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How to Begin a Cover Letter

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Cover Letters

If you want an employer to actually read your cover letter, pay close attention to how you begin the letter. Effective ways to start a cover letter's opening statement uses words that immediately grab the attention of the reader and then hold it tightly throughout the complete text of the letter.

Getting attention in your opening line

Here are some effective ways to start your cover letter:

  • Mention a personal referral in your opening line. A personal referral works wonders. In this approach, you begin with the name of a mutual connection. Someone whom the letter’s recipient likes or respects. Name dropping virtually guarantees that your letter will be read. Additionally, you can score points by identifying yourself as a member of an affinity group, such as the alumni of a college or member of a civic organization.

  • Clearly state what you want, followed by the qualifying benefits you offer. Include qualifications that directly relate to the requirements the hiring company seeks. Or turn it around — lead with the skills and benefits you offer before saying what you want.

  • Create a narrative hook. In the broadest sense, a narrative hook is a literary technique in the opening of a story that “hooks” the reader’s attention to keep eyes scooting down the page. A cover letter hook often is a thematic statement, followed by a flashback to the history the reader needs to understand it.

Don’t waste valuable opening-line real estate by focusing on the source of a job post — I saw your ad in the KoKoMo Express last Sunday. Instead, handle sourcing head-on in the regarding (“RE:”) line at the top your letter.

Sample cover letter opening statements

So what do contemporary openers look like? Review the following opening statement examples that are sure to make a cover letter jump out of the pack right from the start:

  • I recently met with James Smith from your firm, and he strongly recommended that I send you my resume. Knowing the requirements of your open position for a financial analyst, he concludes that I am the ideal candidate.

  • 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. As a UCSB June graduate, I . . .

  • My computer skills developed from childhood, plus my well-honed interest in technology advances, and my recently completed education in computer science make me a strong candidate for a position as an entry-level software engineer at your highly regarded company.

  • I recently graduated with a 3.75 GPA from the University of California, where I was a research assistant to Dr. Joe Famous, engineering department chair.

  • I enjoyed our meeting at the Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club and, as you suggested, am sending you this additional information to review before we get together.

  • Chaim Isenberg of the Greenwich and Co. accounting firm suggested I contact you regarding opportunities in your warehouse division in Champagne. My background documents considerable success in the areas of loss prevention and asset recovery, which I understand are high on your list of requirements.

  • Are you in the market for a sales pro who has set sales records for four different companies and trained dozens of high-performance sales reps?

  • Preparing to respond to your ad in today’s Chicago Tribune, I did some research and discovered that we’re both Northwestern grads. Is this serendipity or what? I hope our mutual alma mater is a harbinger of good things to come and that we’ll be cheering on the same side in the workplace as well.

  • As a new USC graduate, I’ve been hoping to find the kind of position you’re staffing because I have exactly the background you’re asking for. Specifically, the following columns match item for item: (The company’s requirements are listed in the left column, and in the right, your matching qualifications.)

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