between the wrong example and the right example:
- The first example simply repeats what would already be written on your CEO resume - your job responsibilities. The second example builds upon that, highlighting what value those experiences bring.
- The second example uses specific examples and metrics to emphasize relevant achievements.
- The second example stays relevant to the current position being applied for, as opposed to the first example, where the candidate lists every single skill, experience and achievement, whether relevant to the current job or not.
- The candidate in the second example exhibits knowledge on the company being applied to and how the candidate’s skillset will be relevant to their future goals.
How to navigate NDAs:
If you can’t mention your current or past employer by name, replace them with what best describes them. E.g. “was the CEO at a large tech conglomerate”, “was the CEO at a medium sized recruitment agency”.
If you can’t mention specific projects/teams you’ve worked on, describe your contribution to them as detailed as possible without naming them or being too revealing. E.g. “implemented new ATS software across three of our branches, cutting on- and offboarding costs by 33%”.
How to implement psychology and writing techniques in your cover letter
Apart from the straightforward to-do’s we’ve already delved into, there are one or two more “tricks” you can utilize to make sure your CEO cover letter stands out.
Psychological techniques are a sure fire way to connect to the reader:
- Make them care about the “Why?”: A mere event, skill, achievement is just that and nothing else without any context. What adds value to it is explaining what makes it important, what makes it relevant. It’s the difference between “I’m applying to BlueSky Enterprises” and “My first experience with BlueSky Enterprises was when I took part in your philanthropic campaign for building houses in Guatemala back in 2003. I learned first hand that your values “kindness and responsibility” are deeply rooted and not a mere marketing campaign. I’ve wanted to be part of your incredible journey ever since.”
- Tell a story: Telling stories has helped us connect deeper since the dawn of time. Hearing a story that resonates with us raises our oxytocin levels (the “feel good” chemical). Here’s an example of how you can tell a story in your CEO cover letter: “My father purchased his first guitar when he was 15 with his summer job savings. My first memories are of him teaching me how to play. We weren’t particularly close, but what connected us was our mutual love for music. And when he passed away, he left me that first guitar of his. It’s been 20 years, but to this day when I think of my dad, I think back fondly on all the hours spent talking about music and strumming that guitar of his. It was a red Fender 1950 Broadcaster. I’ve spent countless hours learning about it and other rare guitars and I’ve been subscribed to Fender magazine for over 10 years. This is why being Fender’s new CEO would be a dream come true and the next step to a decades long Fender journey.”
- Remain precise and use data-driven examples Use percentages, numbers, specific examples of how you’ve improved company operations at your current or past roles. These stand out, quantify your successes and make a strong impression on the reader.
Combining these three tactics as best as possible will ensure a callback from the hiring manager. Of course, remember to only tell stories in your CEO cover letter that are true, relevant and the kind you think the company you’re applying to will resonate with.
Here’s another example:
How to write the closing paragraph
Ending your cover letter with the closing paragraph is the finishing touch. Here’s how to do it:
- Summarize your main points: Reiterate why you think you’re the right candidate for the CEO position at the company you’re applying for.
- Mention any relevant attachments: If applicable, mention that along with your cover letter, you’ve attached further relevant certifications and references.
- Express gratitude for the opportunity.
- Provide a call-to-action: Emphasize your availability and openness to further communication about your qualifications and executive vision for the company. Avoid cliches such as “I look forward to hearing from you.”
And that concludes our guide on crafting the perfect CEO cover letter. By now you should be well-versed on all things needed to ace this process and get that new dream job.
Still, let’s go over the main takeaways of this article:
- Your CEO cover letter should be short and concise; formal, yet grounded; lacking any spelling mistakes; and saved as a PDF file.
- Your CEO cover letter should consist of your contact information, a salutation, introduction, body and closing paragraph.
- It should showcase key qualities such as strategic vision, leadership acumen, financial oversight, stakeholder engagement, operational excellence, and crisis management.
- Grab the reader's attention by telling a story, making the reader care about why you're applying in the first place.
- Use specific examples of your top achievements. Data like percentages, numbers and other metrics will ground and quantify your successes.