Your resume and cover letter are, perhaps, the two most important pieces of your job search puzzle. Sure, your experience, skills, networking abilities, and how you perform in the interview (if you land one) will all play huge parts, but those two important documents you submit with your application can, and often do, make all the difference.
The cover letter is particularly crucial, because it’s essentially the hiring manager’s first introduction to you as a candidate. In other words, it is the very first impression you’ll make on an employer—so you’ll want it to be a good one.
When writing the cover letter introduction (meaning: the first paragraph of your cover letter), know that getting it right is what can make or break your chances of landing a job. If the interviewer is immediately turned off or disinterested or unimpressed, they’ll likely toss your application into the “no” pile without further consideration. But if you manage to write a captivating first paragraph that really grabs their attention and quickly paints a positive picture of who you are, you’ll position yourself as a strong candidate who has a much better chance of landing an interview.
Need help learning how to write a cover letter (in particular, the opening paragraph)? Here are a few tips to consider when writing that first paragraph of your cover letter:
Prove you did your homework
If you can help it, never ever start your cover letter with a generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir.” Instead, personalize the letter. Do some digging to find out the name of the HR manager who will most likely be reviewing your application—or your would-be boss. If you can’t figure it out, a simple “Dear Hiring Manager” will work just fine. Personalizing the salutation shows the hiring manager that you care enough about this job to have done your homework. They may also feel more connected to you if they are addressed directly.
Introduce yourself with some enthusiasm
After you greet the hiring manager (by name, hopefully) you’ll want to briefly introduce yourself. But infuse some personality into it! Yes, you’ll want to be professional and not stand out for the wrong reasons—but you don’t want to bore the employer to death or have your cover letter look like everyone else’s.
So, instead of starting off with a dull “I’m Jane and I’m interested in the marketing role.” Try something more exciting, like, “I firmly believe I’m the passionate, hardworking candidate you’ve been looking for.”
Follow up the brief introduction with a few words on why you’re interested in the job, why you’re perfect for it, and the value you’d bring to the table. You can elaborate on those thoughts later in the cover letter—but at least touch on them in this first paragraph, with some enthusiasm and passion. Remember—the opening of your letter must be an eye-opener, and not a sleep aid!
Keep it short and to the point
We know it can be hard to cram all of the above into a few short sentences, but you’ll want to do your best to keep things clear and concise. Being long-winded will cause the reader to lose interest quickly, and if that happens, the rest of the cover letter will all be for nothing. So, keep things brief and light (but professional!) and don’t dwell on any one thought for too long. Remember: you can use the interview to elaborate on any points you make here!
Keep it clean
Okay, we mean typo-free! Have someone else read your cover letter for typos, grammatical errors, or clarity issues, or consider using a service like Grammarly. Get as much feedback as possible. Submitting a sloppy cover letter sends a message that you’d be a sloppy employee—and that’s not the message you want to send. This tip goes for the entire cover letter, and all application materials, for that matter—not just this first paragraph!
Here’s a sample of a strong first paragraph:
“Dear Mr. Henry Potter, My name is Jane Doe and I’m thrilled to be applying for the position of Properties Manager that was advertised in the September edition of the Bedford Falls Times. I’m confident I am the passionate and hardworking candidate you’ve been looking for, as my skills and interests—such as x, y, and z—perfectly align with what you’re looking for. I know I can make a significant contribution to your growing organization, and hope you’ll consider for me this incredible opportunity.”
The LiveCareer website has a cover letter builder you can use to create the ideal cover letter introduction, one that will really help you get noticed by employers. You can also use our cover letter examples to see how the first paragraph of your cover letter should look.
Example Cover Letter Opening Lines
Cover letter openers are often pretty generic, but they don’t have to be. "Most cover letters begin with something like, 'In response to your job advertisement, I'm forwarding my resume for your review and consideration,'” says Abby Locke, speaker, writer and president of Washington, DC-based Premier Writing Solutions. “Make a stronger first impression by writing something different -- something that will readily show the value you offer."
You can grab the reader's attention by highlighting accomplishments, your passion for contributing to the employer's mission and your strongest related skills. To get started, Locke suggests writing a list of the top three ways you would add value to an organization. "What core competencies would enable you to excel in the position you're targeting?" Locke asks. "How would the employer benefit from hiring you?"
If the first few lines of your letter are causing your readers' eyes to glaze over, it's time for a makeover. Review these examples for ideas and inspiration.
Your company is truly a leader in healthcare information -- you offer solutions that ultimately enhance the quality of healthcare delivery. I am excited by your mission and would be able to translate this excitement by providing top-notch administrative services to you and your team members.
Find administrative assistant jobs.
ABC Organization's community liaison position is an excellent fit for my qualifications, and I am very interested in speaking with you about the opening. Although my current role as a youth worker is tremendously rewarding, I would like to become more involved in preventing the vicious cycle of hunger, poverty and unfulfilled human potential on a broader, national level. Your opening presents that precise opportunity.
Find community liaison jobs.
Customer Service Representative
Profit-minded and customer-centered, I believe that the path to revenue-goal attainment begins with providing exemplary customer care. Toward that end, I have been successful in solving an assortment of service, billing and order-processing issues to build a loyal client following. My 10 years of customer service experience for diverse industry employers will enable me to provide outstanding service to your customers.
Find customer service representative jobs.
I read with great interest the article in Fortune announcing the upcoming launch of ABC Bank. Congratulations on this new venture and its already impressive $20 million in loans pre-charter! The possibility of contributing to the growth of your bank is exciting, and I would like to explore a potential employment match that I am confident will be a win-win proposition.
Find financial analyst jobs.
Health Program Management
Would you like to reduce medical costs, increase productivity and build a team of happy, healthy employees? If so, you may be interested in adding me to your management team. For my current employer, I have:
- Saved lives through medical screenings, risk-reduction programs and wellness education;
- Decreased medical costs by $180K annually; and
- Reduced employee absenteeism to an all-time low.
Find healthcare program manager jobs.
As an experienced technology manager and business owner, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to remain current with ever-evolving technology without breaking the budget. But whether you are trying to equip your workforce or stock your retail showroom with the latest in next-generation laptops, I promise you will find the solution (and the value) you are looking for by retaining my services as an IT consultant.
Find IT jobs.
Marketing New Graduate
DEF Company's marketing assistant opening is an excellent match to my qualifications. As a recent graduate of ABC University with a major in marketing, I offer solid academic credentials as well as industry experience gained from an internship at GHI Company. If given the chance, I know that my strong business and marketing foundation would benefit your department, customers and bottom line.
Find marketing jobs.
If you are seeking to augment your legal team with a results-proven, technically skilled and solidly credentialed paralegal, my enclosed resume will be of interest. Characterized by my current supervisor as a "shining star in the department" with an "exceptional knowledge and skill base," my expertise in corporate law will enable me to hit the ground running as a paralegal with your firm.
Find paralegal jobs.
Real Estate Agent
In my previous position, I sold dirt...for millions of dollars. But if you asked my real estate clients what they had purchased, they would describe their soon-to-be-built, luxury high-rise condominium homes. It's that kind of pre-sales success that I offer your firm, and I am very interested in joining your team.
Find real estate agent jobs.
If you are seeking to augment your business-development team with a top-producing sales professional, my enclosed resume will be of interest. In my strong interest in joining ABC Company, you will find a history of No. 1-ranked sales performance combined with a six-year track record of outperforming quotas by as much as 150%.
A few things not to do
Don't use your cover letter as a way to regurgitate the information that's on your resume. For example, don't say, "My name is Jane Doe, and I graduated from USA College in 2015 with a degree in marketing, and I'm looking for a job in a relevant field."
Don't forget to double-check that you took out the name of the previous company and position you applied to. That's a big no-no. Pay attention to detail—every single employer wants to see that you're on your game.
Don't sell yourself short. One way to turn off a hiring manager is by appearing less-than-enthusiastic about the job. "I know you've probably seen much more qualified candidates..." or "I hope I'm not taking up too much of your time..." rank among the weakest opening lines in cover-letter history. Get out in front by expressing your passion for the job and company, and just how awesome of a hire you would be.
Find sales representative jobs.
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