Grabbing Attention with Your Cover Letter's Opening Line

Learn to write openings that fire up the reader and move the reader along without wasting tons of time. Interviewers are overloaded — whole days are a blur for them, and they have no spare minutes to decipher what it is you can do for them.

Consider the harried interviewer pouring over an arcane or boring cover letter: "Why am I wading through this slush? I'm not. Let's sail this sucker right into the trash with the other gibberish."

If your cover letter starts off with tired blood, your reader will likely be too bored to keep on reading.

Two tips to open your letter

The best information to put into your opening line is a name: the name of the letter's recipient or of a mutual friend. Name dropping virtually guarantees that your letter will be read. To get attention, nothing beats the coattails of someone the letter's recipient likes or respects.

Even if the gatekeeping clerical staff doesn't know the names you drop from Adam's house cat, you'll increase your letter's chances of landing on the right desk.

The second-best information to put into the opening line is a clear statement of what you want, followed by the benefits you offer — qualifications you have that directly relate to the qualities the hiring company seeks.

Don't waste space in your opening lines by citing the source of a job opening notice — "I saw your ad in the KoKoMo Express last Sunday." Handle that in the "RE:" line in the upper, right-hand quadrant.

A sampling of sizzling sells

Having trouble launching your first letter? The following are some of the best opening lines — from real cover letters — and present them here to inspire you.

  • "During your visit to UCSB last fall, I had the pleasure of hearing you address the issue of FuelCO oil rigs off the coast of Santa Barbara."

  • "We acknowledged and discussed my diverse background when I assisted you through the Internet; I enclose my resume for your consideration. "     

  • "Since you will soon be working on photo sessions for the Spring catalog, I have enclosed my resume and portfolio to show just how ideal my background in photography and design is for your marketing strategies."

  • "Juliette Nagy mentioned your company has opened a division of sporting goods and suggested I contact you."

  • "Your speech was inspiring, Miss Rogers. Soon I will have completed my master's in physical therapy, just in time for your entry-level openings in the PT ward."

  • "Chaim Isenberg of the Grenwich and Co. accounting firm suggested I contact you regarding opportunities in your warehouse division in Champagne."

What makes these opening lines so great? Some mention names. Some connect to a common experience. Some reveal in-depth knowledge of the company involved. All show the letter writer as a person who cares enough to give time and attention to the presentation made in this self-marketing tool.

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