A strong resume typically gets all the credit for a successful job search. However, there is an unsung hero in landing a coveted role: a well-written cover letter.
The cover letter is a crucial — but often overlooked — part of the application process, and learning how to write a strong cover letter is a tool that should be in every job seeker's arsenal The first skill to master is how to write a first paragraph that will make a recruiter want to read more about your skills and credentials.
When writing the cover letter introduction — or first paragraph — approach it as you would approach any situation where you want to make a solid first impression. It should be clean, exciting, and relevant to the job at hand. Remember, if the interviewer is disinterested or finds the letter irrelevant to the role, they'll likely toss your application into the "no" pile without further consideration.
However, if you write a captivating first paragraph that grabs the hiring manager's attention, you'll position yourself as a strong candidate.
Need help learning how to write this section of your cover letter? Read on for some tips to consider.
4 tips on how to write the first paragraph of your cover letter
1. Greet the recipient
One key to a great cover letter is pretty simple: Do your best to address the correct person. "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir" is very generic and tells the reader that you haven't done your homework on finding the identity of the hiring manager. Show you've done your homework by personalizing the letter. Here's how:
- Do your research. Many job ads contain the name of the hiring manager so read it carefully. If there isn't a name attached, do some digging. Look on LinkedIn or Glassdoor to find out the name of the HR manager or find out the name of the person you would be reporting to if hired. Addressing the letter to either of these people is appropriate.
- A simple "Dear Hiring Manager" will work in a pinch if you can't figure out the exact name.
Personalizing the salutation shows the hiring manager that you care enough about this job to have done your homework. They may also feel more connected to you if they are addressed directly.
2. Introduce yourself with enthusiasm
After you greet the hiring manager (by name, hopefully), you'll want to introduce yourself briefly. Keep it professional but infuse some personality and enthusiasm into your introduction.
For example, instead of starting with a dull, "I'm Jane and I'm interested in the marketing role." Try something more exciting, like, "I was intrigued by the job ad, and I believe that my skills and experience make me the candidate you've been looking for."
Follow up the brief introduction with a few words on why you're interested in the job, why you're perfect for it, and the value you' d bring to the table. You can elaborate on those thoughts later in the cover letter — but touch on them in this first paragraph, with some enthusiasm and passion. Remember — the opening of your letter must compel the recruiter to read more.
3. Keep it short and to the point
We know it can be hard to cram all of the above into a few short sentences, but you'll want to do your best to keep things clear and concise. Being long-winded can cause the reader to lose interest. So, keep things brief and light (but professional!) and don't dwell on any one thought for too long. Remember: You can use the interview to elaborate on any points you make here!
4. Keep it clean
By clean, we mean typo-free. Nothing will cause a hiring manager to lose interest faster than a typo right at the top of a cover letter. To avoid this, have someone else read your cover letter for typos, grammatical errors, or clarity issues, or consider using a service like Grammarly. Get as much feedback as possible. Submitting a sloppy cover letter sends a message that you'd be a careless employee — and that's not the message you want to send. This tip goes for the entire cover letter, and all application materials, for that matter — not just this first paragraph!
Here's a sample of a solid first paragraph:
"Dear Mr. Henry Potter,
My name is Jane Johnson and I'm applying for the position of Properties Manager that was advertised on LinkedIn. I'm confident I am the passionate and hardworking candidate you've been looking for, as my skills, experience, and educational background perfectly align with what you've outlined in the job ad. I know I can make a significant contribution to your growing organization and hope you'll consider for me this incredible opportunity."
LiveCareer has a Cover Letter Builder you can use to create the ideal cover letter introduction, one that will really help you get noticed by employers. You can also use our cover letter examples to see how the first paragraph of your cover letter should look.