Hook, line, and sinker — that is the goal of a cover letter, right?
When writing your cover letter, you have one vital task to convey: Why the hiring manager should consider you for the position.
While your task in the application process is to thoroughly convince someone you’re the ideal candidate for the job position you’re applying to, there are some sure-fire ways to set yourself up for the best chance at least landing an interview.
For many, landing an interview starts with their cover letter, followed by their resume. Your cover letter has some particular items you want to touch on throughout, but the first sentence needs to grab the reader’s attention while simultaneously separating you from the rest of the pack.
Let’s take a look at how to start your cover letter with a bang.
How to start your cover letter [basics]
With any cover letter, you can use several approaches to drawing attention to yourself as an applicant.
Getting selected for an interview is the first step in landing any job, which is why you can use any of the approaches listed below:
1. Right to the point approach
The right to the point approach is simple; you state your intentions right out of the gate. “I am interested in the X position at Y company and excited for the opportunity to apply.”
While it might seem advantageous to add a ton of fluff, sometimes cutting right to the chase is the best route you can go. A hiring manager stated he wasn’t so much about the fluff in a cover letter in the pharmaceutical sales industry.
He stated that the “Best way to get my attention is to engage me about the products I represent.” Additionally, he elaborates that being human, curious, humble, and getting to the point is best, as most hiring personnel don’t have time for drawn-out rambles.
2. State your expertise/success approach
Stating your success or expertise is a great way to stand out amongst the crowd of other cover letters.
“After successfully leading the team to three straight championships, I seek opportunities to grow myself as an Athletic Director further and found the position…”
Like name-dropping (see #3 below), but instead humbly boasting your own personal accomplishments, letting an HR team know why you’re qualified for the position is a great way to communicate your capabilities.
3. Drop a name approach
This is still a world that is all about who you know! When applicable, drop a contact or referral source as your first sentence, and your chances of landing an interview will likely increase.
Something simple such as, “Maxine Jane recommended I apply for position XYZ after she realized my skills would be a perfect fit.”
Keep in mind; this only makes sense to use when it is applicable, so don’t use this cover letter opener if you don’t have a prior good standing relationship with the person you name drop!
4. Let them know you’re excited
Enthusiasm is a must in an interview, but conveying it within a cover letter or written document isn’t so easy. However, there are ways to appropriately express your excitement for a position by starting your cover letter with something along the lines of:
- With great pleasure…
- I am excited about the opportunity…
- Working in the XYZ industry has long been a goal of mine, and I am…
5. Personalize your cover letter
A good hiring manager can tell when they’re reading a cover letter that has been mass submitted vs. custom written for the specific position. While you don’t need to start from scratch each time, make sure you always rework your cover letter for the particular position you’re applying for.
For example, if a teacher is applying to be an administrator, they would want to convey in their cover letter (and resume) how they are a good fit as an administrator, not a teacher. Whether they share some of the administrative duties they had or experiences working with students’ parents, these details are vital.
Next, keep in mind that addressing your cover letter to a specific hiring manager is key. Knowing this exact information is not always readily available, but if you can find out ahead of time, use this to your advantage.
A custom cover letter tailored to a specific person is your best route to procuring an interview!
6. Other cover letter items to consider
According to Resume Genius, the perfect cover letter should include four components:
- A salutation that addresses the hiring manager by name
- Introduction that includes an attention-grabbing first sentence
- Body paragraphs, at least two.
- Closing paragraph with a call-to-action!
Obviously, catching the reader’s attention is key to having them read the rest of your cover letter and your resume. In the event you can’t completely nail it in the first sentence, be sure your intro coveys who you are!
Pete Siler, an Inside Sales and Hiring Manager at Leaseweb, had this to say about the first paragraph of your cover letter:
“The introductory paragraph or preface needs to include their personal mid-term goals as it relates to their career, 1-3 years or 3-5 years depending on the position.”
He elaborates that when making a personnel decision, the team looks for long-term thinkers who have goals, but that can also elaborate on how they plan to grow with the company.
It is with immense pleasure that I would like to officially let you know that your cover letter… is going to be killer now!
Simply follow the simple steps outlined above and do your best to create a cover letter opener that draws the reader’s attention!
A few final tips to consider include:
- Don’t overthink your first sentence or make it too cluttered.
- Address the hiring manager when applicable
- Do your research to see what works best for the position you’re applying to
- Communicate effectively throughout your letter, not just the opener