Do I need a cover letter? Is it important? What if the job offer doesn’t require a cover letter? Read this guide to find out all you need to know.
You’ve got your resume locked down, and you’re ready to turn in your job application. But that damn cover letter... You’ve been staring at your blank screen for what must be weeks now.
How to start a cover letter?
In this guide, we’ll show you how to start a cover letter perfectly and captivate the hiring manager enough to want to immediately call you in for an interview.
We’ll craft a professional cover letter introduction, and we’ll sort out all the header details while we’re at it.
Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your resume. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.
Sample Cover Letter for a Resume—See more cover letter templates and create your cover letter here.
A Universal Method for Starting a Cover Letter
Below in this article, you'll plenty of examples of cover letter opening paragraphs, but let's start with the basics.
To start a cover letter well, follow these steps:
- Address the cover letter directly to the hiring manager.
- Personalize your introduction to the company and the job position.
- Introduce yourself and identify the job for which you're applying.
- Mention your relevant experience that makes you a good candidate.
- Show them you’re enthusiastic and excited about the chance to work with them.
- Be sincere and direct.
- Don’t waste their time with irrelevant sentences.
Here’s a simple-but-powerful cover letter template to use as an example:
Dear [First Name]:
I was excited to come across the [Job Title] position over at [Company Name]. As a [Current Job Title] with [# of Years] years of experience, I have become quite talented in [Relevant Skills & Job-Related Abilities]. I’m also proud to count [Quantifiable Accomplishment or a Particular Win] among my various professional achievements. I would love the opportunity to bring these skills and the same quality of service to [Company Name] as the next [Job Title].
Feel free to copy and paste this one, fill in the placeholders with your information, and use it as your cover letter introduction!
What if you can't indentify the hiring manger's name? Do some digging! Check the company’s website or LinkedIn. If those don’t work, you could even call up the receptionist.
All failed? Here's how to start a cover letter with no name:
If you can’t find the name of the person to whom you’ll address the cover letter, don’t worry; all is not lost.
In that case, try one of these:
- Dear Hiring Manager:
- Dear Marketing Department Lead:
- Dear ABC Company Team:
Be as specific as possible. You may not know their name, but try to figure out the job title of the person who will handle your employment process. This way, you’ll still show you put in the work.
Alright, you've learned the basics. Need some more inspiration? We've crafted some sample cover letter openings you can tweak and make yours.
The Most Effective Strategies to Start a Cover Letter
Looking for the single best way to start a cover letter?
It doesn’t exist.
Each cover letter intro should be tailored to that particular job, company, hiring manager, and situation.
Here are the best and most effective examples:
1. Start with an accomplishment
Currently a web developer with more than 3 years of experience in front end development, I recently earned a W3C FEWDC certification. I’m skilled in HTML, JS, CSS, JS libraries, and Agile methodology. I also actualized a new responsive site design which helped to increase returning visitors by 25%. I believe I make a strong candidate for the senior front end developer position, and I eagerly submit my job application.
Starting a cover letter with a brief humblebrag about your past wins is super effective with hiring managers for performance-centric positions. Always use numbers to quantify achievements—it’s way more effective to prove your skills rather than just say you have them.
2. Inform the company what you can offer them
Having just come across your job posting for a senior financial analyst, I believe I have the ideal mix of skills and past experience to be a top candidate. Having worked as a financial analyst with Poole & Sons for over 4 years, my work there has enabled them to cut error rates by 30% while improving efficiency by 15%. If hired as the senior financial analyst at Standard Financial, I’m certain I would be able to bring the same level of commitment and results along with me.
Employers are on a mission—to find a candidate who offers their company the best bang for their buck. By letting them know what you bring to the table straight away, you’ll have a compelling cover letter introduction.
3. Show you love the company
The Boston Consulting Group's emphasis on employee development is why I'm so excited about this position. My 98% client satisfaction rate at Deloitte owes a lot to my commitment to constant skills improvement. I'm excited to see where I could take your client KPIs within such a well-constructed system.
Customizing a cover letter to match the job requirements is crucial to its success. What better way to tailor your cover letter intro to the company than by showing your love for it or your recognition of their objectives?
4. Name-drop by saying you know someone relevant
Did someone internal refer you to the job? Let them know with this method:
As a web designer for the past decade, I've collaborated with many people on various projects, large and small. Recently, I had the opportunity to work with James Ellegaard. After working together for several weeks, he recommended that I apply to join the Product Design team at Osiris Visuals. With my 100% client satisfaction ratings, I believe I am the right candidate to hire as the next graphic designer.
Internal referrals give you a huge advantage over other candidates. The hiring manager was just notified of a colleague’s confidence in your abilities, so they’ll definitely pay closer attention to your job application.
5. Exude enthusiasm, excitement, and passion
After sending off about 10 applications for area jobs in marketing, I came across your job post in search of a social media specialist. I’ve always admired Jensen’s brand of socially-conscious advertisements, and I can’t believe that there’s an opportunity for me to be a part of it! As a marketer with 3+ years of experience posting conversion-optimized Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram posts, I just know I’d be a perfect fit.
Showing passion is always in fashion in cover letter introductions. They are looking for a human, after all, not the robots who’ll replace us a decade from now.
6. Refer to their current events
Yesterday, I stumbled across the news that Jedno Corporation has set a strict goal to reduce their carbon footprint to zero by 2025. I applaud your company’s goal, and one thing led to another and I found a perfect specialist position waiting to be filled on your careers page. I would love to be a part of Jedno’s historic reduction in dependence on fossil fuels.
Know something specific about the company that recently happened? Mentioning it shows you’re well informed and interested in the company.
7. Display some creativity & humor
It won't always work, so be careful! But for less formal job applications, a little joke goes a long way (unless, of course, it falls flat—you've been warned).
You posted a job ad for a line cook for the Red Sparrow Restaurant’s kitchen staff. I would love to apply for the position, as I can make a reduction like no one’s business, do crazy utensil-flipping tricks like those chefs at Benihana, and cook a steak people fight over. Also, if you hire me, I’m a size small, so it could save you money when you order chef jackets (compared to hiring some larger candidates).
Disclaimer: I can't stress it enough—use at your own risk. Creative sentences or hilarious one-liners can make great cover letter openers. But they can also backfire.
8. Be direct
Sometimes beating around the bush turns an employer off. If you think that’s the case on this particular job application, you can just state that you’re applying for the job in your cover letter beginning.
I’d like to officially submit my application for the manager position at Smith’s Wholesale Club. With 5+ years of experience as a supervisor at Costco, I’ve developed a knack for effective, empathetic leadership and easily discernible results. I know that my supervisory experience and sales floor skills make me a perfect prospect to be one of Smith’s management staff.
9. Craft a powerful belief statement
As a web developer, I believe every person should be able to access the internet on any device, unrestricted, and in an efficient manner. I admire Johnson & Gilchrist’s commitment to bringing affordable electronics and unfettered network connectivity to the less fortunate. I would love to be a part of your praiseworthy efforts and submit to you my official application for the back end developer position.
A belief statement directly states a particular idea or value you care deeply about, often reflecting the company’s opinion, as well.
Addressing a Cover Letter & Formatting the Heading Area
Last but not least—
The address on a cover letter.
Since a cover letter is usually a formal document, follow business letter format when writing. This means your details go first, then the date of writing, and then the recipient’s name and address.
Left align everything, unless you choose a particular cover letter template designed otherwise.
Here’s a sample template for how to address a cover letter header:
[Your First & Last Names]
[Your Mailing Address]
[Date of Writing]
[Manager’s Job Title]
[Company’s Street Address]
[City, State and Zip Code]
Just copy and paste that above template to use in your cover letter heading area.
For more on the ins and outs of addressing cover letters, see this guide: How to Address a Cover Letter: Sample & Guide [20+ Examples]
And if you’re looking for general advice on how to write a cover letter, try this guide: How to Write a Cover Letter for a Resume (12+ Job-Winning Examples)
You should always aim to keep your cover letter brief but impactful, learn more here: Short Cover Letter Examples for a Speedy Job Application
Starting a cover letter isn’t so hard after all, right?
You don’t have to stick to the same, boring cover letter introduction you learned in high school, as there are plenty of ways to go about it.
Here is how to start a cover letter:
- Tailor it specifically to this one job offer, this one company, and this one hiring manager.
- There are many angles from which to attack your cover letter introduction: be creative, name-drop a colleague, talk up your achievements, etc.
- You don’t have to choose just one type of cover letter beginning; include a bit of several to create a cover letter opening statement that’s truly compelling.
- Find the hiring manager’s name whenever possible. You’ll use it in the cover letter salutation as well as in the cover letter address.
- Don’t stop here! Writing a great cover letter opening line and first paragraph is an awesome start, but finish strong in the rest of it if you want them to reply.
Hey, thanks for reading our guide on how to begin a cover letter! We hope it helped you out. If you have any questions on writing a salutation for cover letters or how to start a cover letter when you don’t have their name, leave a comment below. We’ll get back to you ASAP!