Regardless of whether you are responding to an advertisement, using a recruiter, approaching a company directly or have been asked to submit a CV a strong cover letter is a crucial part of your board application process.
In the past cover letters were often seen to be of little value as such, there is a temptation by many to not bother writing one if one was not requested. Further, when they were written many deemed it good enough to simply introduce them self, their interest in the role and then referred the reader to their attached CV. As such, these letters were often too brief, functional at best, added no additional value and for this reason they were rarely read. However, today, and particularly in competitive board appointment processes, a cover letter matters more than ever.
How do you make your cover letter count?
Cover letters are a valuable resource carefully read by Chairs and Appointment Committees and strong applicants know this. A good cover letter demonstrates you are much more than just your CV and must be well written, succinct, evidence based and it should demonstrate that you are qualified and passionate. When achieved, it offers the first chance to separate yourself from other candidates and will ‘dare them not to appoint you’. But for a cover letter to be of any value it needs to be both accessible and readable.
To ensure that your cover letter is easily accessible it should, where ever possible, be placed both in the body of your email application and included as part of your resume. You should not save it as a separate attachment but rather as part of the same document as your board resume. By including it in your email and also in your resume you ensure that it is much more likely to be read and therefore begins the process of distinguishing you from other applicants.
Having made it accessible you must then make it readable. First and foremost it should never be more than a single page long and ideally shorter. To help you do this, break the cover letter down into 5 paragraphs, each dealing with a different aspect of your application.
Content of the Board Application Cover Letter
The first paragraph must grab the attention of the reader so it should demonstrate your passion for the ROLE: Boards want members who are intelligent, qualified AND passionate about what they do. So this paragraph is not a statement about your understanding of the company, where you saw the job advertised or what the role is that you are applying for. Instead it must demonstrate your passion for the role of a board director. It might focus on your previous board experience and how it demonstrates your passion for governance and leadership. The role you are applying for will likely have an experiential focus e.g. it might be finance, marketing or HR focused. If so speak about your passion for your particular expertise and how it might help the board.
This kind of opening is incredibly powerful. Firstly it immediately captures the reader’s attention. It then demonstrates from the outset a number of positive qualities – your enthusiasm for the role, your ability to do it, your intelligence and connectedness. If you have researched what the board and company do, their challenges and needs, you can speak to that, showing them that you are proactive. Not a bad beginning.
The second paragraph is your profile: In essence your profile should neatly summarise your experience, your success, your achievements, your training and that you are ‘board ready’. Once written, insert it here. Insert it verbatim from your resume so that it becomes your second paragraph. I know many will say that duplication on your application should be avoided but you do not want this paragraph overlooked. It is your answer to ‘Why appoint you?’ so it is critical.
The third paragraph should address gaps or perceived issues in your resume: This should be a very short paragraph but everyone has something to address here. Perhaps you are too old, too young, over experienced, under experienced, it is your first board role, you are unemployed, you are changing career or beginning a portfolio career. Whatever the case for you may be, you should briefly allay any of your potential employers’ fears so that they do not discount your application because of their preconceived ideas about what you are or have done.
For example, if you are applying for a role that is a long way away from your home but you are willing to travel then this is the place to say so. Equally, if you are unemployed tell them why (did you retire or leave for health reasons, etc) or if this is your first board role explain what else you have done that qualifies you to be appointed.
Again, from experience I know how easy it is for employers to disregard an applicant because of ill informed or preconceived ideas. For this reason alone you need to ensure you are absolutely clear on any gaps in your CV.
Your penultimate paragraph should contain something interesting or memorable about you: Who would you employ if you had to make a decision between two or more equally qualified candidates? The one who seemed to have a personality and had demonstrated their achievements outside of work (clubs, sporting achievements, languages, etc) or those who could not demonstrate any interests or success outside of a work setting and seemed the same as everyone else?
I once had a client who, when they had the choice to add another candidate to the interview list, added an applicant who had represented their country in table tennis. They added him not because of his table tennis skills but because he was the only one they remembered from the list. The reality is that potential employers want to brag about their new hires so you need to give them something to brag about or remember you by.
Finally, your last paragraph should focus on passion for the COMPANY and what they do: Again, this is one of the most important sections and will be boosted by good, non desk based research. You could end with something like, ‘having spoken with your competitors and Mr X, your Chief Executive and having been to your office and used your products, I know that Company ABC is a leader in its field and you require most qualified board members. My experience to date, my passion for what you do and my eagerness to contribute to a high caliber board are the reason I have chosen to apply for this role.’ This final summary demonstrates your connectedness, intelligence and strategic approach. It is a strong way to finish any cover letter.
Having a cover letter that compliments your board resume is a very important part of any non-executive application process.
Help with your Board Applications
When was the last time you wrote a board application? Writing a board cover letter can be an arduous task. We can help you get it right immediately by doing all of the ‘heavy lifting’ thereby freeing you up to just tweak your application to make it your own. Take a look at our Board Application Support service and dare them not to appoint you.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Direction – Australia’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world. He has been described as Australia’s leading board recruitment expert, is a published author, a regular speaker on the board appointment process and runs Board Search Masterclasses across Australia. He is one of Australia’s Top 10 LinkedIn users with over 20,000 connections. Email: [email protected]
By Mike Simpson
We’ve all been there…
Sitting in front of your computer with both hands covering your face, exasperated from the amount of time you’ve spent with your eyes transfixed on your computer screen…
You’ve combed all of the job boards in search of the perfect job, but alas, haven’t been able to find anything that’s a great fit.
(What’s up with all these crappy jobs?!?!?!)
You’ve sent in a dozen applications and haven’t heard back from anyone… not even a sniff!
But just as you’re about to grab your computer screen with both hands and fling it out the window to the concrete below…
Hang on a sec!
There still is one more lifeline you have at your disposal, and if used properly, it can end up being one of the most rewarding things you do for your career.
So what is this secret weapon I speak of?
A letter of interest of course!
What Is a Letter of Interest?
A letter of interest is a letter you send to your target company letting them know that you’re interested in working with them and seeing if there are any potential job opportunities that match up with your skill set.
Hang on, isn’t that just another fancy word for cover letter?
Nope. Not at all. Yes, your letter of interest might contain similar things to your cover letter, but they are two very different animals.
A cover letter is a letter you send with your resume when applying to a specific job at a specific time (when they ask for job applications and/or post an opening).
A letter of interest can be sent at any time whether or not the company is actively hiring and isn’t sent in response to a specific job opening.
Rather, it’s a way of introducing yourself to a company you’re interested in and seeing about the possibility of employment with them.
Letters of interest are sometimes also called letters of inquiry for just this reason. You’re inquiring if they might have a position for you.
This is the part of the equation that can be very rewarding. Rather than applying to jobs out of desperation (that you have zero interest in actually getting), you get to hand pick the companies that you contact.
Sounds awesome! Let’s get started!
Now before you rush off to get your favorite stationery, glitter stickers and sparkle pens, let’s make sure your letter is industry appropriate.
How To Write a Letter of Interest
Much like any correspondence you send any employer, you have to make sure that your letter of interest is well crafted and appropriate.
You’re using it as an opportunity to introduce yourself to a potential employer so you always want to make sure you’re showcasing your best possible self.
That means making sure you take the time to do it right.
Not only can a well-crafted letter of interest help introduce yourself to an employer, if you do it correctly, it’s a great way to demonstrate your ability to market yourself and highlight your best qualifications (remember our article on Personal Branding?! Here is a GREAT way to brand yourself to a company!)
A poorly written letter of inquiry or one that does little more than clog up a company mailbox can potentially make any possibilities of working at your dream job with your target company a solid “NO” in the “Do you like me?” boxes.
Tailoring Your Letter of Interest
As you’ve no doubt seen if you’ve read any of our other blog posts, the Interview Guys are very big on the concept we refer to as “tailoring.”
(Not familiar with the Tailoring Method? Head over to our blog post Job Interview Questions and Answers 101 to learn how to tailor your entire job interview to the company and position you are interviewing for.)
Your letter of interest is another opportunity (actually, the first opportunity!) for you to find out exactly what the company is looking for and present yourself as that person.
Prior to sending the letter, you need to do some hardcore research of the company, taking the time to learn about the specific type of people that they like to hire.
When applying for a specific position, you have the benefit of using the job description to comb through in search of the Qualities (i.e. knowledge, skills or abilities) that the company puts a lot of value in.
But since this is a letter of interest, you are traditionally not applying to a specific position so you need to be a little more creative.
Researching a Company Through Their Online Presence
There is a virtual “treasure trove” of information available about a company when you peruse their various web properties (i.e the job description, their website, Facebook page, LinkedIn page, etc.)!
But we’re not just looking for information about the products they sell, when the company was incorporated or who the CEO of the company is.
We are looking to learn more about the people who get hired to work there so that we can begin the process of becoming one of those people.
So spend the time really digging into each web property in search of clues.
Quite often there are “day in the life” videos where employees are interviewed.
What do they tell you about these people? What Qualities to they have?
Go to the employee list on the company’s LinkedIn page and go through the profiles to see what experience and skills they have.
Make note of these, because they are going to form the basis of your letter of interest.
Putting the “Tailoring Method” To Work
Once you have figured out the types of people that your company hires, you want to do your best to emulate them in your letter of interest.
Highlight a few the skills and abilities that you have (that you share with their employees), and give a quick supporting statement for each one that you use. After all, if you can’t back it up, there is no point in even mentioning it.
Once you have done the research and have uncovered the Qualities that you want to highlight, you are ready to begin writing your letter of interest.
Best Letter of Interest Format
Half of the battle is making sure that you nail your letter of interest format. After all, you won’t exactly be making the best first impression if your letter is a convoluted mess that is hard to read and makes no sense.
Here is the basic format for you to follow, which you can see in the three examples we use below:
Don’t get too gushy. Avoid using “warmest regards”, “sincerely yours” or any other hollow platitudes. Stick with “regards,” or just “sincerely,” and you’ll be good to go.
Without fail, many people fall into the same traps and make some of these classic letter of interest mistakes. Do your best to avoid these if you want to get your foot in the door!
You don’t send a letter of interest at all
A letter of interest is meant to introduce you to a target company regardless of their current hiring status. Too often people find a company they’d like to work for and just blindly send in a resume with nothing else attached. Sure, it might be a super impressive resume, but if you don’t indicate why you’re sending it in and who you are, you might as well just be throwing those resumes away. On the flip side…DO NOT FORGET TO INCLUDE YOUR RESUME!
Sending your letter of interest out with a generic heading
As mentioned above, you need to take the time to do a little digging and find out who you should address your letter to. Sending out a generic “Dear HR Director” or “To Whom It May Concern” isn’t going to win you any brownie points…
Not saying what you can do for them, but what they can do for you
Sure, they’re your target company which means you must have some pretty strong reasons you want to work for them. Maybe it’s the great health care package. Maybe it’s the amazing food in the cafeteria. Maybe it’s just the fact that you think the uniform you’d wear looks better with your current eye color than what you’re wearing right now. Whatever the reason behind why you want to work for a company, remember…it’s about what you can do for them…not what they can do for you! This dovetails into another sub category in our list of no-nos…not being specific…as in not specifically letting them know what job you’re interested in…tell them exactly what you’re looking for and what you can do once you get there. Make them wonder why they’re not hiring and what took you so long to contact them!
Not tailoring your letter
If you’re going to show initiative by writing a letter of inquiry, you should make sure that initiative extends to your research as well! Supercharge your letter and make sure you stand out for the right reasons which means ensuring you highlight the Qualities that the company values.
Come on! You’re shooting for your target company and your dream job. Dazzle them with how incredible you are and what you can bring to the company that sets you apart from all the other candidates. Grab your potential employer’s attention right away and tell them why you’re writing and what you want to achieve. And don’t simply make a list of all of your skills and abilities. As we mentioned before, there is plenty of real estate on your resume for this.
Being too long
Your goal is to catch their attention and leave them wanting more…which means short, sweet and to the point. Keep your letter under a page. Don’t turn your letter into a rambling rehash of your entire employment career or a long winded awkward rant essentially begging for a job. Remember, you want them to want you…not pity you.
There is no excuse for typos, misspelled words or sloppy writing. You’re trying to get an informational (or even a full-on) interview, not give them a headache. Check. Double check and then check again!
Not following up
Yes, your letter of interest is not in response to a specific job posting, but you should treat it exactly like any other job you’ve applied for and that includes following up. Sending a letter of interest is a proactive step…so keep being proactive and keep the momentum up! Ask for an interview. Don’t be vague and end your letter with a wishy-washy ‘I’m looking forward to potentially hearing from you.’ Hell no! Take that opportunity and keep running with it. Ask for an informational interview. Ask to meet with the HR director to talk about possibilities and potential roles you might fill. Don’t be too pushy, but at the same time, make sure you’re not leaving the ball solely in their court.
A Few Great Letter of Interest Examples
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at a few examples so you can get your own letters started! Here are three different scenarios from which you might decide to write a letter of interest to a company.
Choose the best letter of interest sample that fits with your situation, but don’t simply copy the example word-for-word.
You need to input your own experiences and personality, so think of this more as a letter of interest template that will guide you to success!
Letter of interest for your target company following a positive encounter:
Letter of interest following a write up of the target company:
Letter of interest for a recent graduate looking for work:
Putting It All Together
So there you have it! Remember, these are just examples. You, as always, have to make sure your letter is specific to you and written with your goals in mind. Just remember to keep it targeted, keep it short, and keep it professional.
And as always,
Please be kind and rate this post 🙂
Your Contact Info
No surprises here. Name, address, telephone number, email and your website (Don't have a website? You are missing out on a tremendous opportunity. Click here to find out why).
If you're not comfortable providing your address or any other information, don't worry about it. It's not a big deal. Just make sure they can get in touch with you!
If you don't know what to put here we have much bigger problems 😉
Company Contact Info
Please don't start the letter with "to whom it may concern." At this point, it really doesn't concern anyone if you catch my drift. Do the research and find a specific person to address the letter to.
A good place to start would be a hiring manager, another person in HR, or even better, the Manager or Director of the department you envision yourself working in.
Introduce yourself and your intentions.
Attack this paragraph with two purposes in mind:
- Showing how you add value
- Demonstrating you have the Qualities they value
This is your time to shine. Keep it brief and succinct, because you don't want to come off as arrogant. Pick two to three Qualities that you have and infuse them into this paragraph, and wherever possible, support them with facts. Just don't drone on and on.
And save the listing of your job experience for your resume!
Thank them for their time and offer your availability for an "informational interview" at their earliest convenience.
What's an informational interview?
It's both an opportunity for you to learn more about the company and the various positions within the company AND a great way for you to meet the right people in the organization you are interested in.
More importantly, it's an opportunity for you to let your award-winning personality shine, and if executed properly, can help you land a job at the company of your dreams! (no pressure lol)
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
City, State Zip
Dear (remember, make this specific!):
I recently had the opportunity to interact with a few members of your customer support team while doing some research for a project. My time with them was brief, but memorable. Your team was friendly while remaining professional. I was impressed with their willingness to help and their quick responses to my questions. It is clear customer satisfaction is an integral part of your company’s core values. It is for this reason that I am writing to you as I feel my own personal values and special talents might benefit your customer service department.
I believe very strongly in personal accountability and integrity and have always made sure to represent both my employer and myself in a professional and ethical manner. I strive to ensure that I am always paying close attention to detail and ensuring that my work is nothing short of my best at all times. If I were to be hired by your company, I would be dedicated to delivering the same kind of high quality customer service I myself experienced. I am a hard-working, driven individual and am both a motivated self-starter as well as an enthusiastic team player.
In the hopes of scheduling an interview with you or answering any questions you might have about me, this letter or my resume, I will call you October 3rd. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions at any time at (555) 555-5555 or e-mail, Iamawesome@hireme.com.
Thank you for your time in considering my qualifications.
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
City, State Zip
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
While reading through one of my professional trade publications last week I came across an article outlining why your company has been recognized as one of the best places to work in the country for tech professionals. Your entire focus has been on making sure that your company is not only a leader in the industry, but also a leader in innovation and pioneering new and emerging technology. For this reason, I am sending you my resume in the hopes that I might be able to join your team.
I have worked exclusively within the technology field for the past five years, and in that time, have worked in a wide variety of positions that I feel might benefit your company. I am experienced in accounting including finance and budgeting. I was also responsible for inventory control and vendor relations. I have been instrumental in my past positions with bringing new and emerging technology into our business processes and I am actively looking for opportunities with companies that would allow me to continue that practice. I believe strongly in always being on the forefront of technological development and I was excited to read in the article that your company feels the same way.
As a team leader, I am proud of the fact that not only have we never missed a deadline, but that we have come in under budget while delivering superior results every time. I firmly believe in the integrity and professionalism of my work and strive to ensure that every aspect of what I do also upholds the company core values.
I will call you on April 16th to answer any questions about this letter or my resume in the hope of scheduling an interview. If you prefer, please contact me by phone (555) 555-5555 or e-mail, Iamawesome@hireme.com.
Thank you for your time in considering my qualifications.
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
City, State Zip
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
I read about Company X's retail management training program in GETAJOB MAG and I would like to inquire about the possibility of openings. I am very interested in a career in retail management and think your program is a perfect match for both my skills and my experiences. I am a recent graduate from the University of California with a degree in Business Management. I have over five years of retail experience as both a Sales Associate as well as a Manager.
I have included my resume which contains additional information on my experience and skills. I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss the training program with you and to provide further information on my candidacy. I can be reached anytime via my cell phone, 555-555-5555 or by email at Iamawesome@hireme.com..
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to speaking with you about this exciting opportunity.
How To Write A Letter Of Interest (3 Great Sample Templates Included)4.7 (94.03%) 67 votes