How to Start a Cover Letter: 11 Effective Ways to Begin One
Having a plan for how to start a cover letter is one of the best ways of ensuring the hiring manager reads your letter. And moves on toward reading your resume. All considered an essential part of getting your foot in the door and receiving an interview. Your cover letter intro, or the first paragraph that you write in your cover letter, is the most essential. A bland cover letter introduction almost immediately communicates to the hiring manager that your application is weak. If your cover letter and resume aren’t customized to the job or employer, it's going to be bland.
The opening paragraph to a cover letter doesn’t need to be an entire paragraph. The shorter it is, and the more impactful it is, the more it will be an effective cover letter. It will consider the hiring manager’s time as well as what they need to see to assess the job opportunity.
How to Start a Cover Letter
There are two methods of greetings to use. One where you know the specific person you’re addressing in your letter. This should be reflected in your cover letter greeting and first/second paragraph. And when you don’t know the name of whom you’re addressing.
And when you don’t know the contact name of the reader (writing a cover letter without the name of the recipient). Your options, in order of importance, are:
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Human Resources Team (or other team you’re applying for)
- Dear Sir/Madam
- To Whom It May Concern
If you don’t want to use a cover letter salutation like this, you should seek out the hiring manager’s name. You can do this by looking at the job description, job posting (job advertisement). Or searching the company website, or company LinkedIn for the hiring manager's full name. LinkedIn can be a powerful resource for finding the manager or recruiter involved in placing this specific position. Using the manager’s name is a preferred method.
Tip: Perform an informational interview to determine the name of the manager who is hiring for the position. For job seekers, this is a type of interview process where you ask someone who works for career advice. Through this process, you can find out the professional's name who is hiring for the role.
With the Contact Person or Hiring Manager’s Name
When you have the manager’s name, you can be more specific about how you address your letter. You can write a more effective cover letter since you can speak to the person in your letter. For example, in your first paragraph or second paragraph, you can address them by their first name.
Your options when addressing a female professional:
- Dear Cindy Candor (full name use)
- Ms. Candor (indicates their marital status as unknown)
Available options when addressing a male professional:
- Dear John Sanderson (full name use)
- Mr. Sanderson (indicates their marital status as unknown)
Your options when addressing someone with a Ph.D.:
- Hello Dr. Smith (doctorate)
Opening options when addressing someone with a federal role:
- Dear Senator Buress
- President Obama
- Dear Senator Ryan Buress
Cover letter options when addressing someone with a military role:
- Hello Sgt. John Smith
- Dear Sgt. Smith
- General Smith
- Dear General John Smith
Letter opening options when addressing someone with an academic role:
- Dear Professor Jenkins
- Dear Professor Michael Jenkins
And letter opening options when addressing a cover letter to a committee:
- Dear Hiring Committee
Using the company LinkedIn to find the name of the hiring manager
When the job posters' first and last name isn't listed on the LinkedIn job description (or job advertisement), it makes it slightly more complicated. But also achievable to find their name. To determine the hiring manager, follow these steps:
- 1: Search for the company you're applying to in the LinkedIn search tool, for example "Arc Worldwide".
- 2: Go to the company page on LinkedIn.
- 3: Where it says numbers of employees, for example "1,370 employees" — click that.
- 4: Near the top of the page you'll see a link that says, "All filters" — click that.
- 5: Scroll to where it says "Title" towards the bottom left of the page, then add "Human Resources" to the title.
- 6: From here you'll see a list of HR directors who may receive your application. Pick the director or person you believe will see your cover letter to include as your greeting.
- 7: Your final greeting should look like this, "Dear John & HR Team"
Or another option is to look through the job description:
- 1: Search for the company you're applying to in the LinkedIn search tool, for example "Arc Worldwide".
- 2: Go to the company page on LinkedIn and on the left sidebar you'll see "Jobs", click that.
- 3: Search for the job you're applying for to see if the posting is available. See if the job posters first and last name is available.
How to Write the Opening Sentence of a Cover Letter
Understanding the company as your introduction
Writing a quick blurb on what you feel the company values. And what the job posting (or job advertisement/job ad) asks for can be powerful. For example, if the company is challenging the finance industry and the role complies. Stating that you comprehend the complex nature of compliance in finance will be a powerful cover letter opener. Scour the company website for cultural insights and information within the job opening to grab the reader’s attention.
Cover Letter Tip: Always address the hiring manager by name. Using the name of the specific person reading versus a generic “hiring manager” reference will make for an even more successful cover letter. Avoid saying “dear hiring manager” as your salutation at the start of your cover letter as well.
Having a mutual connection
Whether it’s connecting on LinkedIn or another social media tool, find mutual friends and connections. This can be a powerful reference point. For example, if the job post mentions networking skills as part of the requirements or qualifications. Then using your mutual contacts to bridge a gap between job applicant and recruiter can be helpful.
Using relevant work experience
Mentioning what you know the company values. And then referencing an experience or short story that supports what you believe the job description requires. Come at this from the perspective of the employer. It can be a perfect cover letter opener. It can support your experience as a candidate. And also support your understanding of what the company stands for or is challenging in the marketplace.
Cover Letter Tip: Turning a good cover letter into a great cover letter requires a lot of thought. Thought into what the job title is asking for in terms of performance. If you want to go the extra mile, as a job seeker, you can have an informational interview. Have an interview with someone who works at the company before submitting your job application. An informational interview is equivalent to receiving career advice from someone working within the business. This can be very helpful before you start writing your resume and cover letter.
Stating why you’re a good fit
Don’t beg for the job. But do your best to support why you should be considered for the job you’re applying for. Try to reference a specific skill that supports the job requirements. Or a short story that speaks volumes to why the specific job you’re looking for matches your personality. Be unique. Be bold. Introduce yourself.
Pitching your potential employer
Tell the reader that you’re about to tell them ideas that relate to the job you might have. These ideas support the outcomes and performance goals that your job title might dictate. This is especially great for those applying for marketing positions (like a marketing manager or VP of Marketing). This way they can see marketing efforts from an outsider's perspective and suggest new methods to the reader.
Using your passion
Explain to the hiring manager why your passion for the role goes beyond just meeting the requirements for the job. Speak about your personal projects, experiences, experiments, and more. For example, if you were in a marketing role, “I’ve been learning about SEO for the past 5 years. And recently I’ve had success with my own blog. It's now getting up to 20,000 visitors each month.”
Demonstrating that you understand the current goals of the business
Understanding the company culture can be beneficial. Still, maybe you’d like to show the hiring manager that you understand exactly what type of position they are in. Especially with their current products or services. For example, you could say, “I recently read about the latest software update that was released. And appreciate the level of security that has gone into the latest version. It's the most innovative tech I've used in years.”
Saying something random, grabbing their attention
Being funny or having a unique statement can certainly catch the attention of your hiring manager. Let’s say, for example, you said, “I almost drowned as a child.” This is definitely an eye-catcher. And can turn a generic cover letter into a more engaging one. But be sure you follow through with why that’s important. It can’t simply be a random fun fact about yourself to grab the reader’s attention.
Using a career accomplishment to attract them
You can start your cover letter with an accomplishment. Say something like, "It seems like this position values sales experience. In my tenure, I've been able to achieve consistent 32% revenue gains from my cumulative roles as a sales professional." This will entice the reader to keep going. And open space for your second paragraph to speak to what you might do when you receive the job.
Mentioning your 90-day plan
A 30-60-90-day plan at a company is what you expect to achieve within those timeframes. Mention to the recruiter or hiring manager what you plan to do or achieve within those spans. Be sure you summarize your intentions. Writing a long brief isn't going to be attractive to the reader. For example, "In my first 30 days, I hope to meet everyone on the team and have a deep collaborative connection with them."
Avoiding being generic
No matter what you do, avoid being generic. Saying something like, “I’m writing to apply for the position of Marketing Manager” is not a great introduction. And is something your reader is going to see over and over. Write something distinctive to who you are and what you can bring to the company or the job title.
How to Start a Cover Letter Examples
Below are examples of starting a cover letter with no experience.
Technical Project Manager
Cover letter opening examples with previous job experience.
Construction Project Manager
For more information on teacher cover letters, visit this resource.
Cover Letter Resources
- How Long Should a Cover Letter Be
- How to Start a Cover Letter
- Learn How to End a Cover Letter
- How to Address a Cover Letter
- Cover Letter Format
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
Job search resources
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