If you are looking to apply for a board vacancy, it is likely that you will be asked to send a covering letter alongside your non-executive director (NED) CV as part of the application process. This post will help if you are struggling to write one or are looking for guidance on “what good looks like”. It will also be useful if you do not know where to start or want to benchmark your draft against best practice.
A covering letter is an essential component of your application
A good covering letter is important because it provides an opportunity to explain why you should be invited for interview. While your NED CV evidences your knowledge and expertise, a covering letter showcases your skills, experience and motivation, and also provides an opportunity to convey your personality.
Getting the covering letter right will dramatically increase your chances of being shortlisted and invited to interview, while a poor covering letter will likely eliminate you from the recruitment process.
Attributes of an excellent non-executive covering letter
Your covering letter should display the following attributes:
- Concise. A two-page document in an easily readable font.
- Relevant. Your covering letter should mirror the language used in the role specification.
- Tailored. Each individual application will require its own covering letter.
- Consistent. Your covering letter accompanies your NED CV. Both documents must be consistent and complement each other.
- Coherent. Use the same colour and font as your NED CV.
Key content required in a non-executive covering letter
The covering letter is sent to the hiring manager. They may be an HR professional, the chair of the board or an executive search firm. Either way, they will want to know that you:
- Understand the non-executive director role.
- Have the capacity to join a board of directors and discharge your duties.
- Are the right fit for the organisation from a value and skills perspective.
- Understand the organisation and some the challenges that it faces.
- Are motivated to join the organisation. For example, if it is a role at a charity, you will need to demonstrate a passion for the cause.
In a summary: research the organisation, spend the time necessary to write a high-impact board application covering letter and send it by the deadline.
For further information on non-executive director roles, see Practice note, How to become an effective non-executive director and Article, Non-executive directors: my journey to my first NED position.