How to Start a Cover Letter: 11 Best Methods for 2020 (+ Examples)

how to start a cover letter

Having a plan for how to start a cover letter is one of the best ways to ensure the hiring manager continues to read your letter and moves onto reading your resume. All 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 cover letter and resume aren’t customized to the job or employer.

The opening paragraph to a cover letter doesn’t need to be an entire paragraph. In fact, the shorter it is, and 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

Understanding the company as your introduction

Writing a quick blurb on what you feel the company values and the job posting (or job advertisement/job ad) is asking for can be powerful. For example, if the company is challenging the finance industry and the role is in compliance. Stating that you comprehend the complex nature of compliance in finance is going to 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 who is 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 from your prospective employer can be another 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 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 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 who are applying for marketing positions (like a marketing manager or VP of Marketing) that can see marketing efforts from the outside 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, 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, but maybe you’d like to show the hiring manager that you understand exactly what type of position they are in 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.”

Saying something random, grabbing their attention

Being funny or having a statement that’s unique 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 will open space for your second paragraph being able 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 briefly. 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.

Related Hiring Resources

50 Ways to Start a Professional Email (By Scenario)
How to Start a Resume (4+ Examples)
author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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