A well-crafted cover letter may help you stand out from dozens of other candidates and inspire a hiring manager to invite you to an interview. For this reason, it’s essential to know how to start a cover letter effectively.
Coming up with an impactful opening can be a real challenge, particularly when writer’s block kicks in. You might have an idea that you want to convey but don’t know how to put it into words.
That’s why we’ve compiled this in-depth guide to end your struggle and help you create an attention-grabbing cover letter like a true professional. Keep reading to learn how!
The cover letter opening should include three key elements: a header, a greeting to the hiring manager, and an introductory paragraph.
A header should list your and the recipient’s contact information, location, and the date of the application.
A greeting should be as personalized as possible, so ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is not a good choice. If you don’t know how to address a cover letter without a name, opt for ‘Dear Hiring Manager.’
The introductory paragraph of your cover letter is what will make or break it—it will either compel a hiring manager to continue reading or discard it.
Cover Letter Opening: Key Elements
Your cover letter is an unparalleled opportunity to shine a light on your personality, professional background, accomplishments, and skills and to show your zeal and motivation for the role. If done efficiently, it can leave a strong impression on a hiring manager so that they have no choice but to schedule an interview with you.
Thus, it’s essential that you impress the hiring professional right from the beginning. There is no better way to do this than by 1) following the cover letter format and 2) creating an exquisite introductory paragraph.
A nicely structured cover letter opening should include the following three elements:
Cover Letter Opening Key Elements
Header with contact information. Here, you should list your and the recipient’s contact information. Make sure that you don’t omit the necessary and include unnecessary, even unwanted, information, such as links to private social media profiles.
The greeting to a hiring professional. In this section, you address the recruiter or hiring manager. This also gives you a chance to showcase your research skills.
Opening paragraph. This is the decisive part that indicates the power of dynamic cover letter openings. The first few introductory sentences may either grab a recruiter’s attention and compel them to stay on your cover letter to its very end or make them think it’s not worth their time.
What to Include in the Contact Information Section
The header with the contact information is the very first part of your cover letter. While there is not much room for creativity—you’re literally listing contact information—you should know what to list and what not to list. This part should include the following:
Mandatory Contact Information
Your full name and professional title
Email address and phone number
Optionally, you can add your website and business social media profiles—LinkedIn, GitHub (for software/app developers), Medium (for writers), or Behance (for graphic designers) are always nice to have.
However, avoid listing your Facebook or Instagram profiles, as well as Twitter, unless they are relevant to your profession. After all, would you really like a recruiter to see you partying or sunbathing in your swimsuit?
Next, make sure that you include a professional-looking email, as recruiters won’t find firstname.lastname@example.org or any other frivolous email funny or impressive.
Don’t forget about the recruiter’s or hiring manager’s contact information. Once you’ve listed yours, add theirs in the following order:
Recruiter’s or Hiring Manager’s Contact Information
Full name and professional title
Here’s what a well-structured header with contact information should look like:
Cover Letter Header Example
Jonathan Ericsson Search Engine Optimization Specialist 4377 Fincham Road San Diego, CA email@example.com 619-989-3574 linkedin.com/in/j.ericsson San Diego, November 17, 2023 Thomas Johnson Hiring Manager ABS Digital Marketing Agency 3362 Pike Street San Diego, CA
How to Greet the Hiring Manager
Given that a cover letter should be as personalized as possible, the best way to greet a hiring manager or recruiter is by using their first or last name. This is perfectly fine if you are familiar with their name, but what if you’re not? What are you supposed to do in such a case?
Here, you have a chance to demonstrate your research skills. Check out the job advertisement first; the recipient’s name might have already been included. Alternatively, visit the company’s website or LinkedIn page and look up the hiring team. Your cover letter will most likely be reviewed by a hiring manager, so include their name if listed.
If you can’t discover who the hiring manager is and are now confused about how to start a cover letter without their name, address them using their title.
Don’t fall into the trap of starting your cover letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘To whom it may concern.’ These phrases should be avoided at all costs unless you want a hiring manager to throw away your letter upon seeing the same Regency Age ‘To whom it may concern’ greeting for the hundredth time.
Cover letters should be as customized as possible, and these expressions, although polite, are too formal and academic. Thus, always stick to a hiring professional’s name or title.
Here are two good examples of cover letter greetings:
Cover Letter Greeting Example #1
Dear Mr. Johnson,
Cover Letter Greeting Example #2
Dear Hiring Manager,
Dear Sir or Madam
How to Write a Dynamic Cover Letter Opening
If you’ve survived the greeting part and reached the cover letter opening, congratulations! You’re now faced with an even more challenging and momentous section.
For a hiring manager who’s dealing with hundreds of applications per day, the opening paragraph of a cover letter is the ‘should I stay or should I go’ moment. If it doesn’t grab their attention instantly, they won’t bother to read the rest of the letter.
To avoid this, we’ll show you how to start an attention-grabbing cover letter through the next examples:
#1. Good Cover Letter Opening Example
The cover letter opening is your elevator pitch—it should briefly inform a manager why you’d be a good fit for the role. At the same time, it should compel them to keep reading in order to find out more about your professional expertise and achievements.
If you have just graduated or you’re changing careers and have no experience relevant to the position, use the opening paragraph to express your enthusiasm and highlight your strongest qualifications for the position.
In case you have the relevant experience, point it out right at the beginning, together with your greatest achievements. Here’s what this section should look like:
Good Cover Letter Opening Example
Dear Mr. Johnson,
My name is Jonathan, and I’d like to help your company exceed its traffic as a Head of SEO. Five years of experience as an SEO Specialist at Optimum Online Agency helped me acquire substantial skills in search engine optimization. During my last year there, we increased traffic by 100%. I believe my strong skills and considerable record in SEO make me the perfect candidate for your position.
#2. Bad Cover Letter Opening Example
When writing a cover letter, make sure that its opening isn’t generic, unimaginative, or similar to the one that every other candidate will come up with. Such an opening will not light any sparks of interest and, therefore, not urge a hiring manager to continue reading your cover letter. Instead, they will just discard it and move on to the next one.
Thus, spend a bit more time on that first paragraph. Personalize it so that the person reading it understands why you would be a great candidate. Don’t just mention you’re a good fit because you have several years of experience; spice it up with some achievements.
This is what the opening paragraph should not look like:
Hi, I’m Jonathan, and I’m interested in the position of Head of SEO at your company. I have six years of experience as an SEO Specialist, so I think I will be a great fit for the role.
Expert Tips for Writing an Ideal Cover Letter Opening
To help you avoid dull, generic, and overused cover letter openings like the one above, we’ve compiled a list of expert tips with creative cover letter opening sentence examples.
#1. Show Your Zeal and Passion
Expressing your zeal and passion for the position will immediately increase your chances of being invited to the next stage of the hiring process.
It’s no secret that motivated and committed employees are more engaged and tend to stay longer at the company. Plus, such employees are more productive as well compared to their peers.
Hence, it’s no wonder why zeal and motivation are among the first things hiring professionals look for in a cover letter. Here’s how to convey it:
Show Your Zeal and Passion
I was thrilled to discover that ABC Company is currently seeking an event manager experienced in increasing brand visibility and fostering growth through impactful events. This opportunity perfectly resonates with me, particularly because I have actively participated in numerous speaking events organized by your company.
With my five years of experience in orchestrating successful corporate events, I am confident that my skills align seamlessly with the requirements of this position.
#2. Prove That You Have Researched the Company
Recruiters and hiring managers love customized cover letters that are tailored to the position you are applying for. Such letters show that you’re willing to put in extra effort and research not only the job ad but also the company.
Indeed, generic and one-size-fits-all cover letters are time-saving and much easier to craft. However, they won’t contribute much to your application; in fact, they will only help it be dismissed. Such cover letters show that you’re spraying and praying, i.e., randomly applying to dozens of vacancies.
To let them know this is not the case with you, prove that you did your homework and researched the company right in the opening paragraph.
Prove That You Have Researched the Company
I have always admired your organization's impactful work with vulnerable communities, reflecting my deep passion for social justice. The mechanisms you employ to empower those in need truly resonate with me.
Drawing on my background as a social worker, I am confident that my experience aligns well with your mission, and I am eager to contribute to the meaningful impact your team makes.
#3. Be Concise and Direct
There is no point in beating around the bush in your cover letter, so don’t be afraid to be direct. State clearly what position you’re applying for and why you think you’re a good candidate for it.
There is quite a practical reason for this. Recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds of applications for different positions daily. If you don’t highlight what you’re applying for right at the beginning of your cover letter, chances are that they won’t waste their time reading it.
Having opened your cover letter with a direct statement of what you’re applying for, highlight your professional experience and achievements that make you a good candidate for that position.
Be Concise and Direct
I am writing to formally apply for the position of Marketing Manager at ABC Company. With a track record of collaborating with six clients over the past seven years, I have successfully driven over $2,000,000 in sales.
My confidence in my marketing skills and demonstrated sales results leads me to believe that I am an ideal fit for the position. I am excited about the opportunity to bring my expertise to ABC Company and contribute to its continued success.
#4. Lead With an Impressive Achievement
Starting right off with an achievement you’re most proud of is one of the best ways to open your cover letter. It won’t only give you credibility, but it will also compel the hiring manager to continue reading to find out more about your experience and other accomplishments.
Yet, mentioning what you’ve achieved in the previous position may not be enough. Try to “quantify” it, i.e., add figures and percentages whenever possible. Plus, it goes without saying that your previous accomplishments should be relevant to the position you’re applying for, so demonstrate how and why.
Lead With an Impressive Achievement
In the past month, I doubled the Instagram followers of ABC Company and orchestrated two successful social media ad campaigns, resulting in over $25,000 in revenue. Eager to use my expertise in organically expanding social reach and delivering impressive ROI, I am excited to apply for the Social Media Manager position at ABC Company.
I am confident that my strategic approach and proven results align with the goals of your company.
#5. Start With a Belief Statement
Including a brief but impressive belief statement that echoes your professional values and ethics is another effective way to gain a hiring professional’s attention. Expectedly, the belief statement will be even more impressive if it coordinates with the company’s mission and objectives.
However, aligning with the company’s goals doesn’t mean that you should just copy/paste its mission in your opening paragraph. Instead, be original and support your beliefs with actions you’ve taken in your career, and elaborate on how the company can benefit from your beliefs.
Start With a Belief Statement
As a leader, I prioritize fostering innovation and creativity, recognizing their crucial role in enabling my team to excel and, therefore, boost the success of our customers. I am eager to bring this leadership philosophy to your company and help it thrive.
#6. Highlight a Mutual Connection
If a former or current employee referred you to the position you’re applying for, state it in the opening paragraph of your cover letter. It will grab the hiring professional’s attention and urge them to stay on your letter in order to find out why you were recommended for the job.
Besides, having a referral is not only one of the ways to get invited to an interview; it also gives your skills and qualifications more credibility.
Highlight a Mutual Connection
I am thrilled to discover this job opportunity through my former colleague, Alex Davidson. Having collaborated closely for many years, our most recent project involved a complex data analysis at ABC Company.
Upon recognizing my project management skills in the software development project, Alex highlighted my ability to achieve milestones, meet deadlines, and adhere to budgets. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute my expertise to the success of your team.
The key purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself and your professional background to a hiring manager. However, to convince them to read it, you need a strong cover letter opening. An ordinary and generic “I am writing to you to apply for the position of…” isn’t quite a good call, even though every other letter starts like this.
To help you end this “tradition,” we’ve provided you with tips on how to start a cover letter effectively. Now that you’ve mastered them, it’s time to perfect your letter and land your dream job!