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Written by Anna MuckermanAnna Muckerman

How to start a cover letter (2022)

17 min read
How to start a cover letter (2022)
Artwork by:Antonina Kasyanikova
Figuring out how to start your cover letter can be one of the most challenging parts of the whole application process. It’s also one of the most important. According to Yahoo Finance, 77 percent of hiring managers say they would give preference to a candidate who submitted a cover letter – even if the application said it was optional!

Since many hiring managers only have a few seconds to evaluate each application, you’ll need your cover letter to stand out from the very first sentence. Before we dive into the details of writing the perfect cover letter introduction, let’s first define the goals of a cover letter opening:

  1. Grab the hiring manager’s attention and encourage them to read the rest of your letter
  2. Highlight a noteworthy skill, connection or achievement
  3. Showcase a touch of your personality and professional demeanor

There are many ways you can accomplish these three objectives, but some opening lines may be better suited to certain types of experience and work environments. In the chapters below, we’ll help you decide which cover letter intro is right for you.

How to begin a cover letter (with examples)

Don’t know how to begin your cover letter? Here are 5 tried-and-true ideas for cover letter opening line methods that can be adapted to any industry or experience level:

  1. Start your cover letter with an achievement
  2. Launch your cover letter with a personal story
  3. Open your cover letter with a relevant statistic or fact
  4. Let your cover letter intro highlight a strong connection to the job or company
  5. Start with a belief or value statement shared by the company.

Let’s dive deeper into each of these below.

1. Start your cover letter with an achievement

If you want to impress right from the start, an achievement is the way to go. This approach can work well for many goal-oriented fields like sales or real estate. In order to avoid coming off as arrogant, make sure to back up your accomplishment with numbers or percentages. 

Another important factor to consider when starting with an achievement is how it relates to your prospective employer. Your record-breaking month may be noteworthy, but if it has little to do with the duties of the job you’re applying to, you may want to choose a different accomplishment or opt for another type of opening. 

Expert tip

Frequently asked question: "How do you  introduce yourself in a cover letter?"

A: Remember that you are introducing your professional self. Make sure you’re tailoring your introduction to the job you desire. Any one of these five cover letter beginnings can introduce the part of your personality that is relevant to your target audience – the recruiter.

The goal of this opening: Allow the employer to envision how you’ll bring the same type of success to their company.

Example of how to begin a cover letter focused on an achievement

In my four years as a licensed Realtor, turning open houses into closings has become my forté. Of the seven houses I’ve sold in the past year, I’ve met five of the buyers at my open houses. That success led to my broker inviting me to deliver an office-wide presentation on the best open house practices

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2. Tell your story

An increasingly popular way to open a cover letter is one that gets a bit personal right from the start. While you should always maintain a professional tone when writing a cover letter, by sharing your career path or early interest in the field, you can establish a personal connection with the hiring manager that goes beyond just facts and figures.

The secret of this type of opening is to understand the company culture. Does their website and branding suggest that they are invested in the people aspect of their business? A cover letter that shares your professional journey is often a great choice for creative or innovative fields, as well as for students applying to internships and scholarships.

Expert tip

Frequently asked question: "How do you make your cover letter stand out?"

A: Your cover letter should stand out because of your content. A strong opening will entice HR to read on. Then, in the body of your letter, you have the space to explain exactly why you are a great fit for the position.

You should also match the design features of your cover letter to those of your resume.

The goal of this opening: Offer a personal touch and create a human connection by explaining the source of your interest and enthusiasm for the field.

Example of how to start a cover letter focused on your story

The puppy was badly injured when I found him tangled in the fence behind my house. I had many plans for that summer after high school, but instead I spent much of my time nursing “Charlie” back to health. By August, I was certain I wanted to major in veterinary medicine.

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How to write an initial message to a hiring manager (with examples)
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3. Offer a relevant statistic or fact

If you want to show a hiring manager that you’re serious about the industry and the company’s position within it, starting your cover letter with a relevant statistic or fact is the way to go. This opening can come across as very business-like, so it’s a great option for formal and numbers-driven professions like finance, marketing or management.

Briefly lay out the statistic or fact including its source for credibility. Then explain how this information shapes the way you’d approach your potential role or industry. This opening works especially well for candidates applying to upper-level and executive positions as it allows you to offer your vision for the company’s bigger picture.

The goal of this cover letter opening: Provide useful and relevant information to serve as a launching point for your insights on the future of the industry and your role within it.

Example of how to begin your cover letter with a fact-based intro

Last year, more than half of all web searches took place on phones, according to research by Statscounter. I understand what this transition means for the restaurant industry. That’s why as COO of Hasting’s Group I created a multi-year plan to increase our online presence, social media strategy, and mobile ease-of-use.

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4. Explain your connection

Connections are essential in the modern workplace and if you already have strong ties to the company, your best bet may just be to highlight them in the beginning of your cover letter. The secret to this type of opening is to avoid obvious name-dropping and instead focus on what you accomplished, discussed, or learned from your connection.

A connection doesn’t necessarily need to be a person. You could also combine elements of a storytelling introduction with your connection to the industry, location, or company. A sincere and honest tone is key to this type of introduction, otherwise you may come across as trying to sweet-talk your way into the position.

The goal of this opening: Share your existing relationship with the employer to explain the foundation of your interest in the company, field or position.

Example of how to start a cover letter with a value-based intro

As a one-time foster kid, I know that a dedicated case worker makes all the difference in a child’s trajectory. That’s why I want to bring my passion and perseverance to a role with the Baltimore DSS in order to inspire kids and set them up for a healthy future.

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5. Formulate a belief statement

A belief statement introduction is a great way to explain your motivations and align yourself with the mission of the company. This type of introduction is best for positions with an emotional component, such as nurses, caregivers, teachers and social workers. If your job requires some level of self-sacrifice, a belief statement is the perfect way to explain the source of your passion and energy for the field.

Before going all in on this opening, make sure to research your prospective employer and find out what qualities they value most. A belief statement is a great choice for workplaces with a heartfelt touch, but may be less appreciated by companies where the bottom line is the main objective.

The goal of this opening: Put your enthusiasm and determination on display by describing what motivates you to bring your best to the position or field.

Example of how to begin a cover letter with a value-based intro

As a one-time foster kid, I know that a dedicated case worker makes all the difference in a child’s trajectory. That’s why I want to bring my passion and perseverance to a role with the Baltimore DSS in order to inspire kids and set them up for a healthy future.

Copied!
Expert tip

Frequently asked question on cover letter openings: "Should I mention why I'm on the job market in the cover letter opening?"

There is no general requirement to tell the employer why you are looking for work, but you could state that you are looking for a new challenge or similar.

Common questions when starting a cover letter

The idea of how to begin a cover letter corresponds to two key sections of the document: the greeting and the introduction. In this chapter, we’ll discuss your best options for the cover letter greeting. Your greeting is the way you address the person who will be reading your cover letter. 

What is the best greeting for a cover letter?

While there is no one-size-fits-all, the standard greeting of “Dear” followed by the correct salutation and last name of the hiring manager or letter recipient can work well in most professional situations. It’s also a great option if you’re simply not sure which greeting to use.

Expert tip

Frequently asked question:  "Do you put a greeting in a cover letter?"

The short answer is a resounding “Yes!” Would you meet a person and not greet them with at least a “Hello”? No. It would be rude. The same holds true of your cover letter, perhaps even more so because it is a more formal situation in which the person you are addressing is unknown.

So what’s the proper greeting of a cover letter? 

The proper greeting is the one that best matches the tone of the company and industry. There are certain situations in which the standard approach can feel a bit too formal. For example, if you work in a creative or casual field where you are sure that first names are the status-quo, you may appear out of touch by using a salutation and last name. You can also opt for a more informal greeting like “Hi” or “Hello” if you have an existing relationship with the letter recipient or you are submitting your cover letter in the body of an email.

DOs and DON’Ts of cover letter greetings

Do
  • Address the hiring manager by name whenever possible
  • Opt for the more formal greeting when in doubt
  • Use a collective noun when there will be more than one letter recipient
Don't
  • Take a guess as to whether someone is “Mrs.,” “Ms.” or “Mr.”
  • Use an impersonal greeting like “To Whom It May Concern”
  • Greet the recipient by their first name only unless you have an existing relationship or it is appropriate for the field

How to start a cover letter without a name

Using a hiring manager or letter recipient’s name in the greeting of your cover letter helps you establish a personal connection and shows your interest in the company. Sometimes, however, you have to start a cover letter without a name. Here are three tips to accomplish this:

  1. Decide if you will most likely be addressing one person or a group of people
  2. Consider whether the reader will most likely be an HR professional or someone else
  3. Evaluate the company tone and the formality of the workplace

Each of these factors can help you narrow down your options and choose the most appropriate greeting for the situation. Now let’s take a look at some alternatives.

For situations where you will be addressing one or more people who work in HR:

  • Dear (Company Name) Hiring Manager/Hiring Team
  • Dear (Company Name) Recruiter/ Recruitment Team

For situations where you will be addressing one or more people who do not work in HR:

  • Dear (Scholarship Name) Scholarship Chair/ Scholarship Committee
  • Dear (Company Name) Manager/Management Team

For workplaces that are more casual in nature:

  • Greetings (Company Name) Family
  • Hello (Company Name) Team
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How NOT to address a cover letter

Expert tip

After a fruitless search for the hiring manager’s name, it may be tempting to address your cover letter to “Dear Sir or Madam.” This greeting, however, can often come across as impersonal and overly formal. The same is true of “To Whom It May Concern” – an outdated greeting that nowadays sounds cold and disinterested. If you can’t find the name of the person who will be reading your cover letter, make sure to choose a collective noun like the ones listed above.

Starting a cover letter — the summary

The introduction of your cover letter is the opening paragraph that directly follows the greeting. If a hiring manager is going to read any amount of your cover letter, you can be sure they will start here. That means it’s worth taking your time to make sure the introductory paragraph of your cover letter makes a strong first impression. 

So how do you introduce yourself in a cover letter example?

Some of the most common and effective ways to introduce yourself in a cover letter are:

  1. An impressive achievement
  2. A professional story
  3. A relevant fact or statistic
  4. A noteworthy connection
  5. A heartfelt belief statement

The five styles of cover letter intros outlined in this blog are designed to give you options and examples to follow when crafting your own cover letter . Ultimately no one introductory style is more correct than another – it all boils down to your own experiences, industry and the needs of the employer. We have also a blog for: How to format a cover letter in 2022 & How to end a Cover Letter : examples, tips, formatting methods. 

Expert tip

Frequently asked question: "What are the worst cover letter mistakes?" 

Some of the most common mistakes in the start of a cover letter are spelling/grammatical errors and being overly formal or casual in your greeting.

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