How to start a cover letter
How do you start a cover letter in a way that immediately grabs attention? Many hiring managers only spend a few seconds scanning your application, so the first paragraph of your cover letter is key if you want to maximize your chances of getting an interview.
To help you learn how to open a cover letter in a way that stands out from the rest and lands you an interview, we’ve assembled seven essential writing tips.
1. Express enthusiasm for the role
Employers love candidates who are enthusiastic about their work. That’s why one of the first things any hiring manager looks for in your cover letter is enthusiasm. Specifically, they want to see that your passions align with the responsibilities associated with the role.
Employees who are passionate about their work are likely to perform better, stay longer, and make a greater long-term contribution to the company.
To demonstrate your enthusiasm, use your cover letter’s opening paragraph. Explain what draws you to the position, and how it fits into your career goals.
My senior year of high school, I saved up for nearly a year to buy the first generation Oculus Rift headset — my parents thought I was nuts. But ever since, I’ve been obsessed with the potential of virtual reality technology and have been thrilled to see its presence grow in our changing media industry. That’s why I’m excited for the opportunity to put my passion for VR to work as an Engineer at NextGen VR Corp, and help build the future of virtual reality technology.
2. Show your excitement about the work being done by the company
If you’re genuinely excited about a company’s brand, their mission statement, or their products, highlight this excitement in your cover letter introduction.
Employers value candidates who are personally excited to contribute to a company’s goals because it’s a clear indicator that they’d be an immediate benefit to the team.
As a long-term admirer of the contributions to solar panel technology being made by the team at GreenWays Engineering, I’m excited to submit my application for the entry-level technician position. As a recent graduate from the University of Rochester with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering, I’m confident that my knowledge of PV systems, practical experience performing energy modeling assessments, and precise attention to detail will make me an asset to the team at GreenWays.
3. Impress employers with an accomplishment
The best cover letters demonstrate a candidate’s expertise. So if you have experience in your field, start your cover letter by noting a professional achievement that casts you as an expert in your industry.
Draw a connection between the contributions you made at your previous job, and how the skills you learned there will help you achieve similar results in your next role.
By being upfront about your relevant accomplishments, you reassure employers that you’re fully capable of performing the job.
I’m writing to you today to apply for the Senior Accountant role at Walker & Company I saw on Indeed.com. As an accountant with 6+ years of experience, I’ve honed my accounting skills and gained a variety of experience that I’m confident will help me contribute significantly to the team at Walker & Co. Last year while working for Smith Johnson & Sons, I balanced a $400,000 budget, while reducing costs by 20% for a client. Given the opportunity, I believe I can achieve similar results in the Senior Accountant role at Walker & Company, while further enhancing my expertise.
4. Mention a contact
If you were referred to the role by a former coworker, classmate, or friend, mention their name in the opening sentence for your cover letter.
Hiring managers are more likely to take your application seriously if you’ve been recommended by someone they already work with and respect. That’s why referencing a mutual contact is one of the most effective ways to distinguish yourself from other applicants, especially if you’re writing an entry-level cover letter.
In fact, studies suggest that over 85% of all jobs are filled through networking, making it the most effective way for anyone to get a job.
To see how to reference your contact effectively, here’s a real-life example:
I was excited to hear about the open position of social media manager at StarWon from an ex-colleague of mine, Jennifer Henderson. We were on the same social media team at Turbofun for two years, where we worked on eight projects together. I’ve heard great things about the work being done at StarWon, and I’m confident that my skills and experience would be an excellent asset to your team.
5. Use humor or creativity (if appropriate)
Hiring managers come across dozens of generic cover letters every day. Injecting humor into your cover letter opening is an effective way to add personality to your application as well as catch (and maintain) the hiring manager’s attention.
However, don’t make your cover letter intro too quirky. Depending on the type of position you’re applying for or the company you want to work at, a casual tone might come across as unprofessional.
Additionally, avoid making your cover letter opening longer than it needs to be. While creativity can help you grab attention, many hiring managers will find anything that exceeds standard cover letter length to be tedious.
So before adding humor to your cover letter, do some research about the company culture and decide whether a casual tone is actually appropriate.
As an online native who’s obsessed (yes, obsessed) with the GoGourmet app, I was thrilled to see your listing for the Social Media Manager position at GoGourmet Studios. Before I started watching GoGourmet’s content, I didn’t know the difference between a ham steak and a lamb shank. While I still may not be much of a chef, I would consider myself something of a social media sommelier. With over three years of professional experience as an online brand manager under my belt, I’m confident my adaptability and hands-on branding experience would make me the ideal candidate to help GoGourmet expand their online presence and user base.
6. Demonstrate what you can do for the company
Ultimately, employers want evidence that you’ll be able to contribute to their company. To catch their attention, use your cover letter opening lines to either highlight a problem you’re confident you can tackle for them, or any specific hard or soft skills you bring to the table.
I’m writing to apply for the Software Engineer role at Jasper Development. With over five years of experience as a backend engineer, I’m confident that my expertise would allow me to become an immediate contributor to the team at Jasper. Specifically, I understand that Jasper is looking to expand their services in cloud computing. At my previous job, I spearheaded a new cloud computing project that generated a 15% revenue increase. The Software Engineer role at Jasper would be an exciting opportunity for me to hone my skills in this area while helping your team build their cloud computing capacity.
7. Be direct
Hiring managers are busy people, and often don’t have time to read each cover letter thoroughly. To make sure your application isn’t overlooked, write a short cover letter and state the job you’re applying for clearly and concisely in the first paragraph of your cover letter, that way there’s no confusion about your intent.
I’m writing to apply for the Restaurant Manager position at La Fare Bistro. With more than eight years in the restaurant industry as a server, manager, and host, I’m confident that my expertise aligns closely with the responsibilities required of the Restaurant Manager position.
Craft a strong cover letter opening
Knowing how to begin a cover letter in a way that draws positive attention is the first step to figuring out how to write a cover letter that will impress any hiring manager.
To start your cover letter off strong, make sure that your introduction is:
- Creative (when appropriate)
- Focused on the company’s needs
Additionally, be sure to mention any mutual contacts if you have them. By making your cover letter opening hit the right tone, you can easily catch the attention of employers and improve your chances of getting an interview.