When you apply for any job, the very first tool you will use to grab the attention of employers is your cover letter. (Yes, there are of course companies that are so big they don’t have time for cover letters. But plenty of hiring managers at small and mid-sized companies do read them, myself included.) A cover letter highlights the reasons you are the best person for the job and how you will benefit the company. It also demonstrates your ability to effectively communicate your objective. That’s why the opening lines of your cover letter are so important. You need to hook the employer so they want to continue reading and learn more about you.
There’s no one right way to open your cover letter, but there are a few techniques you can try to make your letter stand out. Here are five ways to write the opening lines of your next cover letter:
1. Job Title & Accomplishments. This is a very common and effective way to start out a cover letter. The idea is to get straight to the point and impress the employer with your background. Use your most impressive and most relevant accomplishment stories to explain your worth.
Example: As a social media coordinator for Company X, I manage many digital media outlets. By implementing new social media marketing tactics, in the past year, I have doubled our audience on Facebook and tripled our followers on Twitter.
2. Excitement Means Dedication. Another approach is to begin your letter by expressing your excitement for the job opportunity. If there’s a job or company you’re particularly enthusiastic about, it’s great to say so. When a potential employer sees you’re excited, this translates into how motivated and dedicated an employee you would be. This makes them want to find out if you’re as qualified as you are eager.
Example: I was excited to find an opening in human resources with Company Y because your work with y (be specific) has been important to me for a long time. I am the perfect candidate for this position because it combines my experience with human resources and y.
3. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords. When applying for a larger company where you know an applicant tracking system will be used, a smart idea is to make your opening lines keyword-heavy. The right keywords will make sure your cover letter gets read, and will immediately highlight many of your most relevant skills.
Example: Written and verbal communications are two of my strongest areas of expertise. Through my years of experience in public relations, I have perfected my skills in social media, media relations, community engagement, and leading a team. It is the combination of these skills that makes me the best candidate for your public relations manager.
4. Network Ties. If someone in your professional network is refers you to a position, company, or specific hiring manager, the best approach is to use this right away in your cover letter. Name-dropping your mutual contact will provide the employer with a point of reference to go from. They’ll be interested to see why your referrer thought you’d be a good fit for the job.
Example: My name is Jane Doe and recently I spoke to your communications coordinator John Smith, who informed me about the opening in your IT staff. He recommended I contact you about the job because of my strong interest in the field.
5. What’s in the News? Another unique option to impress employers is to demonstrate your knowledge of current events in your opening lines. Look for recent news about the company you’re applying for and tie it into the job opening. Explain why the news item makes you think you’d be best for the job.
Example: Recently, your company has been highlighted on The Huffington Post and Forbes because of your partnership with Charity Z. After reading those articles, I became inspired to seek employment opportunities with your company and was happy to see an opening for an administrative assistant. As someone with vast experience in that area, I would be the perfect candidate for the job.
With all of these options, it’s important to tailor your entire cover letter to your specific experience and each individual job description. A personalized cover letter is essential to prove your qualifications and will be more likely to result in an interview. Start making changes to your next cover letter.
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Your resume and cover letter are, perhaps, the two most important pieces of your job search puzzle. Sure, your experience, skills, networking abilities, and how you perform in the interview (if you land one) will all play huge parts, but those two important documents you submit with your application can, and often do, make all the difference.
The cover letter is particularly crucial, because it’s essentially the hiring manager’s first introduction to you as a candidate. In other words, it is the very first impression you’ll make on an employer—so you’ll want it to be a good one.
When writing the cover letter introduction (meaning: the first paragraph of your cover letter), know that getting it right is what can make or break your chances of landing a job. If the interviewer is immediately turned off or disinterested or unimpressed, they’ll likely toss your application into the “no” pile without further consideration. But if you manage to write a captivating first paragraph that really grabs their attention and quickly paints a positive picture of who you are, you’ll position yourself as a strong candidate who has a much better chance of landing an interview.
Need help learning how to write a cover letter (in particular, the opening paragraph)? Here are a few tips to consider when writing that first paragraph of your cover letter:
Prove you did your homework
If you can help it, never ever start your cover letter with a generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir.” Instead, personalize the letter. Do some digging to find out the name of the HR manager who will most likely be reviewing your application—or your would-be boss. If you can’t figure it out, a simple “Dear Hiring Manager” will work just fine. Personalizing the salutation shows the hiring manager that you care enough about this job to have done your homework. They may also feel more connected to you if they are addressed directly.
Introduce yourself with some enthusiasm
After you greet the hiring manager (by name, hopefully) you’ll want to briefly introduce yourself. But infuse some personality into it! Yes, you’ll want to be professional and not stand out for the wrong reasons—but you don’t want to bore the employer to death or have your cover letter look like everyone else’s.
So, instead of starting off with a dull “I’m Jane and I’m interested in the marketing role.” Try something more exciting, like, “I firmly believe I’m the passionate, hardworking candidate you’ve been looking for.”
Follow up the brief introduction with a few words on why you’re interested in the job, why you’re perfect for it, and the value you’d bring to the table. You can elaborate on those thoughts later in the cover letter—but at least touch on them in this first paragraph, with some enthusiasm and passion. Remember—the opening of your letter must be an eye-opener, and not a sleep aid!
Keep it short and to the point
We know it can be hard to cram all of the above into a few short sentences, but you’ll want to do your best to keep things clear and concise. Being long-winded will cause the reader to lose interest quickly, and if that happens, the rest of the cover letter will all be for nothing. So, keep things brief and light (but professional!) and don’t dwell on any one thought for too long. Remember: you can use the interview to elaborate on any points you make here!
Keep it clean
Okay, we mean typo-free! Have someone else read your cover letter for typos, grammatical errors, or clarity issues, or consider using a service like Grammarly. Get as much feedback as possible. Submitting a sloppy cover letter sends a message that you’d be a sloppy employee—and that’s not the message you want to send. This tip goes for the entire cover letter, and all application materials, for that matter—not just this first paragraph!
Here’s a sample of a strong first paragraph:
“Dear Mr. Henry Potter, My name is Jane Doe and I’m thrilled to be applying for the position of Properties Manager that was advertised in the September edition of the Bedford Falls Times. I’m confident I am the passionate and hardworking candidate you’ve been looking for, as my skills and interests—such as x, y, and z—perfectly align with what you’re looking for. I know I can make a significant contribution to your growing organization, and hope you’ll consider for me this incredible opportunity.”
The LiveCareer website has a cover letter builder you can use to create the ideal cover letter introduction, one that will really help you get noticed by employers. You can also use our cover letter examples to see how the first paragraph of your cover letter should look.