Writing a good cover letter

Most board application process will likely involve you providing a board CV and a covering letter. Some cover letters are excellent while others need some work. The two most common sub optimal approaches are:

  1. providing an executive rather than a board CV; and
  2. writing a covering letter without reference to insights about the organisation or why the applicant is interested.

Your cover letter is an opportunity to distinguish yourself by showing that you have an understanding of what the board needs. Firstly check the skills and experience they are seeking to see if they make sense. A desire for a long list of unrelated skills appears from time to time, so you need to go beyond the selection criteria.

Step 1: Do your due diligence

Step 2: Build a matrix

In tabular form:

  • List the skills the position requires and, based on your research of the organisation and the board, those it really does NEED.
  • List current and emerging issues / challenges for the organisation.
  • List any relevant information from your conversation with contact person (and others)
  • Rate your technical and transferable skillset against what you have discovered

You now have the raw material for your cover letter.

Structure of a cover letter

The recommended approach is to:

  • State you interest for the board with reasons
  • Overview what you have to offer – include salient points from your matrix
  • Explain how your skills/ experiences/ networks will assist them with their current issues/ challenges

Sample cover letter: Company with a growth mandate

(Filename to include your name and the position)

Dear …,

Re: Application for position on XXX

I write to express interest in joining the Board of XXX. Your market positioning, risk-profile and growth plans are very attractive and present an opportunity to add value in the following areas:

  • Commercial & implementation experience
    I bring a practical, no-nonsense approach to business and risk management, planning for market growth and winning new business having advised many companies including XXX on XXX in your sector.
  • Industry partnerships
    Working alongside lawyers and financiers to provide the operational due diligence behind industry restructures, mergers, divestments and partnerships has given me enormous insight into the processes and risks behind the different business models you may be exploring as you look to the future.
  • Strategic skills
    My fellow board members and executive clients tell me that the thing I do best is to make a complex idea become clear and achievable. I would be interested to help navigate the complex decisions and communications involved in the journey your company in about to take. 

Further, I am very comfortable working with XX sized businesses, having worked extensively with private companies, state governments and the Australian arms of international enterprises.

I attached my CV for the position and look forward to your response.

Yours Sincerely