Cover letters are a funny thing nowadays. On the one hand, some recruiters say they no longer read them. On the other hand, when they are seen, cover letters are arguably more important than resumes because they are what convinces the reader to actually look at your resume, and you're unlikely to get an interview invite without that happening.
Cover letters can also play a big part in differentiating you from a candidate with similar skills and work experience -- if your cover letter is better than theirs, it could put you over the top. And if you submit one (a good one!) but the candidate with similar skills and work experience doesn't, you can rest assured it will put you over the top. Let's take a look at how to start a cover letter.
How Do You Start a Cover Letter for a Job Application?
First things first: You have to hook your reader right away with your cover letter introduction. In other words, you must grab the attention of your prospective employer right off the bat in each and every cover letter, and give them a reason to continue reading all materials in your application. Let's take a look at how to start a cover letter.
- Focus on the first two sentences. Most job-seeking experts will tell you that the first two sentences of your cover letter are the most crucial. Make them count.
- Think of the opening of your cover letter like an elevator pitch, or a brief statement about a product, service, or company that touts their value. In your cover letter, you're the product, and the opening statement is your pitch.
- Don't write a history book. The opening two sentences of your cover letter shouldn't contain your entire professional life story. A boring list of facts is not going to get the job done.
What to Include in the Opening of Your Cover Letter
In the first two sentences of your cover letter, you'll want to get across several things: your knowledge and experience in the field; how you can benefit the company; and your most impressive, relevant, recent accomplishment(s). Be succinct, and pack a punch. This is not the place to describe each day of the last 10 years of your work life, or every class you ever took in college that relates to the position. We're only talking about two sentences here!
Make sure your opening two sentences are pertinent and interesting—make sure they address the needs of the job, and that you're the one who has the skills and experience to meet those needs.
Think Like an Employer
Many cover letters fall short because they're written to the wrong audience. You're not writing a letter home to impress your parents with all the wonderful things you've done since leaving home, so a simple brag sheet won't cut it. If you were an employer, what would you look for in a prospective employee?
Editor's note: Think you'll need additional help with learning how to start a cover letter? LiveCareer's cover letter templates are a great option if you think you'll need help getting yours churned out. The templates provide solid baselines of text that are easy to customize, and the entire collection is organized by industry and job title.
Cover Letter Introduction Examples
To give you an idea of what makes a good cover letter introduction (as well as a bad cover letter introduction), take the following examples into consideration when learning how to start a cover letter.
I'm applying for the Accountant position because I want to find a place to use the skills I acquired in college as a Business Accounting major. I have a degree from 123 University, and after I graduated in 2012 I worked for ABC Corporation.
As a graduate from the Business Accounting department of 123 University, and with over two years of experience at top firms such as ABC Corporation, I feel that I am an excellent fit for the Accountant position. While at ABC I was able to improve the efficiency of the accounting procedures by 20%, was instrumental in the development of new software that helped improve payroll accuracy, and routinely advised Human Resources and the CEO on accounting matters.
My name is [your name]. I am interested in your open Marketing Manager position, and have attached my resume for your perusal. I have seven years of experience in the marketing industry and I'm sure that I will be a good fit at your company.
Currently at Acme LLC as a Marketing Manager for the past five years and looking for a new challenge at a great place to work, I saw your open digital marketing director position listed on LinkedIn and sincerely felt as if the role was made for me. In the past year alone, I've led a team running massive ad campaigns on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that have directly led to a 34% increase in sales.
What makes the good examples above good examples? They're dynamic, they pack a punch, and most importantly—they succinctly tie candidate skills and accomplishments to the job they're applying for. When you aim to do the same with your opening two sentences, you improve your chances of moving forward in the application process!
A good cover letter is crucial to securing the position you want. Be sure to follow best practices when schooling yourself on how to start a cover letter. Keep your audience in mind, and build a cover letter that will be sure to make an impression.
To help you land the job of your dreams, visit LiveCareer and use our Cover Letter Builder to create a letter that will impress your prospective employers and help you land the job. And if you need a helping hand with your resume as well, check out our Resume Builder.