How to write a great cover letter opening, with examples
Before writing, do your research.
Starting off your cover letter armed with knowledge about the company and its people conveys your interest while allowing you to point to the specific reasons you want the job and show why you’re a good match. Take the time to learn about the company, its products, the hiring manager and the team. Scour the company website, LinkedIn profiles, online news articles and public relations stories.
Look for these key points:
- How long has the company been around?
- Have they made any big announcements recently?
- What are their recent accomplishments?
- Do they have a mission?
- What are their values?
- What are their short- and long-term goals?
- What’s the culture like and how do you fit?
Then match your qualifications:
- Pick out a specific need the company or team has and jot down how you can help them.
- Highlight noteworthy information, such as a new product, expansion, or award — such tidbits can be great ice breakers for a cover letter.
- Review the job description and make a list of skills, attributes and experiences you have that match the job.
- Jot down what you’re most passionate about and how you can align it to the company’s mission, values and goals.
- Write down a past accomplishment — something you can measure — that you’re proud of and that is relevant to the job or company.
Once you’ve got all these written out, then you’re ready to piece them together into a solid, attention-grabbing cover letter opening paragraph. Use the examples below as guides.
An attention-grabbing cover letter opening paragraph:
- Conveys excitement.
- Has a confident tone.
- Is customized for each job.
- Is customized for each job.
- Focuses on the company.
- Is concise and compelling.
- Conveys passion.
If you’re applying for your first full-time job
When you lack professional work experience, play up your passion for the industry or for activities relevant to the job right out of the gate. Personal anecdotes from childhood, lessons learned from internships, interests that grew from volunteer work, community activities, or school projects make excellent cover letter openers when tied to the job.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. I was five years old, standing on a stepstool next to my grandma in her kitchen. She was making dough for homemade pasta and I was her ‘assistant chef.’ I can still feel the dough between my fingers: squishy and gooey and soft. I was filled with wonder as I watched grandma turn it into delicious noodles before my eyes — it was magical! That was the day I knew I wanted to cook for a living.”
If you have steady employment and have been working for at least one year
If you’ve been working for a while and you have consistent job experience, then open your cover letter by highlighting your interest in the company. You might focus on your respect for its values and show how yours match, or show how you can help them achieve their current goals. Emphasize relevant skills or give an example of a measurable achievement. If the job requires a specific amount of experience and you meet those requirements, then mention it, too.
“As a lifelong environmental advocate and Wildlife Action Group supporter, I was excited to learn about your organization’s need for a social media manager to support its rapid growth. I’d love to apply my 8 years of experience in social media strategy and my successful track record of creating award-winning marketing campaigns in the nonprofit sector to help you achieve your goals.”
Help applicant tracking systems (ATS) find you. This software scans cover letters for keywords that match the job description closely. When sent with an ATS-optimized resume, a cover letter that contains high-ranking, relevant words from the job description can help raise your resume’s ranking and increase the chance a recruiter or hiring manager sees your application.
If you’re changing careers
The best way to start your cover letter if you are applying for a job with a new title or in a different industry is to tell the hiring manager who you are and what you can offer the new position. Point to the technical and soft skills you can apply to the new job, and highlight some of your transferable skills — the portable skills that apply to multiple industries. Add related volunteer experience, school or community projects to further emphasize your qualifications and then state your interest in the position.
“I’m an administrative assistant with four years of experience in merchandising. My goal is to pursue a career in marketing, so I’m excited to be applying for the open marketing coordinator position at Ambiance Boutique. My background has set me up for success in this role. As an administrative assistant, I have honed my organizational and time management skills, and my background in merchandising has given me the analytical acumen, interpersonal communication, and consumer awareness necessary to excel in retail marketing. I’m confident that I can be a valuable asset to your team.”
Think of your cover letter as a companion to your resume. Use it to expand on, rather than repeat, your work experience and skills, and take the time to explain your reasons for switching careers with confidence and passion.
If you’re applying for a managerial position
Whether or not you have management experience, hiring managers will want to learn more about you if you open your cover letter with an impressive, measurable accomplishment, especially if it demonstrates your managerial aptitude. If you have previous experience, state it.
“I’ve been a happy Willow and Ivy customer for more than 10 years, so I jumped at the chance to apply for your open warehouse manager role. Since my promotion from operations administrator to manager for House and Home’s 1 million square foot distribution center four years ago, I have received high accolades every year for efficiency, safety and superior customer service. Just last month, I achieved a 35% reduction in delivery delay time. I’d be thrilled to apply my dedication, drive and commitment to help Willow and Ivy exceed their warehouse operations goals.”
Explaining a job gap in your cover letter can be beneficial, but don’t bring it up in your opening paragraph. Work up to it before making brief mention of the gap in the body of your cover letter.
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