Cover letter writing tips for 2019—sure to turn any boring letter into something employers want to read.
Consider this before we get to how you can start a cover letter:
It's easy to start a cover letter.
Just stare at a blank computer screen until your forehead bleeds.
You've written "Dear," so many times you've nearly worn the letters off your keyboard.
Worse, you get the sinking feeling you'll bore the hiring manager and she'll skip your resume.
Take heart. You're about to see an engaging cover letter opening you can shape to fit your needs.
This guide will show you:
- How to start a cover letter so it pulls the reader in.
- Several sample cover letter introductions you can really use.
- Which salutation to use: Dear Kate vs Dear Ms. Smith vs Dear Hiring Manager.
- Examples of great cover letter openings that can get you to the interview.
Here's a sample cover letter made with our fast online cover letter tool. It shows the best way to start a cover letter. Want to write your letter fast? Use our cover letter templates and build your version here.
So, there's your perfect cover letter template. Now let me show you several ways to do it right.
Want to make sure every cover letter you send lands you an interview? Get our free checklist: 37 Things You Need to Do Before You Send Your Cover Letter.
How to Start a Cover Letter with the Right First Paragraph
The opening sentence of a cover letter is critical. If it doesn't hook the manager, you're sunk.
That's why you should never write a cover letter opening paragraph without the one thing guaranteed to interest any hiring manager. What is that, you ask?
It's the manager herself.
Your cover letter opening sentences can start with any of these facts about the manager:
- Her name.
- Something you like about her company.
- Her company's biggest needs.
- Some facts that prove you'll help her company.
How to Start a Cover Letter Examples
As a longtime fan of Cisco's internal certifications, I was excited to see your project manager opening. With my experience cutting costs 55% for VMware while dropping lead times 35% and boosting quality, I think I can help with Cisco's current challenges as I continue to expand my skill set.
I'm a project manager with 5 years experience, skilled in all aspects of project management. I've worked for and with several big ISO 9000 companies, working with internal and external stakeholders to draw requirements and facilitate project completion. I think I'd make an ideal project manager for your company because of my unique skill set.
The first example of how to begin a cover letter is all about the manager. The second? Me, me, me. Like George Costanza in a revolving door.
Don't know the hiring manager's name? Stick with us. We've got some great tips for "To whom it may concern" cover letters in a bit.
Pro Tip: Don't be afraid to research the hiring manager. The more you learn about her interests, the closer you'll be to finding common ground.
Want to go beyond the "how to start a letter" stage? Need a creative cover letter template? See our guide: "How to Write a Cover Letter for a Resume & Job Application"
How to Start a Cover Letter with Exactly what the Manager Wants
"I killed Lord Voldemort."
If you're Harry Potter, that's how you start your cover letter.
You don't do it by talking about your spell-casting skills.
Those are impressive, but they're not the most impressive thing about you.
Look in the job description. Figure out what's most important to the company.
Then, brainstorm your achievements. Find the shiniest one that fits their needs.
Company Needs: Two How to Start a Cover Letter Samples
Check out these two examples of how to begin a cover letter.
They're for a job posting that values marketing ROI.
I am so excited InterExchange needs a marketing director skilled at storytelling and driving ROI for student travel. With my track record of boosting marketing ROI by 55% for InternationalStudent through storytelling and creative leadership, I think I'm a great fit.
Dear Hiring Manager,
I'm a highly skilled marketing manager with 2 years experience in crafting creative marketing programs and leading marketing teams. I think you will agree that my strategy, budgeting, planning, and campaign creation skills make me the ideal candidate.
See that first example of a creative way to start a cover letter for marketing? It grasps the company need. Dale Carnegie would be impressed.
The second is a to whom it may concern cover letter. It's as generic as a can of store-brand peas.
Pro Tip: The job offer will be packed with company needs. As you read it, highlight them all. The best cover letters start with the most important.
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
All set with how to start off a cover letter? Need to move on to the ending? See this guide: "How to End a Cover Letter: Sample & Complete Guide [+20 Examples]"
How to Open a Cover Letter with a Company Fact
The hiring manager (we'll call her Alice) just read your resume with great interest.
Your letter connected in all the right ways.
You made it about her.
Begin your cover letter with a little digging.
To find good cover letter openers, look for facts you like about the company.
Browse their website. Look at their careers page. Read news items online.
Company Facts: Two How to Start a Cover Letter Examples
Look at the difference in these cover letter opening lines:
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.
Hi Mrs. Tillotson,
I've been a consultant for four years and I've achieved some amazing things, including cutting client costs. I'm highly skilled at communication, sales, and strategy creation.
That first example of how to start a cover letter uses a great fact about the company. The second is as self-centered as Gordon Gekko.
Pro Tip: Be honest. Find a company fact you really do like. Even better if it shows you're perfect for the job.
After you know how to start your letter, you'll need to know how to format the entire thing. See our guide: "Cover Letter Format: Perfect Formatting Advice"
When to Start Your Cover Letter Introduction with Name Dropping
You're sweating bullets.
You've got some great accomplishments, but nothing world-shaking.
You need to know how to start a cover letter without a lot of cred.
But. You just happen to be friends with Wonder Woman.
If the most impressive thing is who you know, start there.
Name-Dropping Samples for How to Begin a Cover Letter
Check out these two very different introduction paragraph examples.
Candace Peters suggested I apply to this position because she knows: 1. My software solutions achieved 97% performance-to-goals at Uber, and 2. You're looking for a developer with speed and efficiency, which my resume demonstrates.
To whom it may concern,
I'm a software engineer with 5 years experience. I'm highly skilled in Java, Python, C, Ruby, C#, PHP, Objective-C, and SQL. Candace Peters said I should apply.
Which one will wake a bored hiring manager?
If you picked the first example of how to open a cover letter for a software engineer, you're on the right track.
If you picked the to whom it may concern cover letter, think again.
The name dropping trick works even better with a letter of introduction.
Pro Tip: Don't have a name to drop? Network. Meeting people in the company can get you the job faster than learning how to begin a cover letter.
Writing a letter of introduction for an internship? See this guide: "Cover Letter for an Internship [20+ Examples]"
How to Write a Cover Letter Intro Based on Passion
Okay, so you haven't recently destroyed the Death Star. Also, you're not best buds with Chris Hemsworth.
The shiniest fact about you? Passion. You shimmer like someone dipped you in a vat of yellowcake uranium.
If that sounds like you, you've found your opening lines.
A Cover Letter Opening Statement Based on Passion
Look at these two examples of how to start a cover letter with excitement.
When faced with the CPA exam in school, I told my mentor, "I want to blow this test out of the water," and I did. Beyond my 98 average score across all four sections, a passion for finance has always been the guiding factor in my life. That's why I'm so excited at the chance to work for Signature Consultants.
I'm a financial analyst with over 3 years experience developing financial models and analyses, coordinating information collection, and developing reports.
That first example of how to open a cover letter for financial analysts will get the interview.
Here's another example, this time for a graphic design cover letter.
Graphic design for jewelry shows has always been a passion of mine. My panel talk on jewelry graphics at the AIGA Design Conference was put on YouTube and retweeted 1,500 times.
I'm a graphic designer with 3+ years experience at creating exciting design. I've never held a position yet that specifically handles graphic design of jewelry shows, but I am quite interested in jewelry graphic design.
The first example of how to start a cover letter for graphic designers shows passion and competence.
It's guaranteed to make the hiring manager stop daydreaming about turducken.
Pro Tip: Even small details can show your passion. Statements like, "I've always loved," or "I'm fascinated by," can help you nail your how to begin a cover letter goal.
Once you know how to begin a cover letter, you'll need a resume. We've got a guide for that: "How to Write a Resume That Gets You the Job: A Step-by-Step Guide"
How to Start a Cover Letter with Current Events
Let's snoop some more on our HR director, Alice.
She's reading through a bunch of cover letters, but she's bored.
Then she hits your letter.
It's all about the award her company just won. Finally, someone gets her.
That's how to start a cover letter based on recent news.
Introductory Paragraph Examples that Use the News
I love, love, love that Wegmans Food Markets is #2 on Fortune Magazine's list of top companies to work for in 2017. Google is #1, but I cut spoilage 38% for the Hannaford store I managed, whereas I don't even know what "algorithm" means.
I've got 5 years of experience as a grocery store manager. In that capacity, I handled tasks including ordering, scheduling, hiring, firing, and training.
See the difference? The first one is about the company. The second sample of starting a cover letter is as self-involved as Angelica from Rugrats.
Pro Tip: The best current events to use in a strong cover letter opening paragraph are big chunks of good news. Even better if they involve the hiring manager herself.
Now you know how to begin a cover letter that links to the job description. Do the same thing with your resume. See our guide: "6 Tips on How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description (Examples)"
Who Should I Address My Cover Letter To?
You listen to a lecturer drone on about macroeconomics for two hours. You're almost asleep.
Then suddenly, she says your name. You sit bolt upright and your eyes snap open.
Sadly, we're all pretty self-absorbed.
Happily, this makes it easy to know how to start a cover letter.
Begin your cover letter introduction with the hiring manager's name.
Don't know it? Look in the job offer, on the company website, and on LinkedIn. If that fails, try calling the receptionist.
How to Start a Cover Letter [Examples]
Any of these make good cover letter introductions:
- Dear Jim,
- Dear Mr. Ramirez,
- Dear Susan,
- Dear Mrs. Kelftree,
- Dear Ms. Allen,
Pro tip: Don't use "Miss" or "Mrs." unless you know the manager prefers it. "Ms." works great and doesn't comment on marital status.
Also, if the manager has a title like Dr. or Professor, she worked hard for it, so use it.
But what if you can't find a name?
How to Start a To Whom It May Concern Cover Letter
Did your name search fail? Don't fret. You haven't flunked your cover letter opening paragraph just yet.
You can ditch the salutation and start with the first line of the letter. Or use any of the following:
- Dear Software Team Hiring Manager,
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear Recruiter,
- To Whom it May Concern,
- Dear [Company Name] Recruiter,
Those all work for how to address a cover letter without a name. That said, "Dear XYZ Team Hiring Manager," is best. Why?
It's specific, and it shows you know what goes on inside a company.
Pro Tip: Don't sweat the salutation. Do your best, then move on. That's How to Open a Cover Letter 101.
Does starting a cover letter really matter when so many managers don't read them? See our guide: "Are Cover Letters Necessary If Most Recruiters Don't Read Them?"
How to Write an Address on a Cover Letter
Knowing how to start a cover letter is hard.
Knowing how to write an address? Easy.
If you're asking how to address a letter, it's just Dear + [FIRST NAME],
If you're searching how to write an address in general, do this:
Put the your address at the top of the letter.
Add a line space, the date, two more blank lines, then the recruiter's address.
24 Wamp Rat Drive
Tatooine, Arizona 01138
1142 Sith Way
Darklord, Nebraska 02812
Dear Darth Vader,
What about the "Dear recruiter" salutation?
Isn't that a bit old fashioned?
Starting a cover letter Dear ______, is fine.
Job applicants have been doing it for years. By now, recruiters are used to it.
Pro Tip: Writing an email? You don't need your full mailing address. Your web URL, email address, and phone number are enough.
Already know how to start a cover letter first paragraph? Just need to know how to write an address? See our guide: "How to Address a Cover Letter: Sample & Guide [20+ Examples]"
Learning how to start a cover letter isn't easy.
Remember this advice:
- Make it all about the hiring manager. Use her name. If you don't know it, take the time to learn it.
- Include some big accomplishments that fit the company's needs. See our application letter examples for more help.
- Add other attention grabbing facts, such as things you like about the company, or recent company achievements.
Want to know more about how to write a cover letter? Not sure what the opening paragraph of your cover letter should be about? Perhaps you found the best way to start a cover letter? Give us a shout in the comments! We love to help!