First Impressions Matter: How to Start a Cover Letter

woman holding a cover letter

Diving into job applications isn’t easy — it dares us to look closely at ourselves, our aspirations, our talents, and sometimes, our fears. Among the many things you have to do during this process is to write that all-important document: a cover letter. 

Your cover letter is a chance to create a first impression and to go beyond what your resumé says to tell your story, introduce yourself, and prove to employers why you’re the best fit for the role you’re seeking. In other words, it’s a way to bring your resume to life, to connect the dots, and to explain how your experiences and skills make you the right fit for the role. 

Of course, to create a solid cover letter, you have to know what to say at the beginning of it. In this article, I’ll go over some invaluable tips and detailed guidance on how to start a cover letter effectively, making a strong first impression on recruiters while ensuring your application stands out amongst the competition. Let’s set pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and start writing your ticket to your dream job.

The Importance of Writing a Good Start to a Cover Letter

First things first, let’s talk about why creating a good start to a cover letter even matters. 

For one thing, the cover letter sets the tone for the rest of your job application. Your letter isn’t just a formal document; it’s your introduction to a potential employer. It’s your avenue to show your enthusiasm for the role, highlight your key skills, and, most importantly, bring your resume to life. When a hiring manager reads the first sentences of your cover letter and gets hooked and thinks, “This person’s exactly what we’re looking for,” you’re on the right track.

Besides setting the tone for your application, a cover letter also serves as your pitch. It’s your chance to communicate who you are, what you bring to the table, and why you are a good fit for the role you’re applying for. 

In a competitive job market, merely qualifying for the position isn’t always enough. A strong, enticing beginning to your cover letter is your way to stand out from the crowd and get the hiring manager to stop, pay attention, and, most importantly, remember you.

This is why it’s so important to invest time and energy into crafting a compelling cover letter. It might make the difference between an interview invitation and ending up in the ‘no’ pile. 

What You Should Include in the Start of a Cover Letter

When you sit down to start writing a cover letter, there are a couple of key pieces of information to include in the beginning. These include: 

  1. An introduction
  2. Insights as to why you want the job
  3. Sincere interest

Let’s take a closer look at each of these and how you could write them.

Introduce Yourself

Remember to include your name and the job title you’re applying for. This may seem elementary, but it’s crucial for the hiring manager to immediately know who you are and what position you’re interested in. 

Example: “My name is [Your Name], and I am excited to apply for the [Job Title] position at [Company Name].”

Provide Insight into Why You’re Suitable for the Role

To do this effectively, you should align your key skills with the job description. Make sure to highlight what skills or experiences you have and to tie them back to the role you’re applying for.

Example: “With my extensive experience in [Your Field/Role], especially my expertise in [Specific Skill or Accomplishment], I believe I can bring valuable contributions to [Company Name] in the [Job Title] position.”

Express Sincere Interest in the Role and Company

Expressing sincere interest in the role and the company could give you a competitive edge. But remember, it’s not about why the job or company is a good fit for you; it’s about why you are a good fit for them. A strong interest in their mission, products, services, or culture can make your cover letter more compelling. 

Example: “Having been a longtime admirer of [Company Name]’s dedication to [Company’s Mission or Value], I’m thrilled to bring my skills and enthusiasm to contribute positively to your team.”

How to Address a Cover Letter

One important aspect of writing a cover letter is addressing it properly. You might ask why it matters, but it does. It goes to show a level of professionalism and attentiveness and also gives an impression that you took the time to research and personalize your cover letter instead of just sending a generic one.

Now, the best way to go about this is to address the hiring manager or recruiter by name. But, sometimes, you might not be able to find that information. Let’s go over how to handle each of these scenarios.

Address the Hiring Manager or Recruiter

To address a cover letter properly, your first step should be to find the name of the hiring manager or the recruiter. This information is sometimes included in the job listing, but if it isn’t, don’t worry. You still have other options to find this information:

  • Look at the company’s website: Many companies introduce their team members on their websites. You might find the information you need there.
  • Use LinkedIn: LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for job seekers. You can search for the company and find the list of employees. Filter them by their role, and you could find the hiring manager.
  • Call the company: As a last resort, you could call the company directly and ask for the name of the hiring officer.

Addressing a Cover Letter Without a Name

Occasionally, you’ll find yourself in a situation where a job listing does not provide the name of the hiring manager. Don’t let this discourage you! There are still professional ways to start your cover letter that will keep you in the running for consideration:

  • Use a general salutation: Perhaps the most common approach is to use a general salutation that isn’t specifically addressed to a named individual. The idea here is to keep it professional and gender-neutral. 
  • Use a position title: Another smart tactic is to address your cover letter to the position’s title. This helps show your focus on the particular job, and while it’s not personalized, it associates your cover letter directly with the role. 
  • Address the company: If the company has a close-knit team culture, addressing the cover letter to the entire team can show that you’re familiar with their work environment. This approach can work particularly well for smaller startups. 

It’s crucial to remember that even if you don’t directly address a specific person, your cover letter still needs to show that it’s tailor-made for the company and the role. And remember, every detail counts when it comes to making a lasting first impression.

Tips on How to Start a Cover Letter

When kickstarting your job application with a cover letter, a solid start is like a great first impression — it sets the tone and encourages your recruiter to keep reading. Remember, the first paragraph should ideally convey unique value, passion, purpose, and promise. 

To make your job easier, here are a couple of tips as you get started.

#1. Know the Company Inside Out

Before you start writing your cover letter, do proper research on the company. Understand its products, services, culture, and core values. This knowledge will help you tailor the cover letter to their needs and show your high level of interest in the company. 

For example, suppose you’re applying for a job at a non-profit organization. In that case, you might say, “I’ve always admired XYZ organization’s commitment to environmental conservation and am excited about the chance to contribute to your efforts.”

#2. Show Your Passion

Passion is contagious, and showcasing your excitement about the role or industry could help your cover letter become memorable. Your opening line could be something like this, “As a lifelong fan of the publishing industry, the opportunity to work as a copy editor with ABC Publishing has always been a dream of mine.”

#3. Be Direct

It’s crucial that the hiring manager understands which job you’re applying for as fast as possible. State it straightforwardly early in your letter. There’s no need for flowery prose here. A simple “I’m extremely interested in the Marketing Coordinator position at DEF Corporation” will do.

#4. Build a Connection

If you have any personal connection with the company — maybe you love their products, or you’ve always admired their business model — that connection should come early on in your letter. Something like, “Ever since I first sampled GHI pasta sauces, I’ve been captivated by your commitment to quality and innovative flavor combinations,” would work well.

#5. Be Concise and Clear

Your cover letter shouldn’t reflect your life history. The goal should always be to present just enough information to get the hiring manager interested in you. Trim the fluff and get to the point quickly. 

For example, “With over six years’ experience in graphic design and a proven track record in project management, I am confident in my ability to contribute effectively to your design team.”

#6. Mention the Mission or Values

The very purpose of a cover letter is to demonstrate that you are a great fit for the role and the organization. So, when beginning your cover letter, consider mentioning the company’s mission or core values. Show a genuine interest and how your values align with theirs.

An example could be,”As an environmental science graduate with a sharp focus on sustainable practices, I was deeply inspired by Green Tech’s commitment to reducing plastic waste. This inspires me to leverage my skills and passion to contribute to your mission.”

#7. Mention Referrals

If you’ve been referred to the job by someone who already works at the company or is well-known in the industry, you can include that in the opening paragraph of your cover letter. This gives the hiring manager a point of reference and can elevate your application.

For instance, you could say, “Jane Doe, a programmer in your organization, encouraged me to apply for the software engineer position. In my current role as a developer at XYZ Software Solutions, I have continually improved…”

Examples of How to Start a Cover Letter

When it comes to creating a cover letter, there are a couple of different methods you can apply. Each of these, however, serves the same goal of capturing the reader’s attention.

Let’s look into some different scenarios to give you an idea of various ways to kick off your cover letter effectively, aside from the classic “Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name].” 

Showcase Originality

If you’re applying for a creative role or a position where demonstrating your unique voice is important, don’t be afraid to reflect your originality right from the start. 

An example could be: 

“As someone who breathes creativity and thrives on innovative ideas, it seems like destiny that I stumbled upon the Advertising Art Director’s position at [Company’s Name]. I believe my love for crafting compelling narratives aligns perfectly with the company’s need for a persuasive storyteller.”

Personal Story

Sometime, the job description resonates deeply with your personal values and experiences. In this case, you might want to start with a personal story or anecdote that establishes your connection to the role. 

For example, you could say: 

“When I read about the Community Outreach Coordinator position at [Company’s Name], I immediately thought back to my time volunteering at the local food bank during university. It was then that I discovered a passion for making a difference in people’s lives and saw how an organization like yours can make a significant impact.”

Incorporate an Invitation, Question, or Hook

Another tactic is to incorporate an invitation, question, or hook to engage the hiring manager. 

For instance, you might say:

“Imagine having a social media strategist so tuned in to the current trends that your company becomes a trendsetter, not a follower. That is precisely what I can bring to the role at [Company’s Name].” 

Adding a Quote

Adding a quote that defines your work ethic or professional belief is another way to start a cover letter. 

An example you could use is: 

“Steve Jobs once said, ‘Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.’ And as an expert in leading innovative IT teams to success, I am excited about the IT Project Manager role at [Company’s Name].”

Craft the Perfect Cover Letter

Starting your cover letter on the right note is an essential part of any job application. It seems simple, but too often, this essential first impression is not given the attention it deserves. But remember, you hold the power to make your first impression a positive one. 

Getting started using a polite greeting, a strong, personalized belief statement, and a captivating hook are all keys to creating a cover letter that helps you land that next job. 

Still need actionable tips and advice for navigating your job search? Check out our other posts with tricks to help you start a new career or succeed in the one you already have.

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