Hiring managers and recruiters are busier than ever, sometimes scanning through hundreds of applications a day. Unfortunately, that can mean that the resume and cover letter you spent hours working on gets analyzed in less than one minute.
So what’s the best way to start a cover letter to make it stand out to potential employers with only seconds to spare? The key is to keep the cover letter intro clear, concise, and attention-grabbing.
While these aren’t the only practical approaches, consider these four ways to start your cover letter that will help you hook, line, and sink a potential employer.
Discussing this tactic might seem like stating the obvious, but the traditional cover letter introduction has genuinely stood the test of time. The concept is to briefly explain right upfront why you’re writing the cover letter. The introductory paragraph could be as simple as stating what the open position is, where you saw the job posting, and why you are most interested in the role. The reader will likely appreciate the simplicity and the straightforward tone.
Example: “Having recently earned my bachelor’s degree in international relations, I am writing to express my interest in an associate position with your firm. I have a strong desire to make an impact an impact on global business and, as you will see in the enclosed resume, offer an impressive academic foundation with leadership experience in several industries and business environments.”
Here’s where you can start to take things up a notch: Use the intro paragraph of your cover letter to pique the reader’s interest. Grab their attention by opening with impressive information about your qualifications or your background. If executed properly, it can be a practical and powerful approach.
Example: “With a 15-year history of never missing a construction project deadline, I have proven skills and a track record of performance that can benefit your company as a Licensed Contractor.”
Let your referral do the work for you, and use this method whenever you can. If you have a contact at a prospective employer, don’t hesitate to leverage that relationship and mention it right at the beginning of your cover letter.
Example: “John Kinsey recommended I contact you directly about open positions in your landscaping business. With more than 12 years of experience in landscaping and grounds maintenance, I may have just the skills you are seeking in a qualified candidate. My resume is enclosed for your review, and I am requesting an interview.”
Recent studies have shown that applicants who someone refers are 4 times more likely to be hired, and 82% of employers prefer referrals above all other hiring sources. But, keep in mind that it’s best to clear it with your contact before using their name in your cover letter.
Why not jump right into what makes you the best fit for the job? Talking about your core qualifications is an integral part of every cover letter, so using the introduction paragraph to tell the reader who you are is an appropriate and effective approach. Try to paint a picture of your professional identity.
Example: “As a Registered Nurse for 15 years, I bring to Humana strong qualifications in all aspects of hands-on patient care, with a particular emphasis in pediatrics. My approach to health care is holistic, involving the patient, family, and teams of nursing and medical personnel.”
Whether you choose to include your primary qualifications in the introduction or not, be sure to include them somewhere in the body of the cover letter.
As you see, there is a lot that you can say in just a few short sentences and still catch the eye of potential employers. Try out these different cover letter introduction approaches, and see which one is the most successful for you. Then, check out more related resources and templates in our Cover Letter Writing Toolkit.