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CEO Cover Letter Example

Every CEO needs to follow accepted job search conventions. No matter how well you know the board, they will be expecting a compelling one-page cover letter. We’ll show you how to write an effective CEO cover letter.
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CEO Cover Letter Example
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The impact of any CEO runs so much deeper than the story that they tell on their cover letter. Their decision making will help to steer the ship, their people skills will enable engagement and their commercial acumen will ensure a healthy bottom line. With so much to talk about, what do they focus on in a one-page cover letter?

While many CEOs will get an interview invite based on their industry reputation and the financial performance of their company, the cover letter is a chance to set themselves apart from the competition in their own unique way. Yes, there will be other CEOs competing for the job, so positioning their application correctly is critical. Their CEO cover letter will start the conversations that matter.

Much of the general cover letter advice is still applicable for a CEO. They still have to press the same psychological buttons to impress a board of directors. While this cover letter guide and example is specific to a CEO, our 180+ cover letter examples and writing guides for other professions may offer some insights – particularly those from relevant industries. In this CEO cover letter guide, we cover:

  • Selecting a cover letter format to tell your story
  • Starting conversations in the intro, middle section, and conclusion
  • How to choose the best experiences to feature in your cover letter
  • Mistakes to avoid that will sink your application without trace

Best format for a CEO cover letter

Every CEO appreciates the need for structuring a business argument, so their cover letter should be no different. The format of a CEO cover letter will likely not differ from any other cover letter – it is the content that will set it apart. Address how you will solve your future employer’s challenges and talk about the difference that you will make to their team. Tell a different story in each section of the cover letter format:

  • The cover letter header
  • The greeting / salutation
  • The cover letter intro
  • The middle paragraphs (body of the letter)
  • The ending paragraph of your cover letter (conclusion and call-to-action)

The CEO cover letter should venture far beyond parroting the responsibilities of the role. If you have done your research it should read like a mini business plan, a manifesto for your first year and beyond. Back up your ambitions with relevant achievements from your past and obviously quantify with numbers wherever possible.

While a CEO will be the big boss, try to avoid any sense of arrogance or entitlement. You need to learn about the business before you will be able to lead it, so be curious. The best CEO cover letters ask the right questions and outline the journey of discovery.

Our comprehensive cover letter guide shares more detail in terms of the nuances of formatting a cover letter. What font are you going to use? What size should the font be? What about the margins? They are small decisions, but they could make a big difference. Have a look at the adaptable CEO cover letter example below:

Adaptable cover letter example

Dear Mr. Arnesen,

After having founded my own translation firm seven years ago and subsequently selling it to my main investor, I am on the search for another leadership challenge in the B2B services sector. I understand that you are looking for a CEO and investor in your conference interpreting business and would be curious to learn more.

Half of our international business was based around conference and exhibition work, so I have experience in sales and marketing as well as growing a team of top-quality freelance translators (many of whom would be open to working with me again.) The CEO of a small business needs to get involved in operational and commercial decisions as well as the financial governance. 

My track record of attracting external investment is excellent as my early adoption of technology has consistently ensured that we were one of the most profitable players in the sector. I am keen to steer HelioTrans through many of the same waters.

In terms of some numbers, we enjoyed an average of 25 percent LFL sales growth and doubled our profits over the last three years at the company. My experience in exiting the firm will be beneficial should HelioTrans look at this option along the line. The challenge of improving an existing business is attractive – I am looking for a challenge in my next role.

The opportunity was introduced to me via your VC partner Heather Gannet who felt that I might be a good fit for the role. I also seem to remember meeting you at a conference in Venice last year? I would look forward to the chance to meet and discuss in more detail.

Sincerely,

Wilma Peardew

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Cover letter header

The header section of a CEO cover letter should contain your full name, email address and mobile number, so it is relatively straightforward. Do not, however, consider that your cover letter should be minimalist and omit these details. They should be here as well as on your resume – you never know when inspiration to invite you to interview might hit.

Most CEOs will be active on social media to some extent, so the CEO cover letter header is also a place to link to your social media details. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is shortened with some version of your full name – hyperlinks may not work.

You do not need to include your full address (data protection issues). If you wish to be particularly formal, then include the inside address of the employer, but make sure that you get it right. This is not expected on modern cover letters that are sent electronically.

Cover letter greeting

The standard cover letter greeting is “Dear Dr./Mr./Mrs./Ms. Surname,” but here is where the lofty station of a CEO can breed a dangerous familiarity.

Some CEOs will know their interviewers personally. They may have been for drinks with them on the conference circuit or presented at certain events, so they will be on first-name terms. It would be a mistake, however, to say “Dear Bill” on a cover letter, no matter how well you know Bill. 

Cover letters will be stored on an ATS database and read by many people. The last thing that you need is any hint of favoritism in the recruitment process. Keep the greeting formal.

Who should the cover letter be addressed to?
Who should the cover letter be addressed to?

Cover letter introduction

The introduction of a CEO cover letter should set you apart from your peers, so try to focus on a part of your application that others cannot match. Maybe it is a particularly stellar achievement or an aspect of your industry experience that only you can boast. You know the caliber of people that you can be up against – to get the role you need to be exceptional.

Do not pack the introduction with meaningless adjectives or parrot the job description. These first lines are a chance to introduce your future colleagues to your story and hint at what might come next if they pick you for the role. For maximum impact, include a figure or percentage with one of your achievements that will make them sit back and think “wow.”

This adaptable CEO cover letter example introduction offers one solution:

Adaptable cover letter introduction and greeting example

Dear Mr. Arnesen,

After having founded my own translation firm seven years ago and subsequently selling it to my main investor, I am on the search for another leadership challenge in the B2B services sector. I understand that you are looking for a CEO and investor in your conference interpreting business and would be curious to learn more.

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Cover letter middle part (body)

Every CEO will have plenty of war stories and will likely want to fill a cover letter of two pages or more. It will be easy to select relevant stories but less easy to condense them. 

Have a think about how a film trailer gets the viewer excited about the latest blockbuster – that is what your cover letter needs to do. Don’t be afraid to leave certain achievements until the interview. You need to leave a certain amount of wow factor for when you meet.

Another core task of a CEO cover letter is to outline your approach to leadership. Your resume may be full of big wins, but how do you go about rallying your team to achieve those wins? Have a look back on your management feedback surveys. What are the common threads? It is important to be honest about your management preferences as the fit needs to work both ways. If their culture is not a fit for your personality it is best to move on.

Some CEOs will have a personal website with details of speaking engagements, non-exec roles and other business activity, so feel free to share a link from the text of the cover letter. Your wider online presence will be explored, so it makes sense to create a hub for this exploration in your cover letter. Here is an cover letter sample for the middle part:

Adaptable cover letter body example

Half of our international business was based around conference and exhibition work, so I have experience in sales and marketing as well as growing a team of top-quality freelance translators (many of whom would be open to working with me again.) The CEO of a small business needs to get involved in operational and commercial decisions as well as the financial governance. 

My track record of attracting external investment is excellent as my early adoption of technology has consistently ensured that we were one of the most profitable players in the sector. I am keen to steer HelioTrans through many of the same waters.

In terms of some numbers, we enjoyed an average of 25 percent LFL sales growth and doubled our profits over the last three years at the company. My experience in exiting the firm will be beneficial should HelioTrans look at this option along the line. The challenge of improving an existing business is attractive – I am looking for a challenge in my next role.

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How to close a CEO cover letter (conclusion and sign-off)

The closing argument of the CEO cover letter should cover what your company will look like with you at the helm. Give the board of directors one last compelling reason to look forward to the interview and don’t not shy away from saying that you are looking forward to meeting. A CEO recruitment process is a two-way decision, and they will expect you to be curious about the nuances of what awaits.

Here is a CEO cover letter sample conclusion:

Adaptable cover letter conclusion and sign-off example

The opportunity was introduced to me via your VC partner Heather Gannet who felt that I might be a good fit for the role. I also seem to remember meeting you at a conference in Venice last year? I would look forward to the chance to meet and discuss in more detail.

Sincerely,

Wilma Peardew

Copied!

Basic mistakes in a CEO cover letter (and how to avoid them)

CEOs have more to think about during their job search than worrying about mistakes in their cover letters. As each letter will be tailored towards the role in question, mistakes can easily creep in. When you are in a tight race for the role, everything matters.

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes: CEOs don’t make spelling and grammar errors, surely. Well, normally they wouldn’t, but amidst the stress of a job search strange things happen. Just use Grammarly and get a friend to check that it sounds like you.
  • Don’t tell the whole story: CEOs need to realize that the cover letter can only give a snapshot of their achievements. There is a compulsion to share the juicy details, but you must keep things superficial. Hint that there is much more detail to come.
  • Too long: I know that this has already been mentioned, but it cannot be emphasized enough. No cover letter should be longer than one page. Distill your personality into the most powerful 300-400 words possible and leave the rest for the interview.
  • Poor formatting: A strong visual presentation instantly makes a good first impression. A professionally-designed cover letter template can help.

Key takeaways

  1. Tell only the most tantalizing parts of your CEO career story.
  2. Offer brief context and quantify accomplishments where possible.
  3. Remember to include some personality – what are you like as a leader?
  4. Be excited about the future of what you can contribute with this specific company.

Some other managerial cover letter samples:

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