How to Start a Cover Letter: 11 Effective Ways to Begin a Cover Letter (+ Examples) [2020]

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 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 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

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 who you’re addressing.

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
  • Dear 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), searching the company website, or company LinkedIn for the full name of the hiring manager. 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 within the company for career advice. Through this process, you can find out the name of the professional 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 Who (full name use)
  • Dear Ms. Who (indicates their marital status as unknown)

Your options when addressing a male professional:

  • Dear John Sanderson (full name use)
  • Dear Mr. Sanderson (indicates their marital status as unknown)

Your options when addressing someone with a Ph.D:

  • Dear Dr. Smith (doctorate)

Your options when addressing someone with a federal role:

  • Dear Senator Buress
  • Dear President Obama
  • Dear Senator Ryan Buress

Your options when addressing someone with a military role:

  • Dear Sgt. John Smith
  • Dear Sgt. Smith
  • Dear General Smith
  • Dear General John Smith

Your options when addressing someone with an academic role:

  • Dear Professor Jenkins
  • Dear Professor Michael Jenkins

Your 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 and job advertisement, it makes it slightly more complicated but also achievable to find their name. In order to determine who the hiring manager is, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Search for the company you're applying to in the LinkedIn search tool, for example "Arc Worldwide".
  • Step 2: Go to the company page on LinkedIn.
  • Step 3: Where it says numbers of employees, for example "1,370 employees" — click that.
  • Step 4: Near the top of the page you'll see a link that says, "All filters" — click that.
  • Step 5: Scroll to where it says "Title" towards the bottom left of the page, then add "Human Resources" to the title.
  • Step 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.
  • Step 7: Your final greeting should look like this, "Dear John & HR Team—"

finding a hiring manager's name for a cover letter

Or another option is to look through the job description:

  • Step 1: Search for the company you're applying to in the LinkedIn search tool, for example "Arc Worldwide".
  • Step 2: Go to the company page on LinkedIn and on the left sidebar you'll see "Jobs", click that.
  • Step 3: Search for the job you're applying for to see if the posting is available there and if the job posters first and last name is listed.

find a hiring manger's name for a cover letter

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 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.

How to Start a Cover Letter Examples

Below are examples of starting a cover letter with no experience.

Registered Nurse

Dear Mrs. Colts —


I’m writing to express my interest in the Registered Nurse position that’s open at Northwest Medical. I’m appreciative of how Northwest Medical defines patient care. The ethics of each patient having unique needs and using our skills to address them. This is an environment that I’d love to be a part of.

Retail Position

Dear Beth —

I’m writing to express my interest in the retail associate position. I’ve had previous retail experience and can tell you that there are three keys to creating a successful retail store experience concerning this position. The first is the ability to empathize with our customers. This is the practice of displaying key listening skills and generating ideas that can help them. The second is thinking creatively and assisting customers with all types of problems that display high-quality customer service and authentic customer experience. Lastly, the ability to coordinate care across the retail store.

Technical Project Manager

Dear Beth —

I’m writing to apply for the position of Project Manager at Apple. I’ve been a project manager for around 6 years. Through my experience, I’ve been able to deliver more than 10 significant digital projects that have led to more than 30% or more in revenue growth or recurring growth.

Sales

Dear John —

I’m applying for the position of sales representative, and I’d like to introduce myself. Before I jump into my career, I understand that my resume will show limited sales experience. But I'd like to explain what I'll be able to bring to this position and how I might be able to assist with achieving the companies objectives this year.

Teacher

Dear Principal Jefferson:

While reviewing what your district requires in terms of an educator, I noticed that your faculty were more than equipped with the latest teaching technology, including smartboards. This really excites me because I know students are far more engaged with technology than ever before. I'm looking to begin my career as a primary educator. I've completed my bachelor's degree in May and have had previous experience as a teacher's assistant while completing my education.

Cover letter opening examples with previous job experience.

Construction Project Manager

Dear Beth —

I’m writing to apply for the position of Project Manager at Randy's Construction Company. I noticed the position was looking for a candidate who has a strong background working with structural engineers. I'm assuming the construction needs are corporate and commercial.

Graphic Design

Dear Mr. Johnson —

I am passionate about wanting to join Apple Inc. Ever since I was a young child, I have been using your computers. It is what got me into Graphic Design in the first place. Being able to use the interface and interact with a machine was impactful to me. And there's no more I would love to do than to be able to work for the company that inspired me so much.

General Internship

Dear Mr. Johnson —

Your recent software release that allows for better communication between devices is something that stood out to me. When I began looking more into your company culture, I noticed that you are always seeking to simplify complex challenges. And this is an environment I feel I strongly need to be around.

Engineering Internship

Dear Mr. Johnson —

I'm writing to apply for an open internship opportunity. First, I'd like to say that my GPA in school was a 3.8 average. And that I was able to graduate with honors. I've included a number of recommendation letters that my professors have authored to speak to my passions for this industry.

Sales

Dear John —

I’m applying for the position of sales representative, and I’d like to introduce myself. In my sales experience and sales career, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to increase average sales and recurring revenue by more than 23% at all my previous employers. While decreasing customer “churn” by 8% on average while increasing customer satisfaction by a measurable 18%.

Administrative Assistant

Dear John —

This role stuck out to me during my job search. I noticed that the role is looking for a professional who has extensive experience working with both administrative tasks and helping executive staff members with cultural development. I very much enjoy and value developing great internal culture and recognize how valuable it is to the outcomes of the company.

Teacher

Dear Principal Jefferson:

While reviewing what your district requires in terms of an educator, I noticed that your faculty were more than equipped with the latest teaching technology, including smartboards. This really excites me because I know students are far more engaged with technology than ever before. I started my career as a new teacher, gaining student teaching experience to later become a more seasoned educator.

ESL Teacher

Dear Principal Jefferson:

While reviewing what your district requires in terms of an educator, I noticed that your faculty was looking for an ESL teacher to assist with Spanish, German, and French. I'm familiar with these languages and fluent in more than English. I've completed my degree and am searching for a faulty that aligns with my values: providing care to Individualized Lesson Plan's (IEP's), respecting the student body through making education fun and exciting, and keeping parents informed on students' progress.

For more information on teacher cover letters, visit this resource.

Preschool Teacher

Dear John —

I’m writing this letter to express my interest in the preschool teacher position that’s available. Throughout my tenure as an educator, I’ve seen how much patience and discipline are required in assisting young children with their education. I’ve found around three to five methods of teaching that I like to use to both identify how children learn individually and then begin to apply lessons to their focus.

cover letter example

Cover Letter Resources

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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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