Your resume and cover letter are, perhaps, the two most important pieces of your job search puzzle. Sure, your experience, skills, networking abilities, and how you perform in the interview (if you land one) will all play huge parts, but those two important documents you submit with your application can, and often do, make all the difference.
The cover letter is particularly crucial, because it’s essentially the hiring manager’s first introduction to you as a candidate. In other words, it is the very first impression you’ll make on an employer—so you’ll want it to be a good one.
When writing the cover letter introduction (meaning: the first paragraph of your cover letter), know that getting it right is what can make or break your chances of landing a job. If the interviewer is immediately turned off or disinterested or unimpressed, they’ll likely toss your application into the “no” pile without further consideration. But if you manage to write a captivating first paragraph that really grabs their attention and quickly paints a positive picture of who you are, you’ll position yourself as a strong candidate who has a much better chance of landing an interview.
Need help learning how to write a cover letter (in particular, the opening paragraph)? Here are a few tips to consider when writing that first paragraph of your cover letter:
Prove you did your homework
If you can help it, never ever start your cover letter with a generic “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir.” Instead, personalize the letter. Do some digging to find out the name of the HR manager who will most likely be reviewing your application—or your would-be boss. If you can’t figure it out, a simple “Dear Hiring Manager” will work just fine. 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.
Introduce yourself with some enthusiasm
After you greet the hiring manager (by name, hopefully) you’ll want to briefly introduce yourself. But infuse some personality into it! Yes, you’ll want to be professional and not stand out for the wrong reasons—but you don’t want to bore the employer to death or have your cover letter look like everyone else’s.
So, instead of starting off with a dull “I’m Jane and I’m interested in the marketing role.” Try something more exciting, like, “I firmly believe I’m the passionate, hardworking 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 at least touch on them in this first paragraph, with some enthusiasm and passion. Remember—the opening of your letter must be an eye-opener, and not a sleep aid!
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 will cause the reader to lose interest quickly, and if that happens, the rest of the cover letter will all be for nothing. 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!
Keep it clean
Okay, we mean typo-free! 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 sloppy 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 strong first paragraph:
“Dear Mr. Henry Potter, My name is Jane Doe and I’m thrilled to be applying for the position of Properties Manager that was advertised in the September edition of the Bedford Falls Times. I’m confident I am the passionate and hardworking candidate you’ve been looking for, as my skills and interests—such as x, y, and z—perfectly align with what you’re looking for. I know I can make a significant contribution to your growing organization, and hope you’ll consider for me this incredible opportunity.”
The LiveCareer website 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.
What do I include in my argument/body?
"Writing Your Cover Letter" is a series of short documents that walks you through the creation of a cover letter. Here you can see the information in the "Quick Tips for Cover Letters" and "Preparing to Write a Cover Letter" pages put to use. This page guides you through adapting your experiences to the content in your cover letter and its different sections.
Contributors:Angie Olson, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-25 08:58:38
In the body of your cover letter (the argument), you should describe the most important qualifications to show why you are a good match for the job and the company.
You should focus your cover letter's body around the two-three qualifications you mention in the introduction. In each paragraph you can concentrate on one quality, seeking to answer the following two questions:
- How can I show I am qualified for this position and that I am a good match for the organization?
- What have I done that illustrates these qualifications?
How can I show I am qualified for this position and that I am a good match for the organization?
You do not want to only mention the skills that you possess; you also have to show that you possess them! When writing about your skills, you can think of it as telling a story. You should describe the experiences of how you received and grew your skills, mentioning specific places you worked and positions you held. For example:
My communication skills in the workplace have grown because of my internships. When I was an intern at Newberry & Jones, I wrote memos and letters to customers and colleagues on a daily basis. This experience taught me to write professionally and to-the-point.
What have I done that illustrates these qualifications?
Along with explaining your skills, you want to describe how your experience with that skill is unique. Many people may have communication skills, but have you won an award or scholarship for technical writing? Be specific and match this information to your resume
Here are some ideas about what might set you apart:
- Special projects
- Explain course work that gives you a type of professional experience.
- Show that others have recognized the high quality of your work.
- Include only those awards that relate to the position you desire.
- Demonstrate how you improved efficiency/productivity at work or school.
- Include what you did at school that proves your skills.
- Explain how you set a goal and reached it.
While at Purdue University, I participated in a collaborative web-consulting project for a Technical Writing class. With two peers, I served as a web consultant for a local business, Patters' Painters. In order to make feasible recommendations for revisions, additions, and deletions to Patters' Painters' website, we conducted interviews, observed the workplace, and completed multiple web analyses...I believe these experiences match the requirements you outline in the job description.