How to Start a Cover Letter to Impress Employers [+ 14 Examples]

Your cover letter is your first chance to make a strong impression on a potential employer. And with recruiters often spending mere seconds scanning each application, you need an opening line that immediately grabs their attention and compels them to keep reading.

In fact, a recent survey by Jobvite found that cover letters are the second most important factor in hiring decisions, after the resume itself. And yet, many job seekers still resort to generic, uninspired intros that fail to showcase their unique value proposition.

If you want to stand out in a crowded applicant pool and increase your chances of landing an interview, you need a cover letter introduction that hooks the reader from the very first sentence. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll share proven strategies and examples for crafting attention-grabbing opening lines tailored to various scenarios.

Why Your Cover Letter Opening Matters

Before we dive into the specifics of how to write a strong cover letter introduction, let‘s talk about why it matters so much.

Consider these eye-opening statistics:

  • On average, hiring managers spend just 7.4 seconds scanning a resume (Ladders, 2018)
  • 70% of employers prefer cover letters that are less than a full page (Saddleback College, 2020)
  • Nearly 50% of recruiters will reject a job application that doesn‘t include a cover letter (Resume Lab, 2019)

With such limited time to make an impression, your cover letter opening needs to immediately capture the reader‘s interest and give them a reason to keep reading. A bland, generic intro won‘t cut it.

Think of your first paragraph as your "elevator pitch" – a concise, compelling summary of who you are, what you bring to the table, and why you‘re excited about this opportunity. It‘s your chance to hook the reader and make them eager to learn more about you.

Common Cover Letter Opening Mistakes to Avoid

Before we get into what you should do in your cover letter introduction, let‘s cover a few approaches to avoid:

  1. The "I‘m writing to apply for [position]" intro. This is the most overused opening line in cover letters. It‘s stating the obvious and wasting valuable space you could be using to sell yourself.

  2. The "My name is [name] and I‘m a [job title]" intro. Again, this is information the hiring manager can easily glean from your resume. Your opening line needs to offer something more compelling.

  3. The "I‘m the perfect candidate for this job" intro. Hold off on making such a bold claim right off the bat. Instead, use your intro to preview the specific skills and experiences that make you a strong fit.

  4. The generic "I‘m a hard worker with a strong attention to detail" intro. Vague, overused phrases like this tell the employer nothing about what makes you uniquely qualified for the role.

  5. The "To whom it may concern" intro. In the age of LinkedIn and company websites, there‘s no excuse for not addressing your cover letter to a specific person. A little research goes a long way in showing your interest in the company.

How to Write a Cover Letter Introduction That Gets Noticed

Now that we‘ve covered what not to do, let‘s dive into some strategies for writing a cover letter opening that will grab the hiring manager‘s attention and set you apart from the competition.

1. Lead with an impressive accomplishment

One surefire way to hook the reader is by starting off with a concrete example of a time you delivered outstanding results in a similar role. This shows the hiring manager right away that you have a track record of success and the skills to excel in the position.

Example:
"In my current role as social media manager at XYZ Company, I‘ve grown our Instagram following by 50% and increased engagement rates across all platforms by 30% in just six months. I‘m excited to bring my proven ability to drive results to the social media strategist position at your agency."

2. Show enthusiasm for the company

Employers want to hire candidates who are genuinely excited about their mission and values. Use your opening paragraph to showcase your knowledge of the company and explain why you‘re passionate about the opportunity.

Example:
"I‘ve been a loyal customer of ABC Inc. for years, and have always admired your commitment to sustainability and ethical manufacturing. When I saw the open position for a supply chain manager, I knew I had to apply. With my background in logistics and passion for green business practices, I‘m confident I can help ABC streamline operations and reduce its environmental footprint."

3. Use storytelling to engage the reader

Stories are a powerful way to grab attention and create an emotional connection with the reader. Consider opening your cover letter with a brief anecdote that highlights your relevant skills or passion for the field.

Example:
"Growing up, I spent countless hours tinkering with computers and teaching myself to code. That curiosity and drive to learn has stayed with me throughout my career as a software engineer. It‘s what drew me to the innovative work your company is doing in the AI space, and why I‘m so excited about the possibility of joining your team."

4. Highlight a mutual connection

If you have a personal connection to someone at the company, definitely mention it in your cover letter intro. This could be a former colleague, a friend who referred you to the job, or even just someone you met at an industry event.

Example:
"Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of chatting with Jane Smith, a product manager at your company, at the Women in Tech conference. She raved about your team‘s collaborative culture and the exciting projects you have in the pipeline. With my background in agile development and passion for building innovative products, I would jump at the chance to contribute to your mission."

5. Ask a thought-provoking question

Posing a question in your opening line can be a effective way to pique the reader‘s curiosity and encourage them to keep reading to find out the answer.

Example:
"What if you could cut your customer churn rate in half? That‘s exactly what I helped my current company do by implementing a data-driven retention strategy. If you‘re looking for a customer success manager who can help you boost retention and drive growth, I‘d love to discuss how my skills could benefit your team."

6. Lead with humor (when appropriate)

In some cases, injecting a little personality and humor into your cover letter opening can help you stand out and showcase your unique voice. The key is to keep it tasteful, professional, and relevant to the role.

Example:
"I never thought I‘d be excited to apply for a job with ‘taxes‘ in the title, but here I am! As a self-proclaimed numbers nerd with a passion for helping small businesses thrive, I couldn‘t resist the opportunity to join your team as a tax accountant."

The Anatomy of a Strong Cover Letter Introduction

While there‘s no one-size-fits-all formula for the perfect cover letter intro, there are a few key components that the strongest openings tend to include:

  1. A hook: Start with a compelling statement or question that immediately grabs the reader‘s attention and makes them want to learn more.

  2. Relevant skills/experience: Give a brief preview of your qualifications and how they align with the job requirements.

  3. Enthusiasm: Convey your excitement for the opportunity and the company. Show that you‘ve done your research and are genuinely invested in the role.

  4. Personality: Don‘t be afraid to let your unique voice and personality shine through, while still keeping a professional tone.

  5. A teaser: End your intro with a sentence that sets up the rest of your letter and makes the reader want to keep going.

Here‘s an example that puts it all together:

"As a social media strategist, I‘ve helped brands like XYZ and ABC skyrocket their engagement rates and gain thousands of new followers. So when I saw that your agency was looking for a creative thinker to lead social strategy for your luxury retail clients, I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring. With my track record of crafting viral campaigns and building passionate online communities, I‘m confident I can help your clients achieve their ambitious growth goals. But beyond that, I‘m truly inspired by your agency‘s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry – a mission that aligns perfectly with my own values."

Customizing Your Intro for Different Scenarios

Of course, the approach you take in your cover letter intro should vary depending on your unique situation and goals. Here are a few examples of how to tailor your opening for different scenarios:

Career changers

"For the past five years, I‘ve built a successful career in sales. However, I‘ve recently realized that my true passion lies in marketing. That‘s why I‘m so excited about the opportunity to transition my skills into a content marketing role at your company. While I may be new to the field, I believe my background in understanding customer needs and crafting persuasive messaging will serve me well in this position."

New grads

"As a recent graduate with a degree in computer science, I‘m eager to apply my knowledge and skills to real-world challenges. Your company‘s mission to make technology accessible to underserved communities deeply resonates with me, and I would be thrilled to contribute my fresh perspective and passion for inclusive design to your team."

Laid-off job seekers

"Like many others in the hospitality industry, I was recently laid off due to the impact of COVID-19. While it was a challenging experience, it also gave me the opportunity to reflect on my strengths and the kind of work that truly fulfills me. I‘ve always admired your company‘s innovative approach to customer service, and I believe my background in creating memorable guest experiences would be a valuable asset to your team as you navigate this new normal."

Overqualified candidates

"At this stage in my career, I‘m looking for an opportunity to share my expertise with the next generation of marketers. The chance to step into a mentorship role and help shape the direction of your department is what excites me most about this position. With my 15 years of experience leading successful product launches and building high-performing teams, I‘m confident I can help your company achieve its aggressive growth goals while developing the skills of my direct reports."

Tips for Crafting Your Own Standout Introduction

As you sit down to write your own cover letter opening, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Do your research: Spend time learning about the company, its mission, and the specific role. Look for ways to connect your own experiences and values to theirs.

  2. Focus on your unique value proposition: What makes you the ideal candidate for this particular job? Use your intro to highlight your most relevant and impressive qualifications.

  3. Show, don‘t tell: Instead of just claiming to be a "strong communicator" or "team player," give a specific example that demonstrates those skills in action.

  4. Keep it concise: Aim for around 3-5 sentences in your opening paragraph. You want to hook the reader without overwhelming them.

  5. Proofread carefully: A typo or grammatical error in your first few sentences can be an immediate turn-off for hiring managers. Make sure to review your intro (and the rest of your letter) with a fine-tooth comb.

  6. Tailor it to the company and role: Avoid generic, copy-and-paste intros. Take the time to customize your opening for each job you apply to.

By following these strategies and letting your unique personality shine through, you‘ll be well on your way to writing a cover letter introduction that grabs the hiring manager‘s attention and sets you up for success. Remember, the goal is to leave them eager to learn more about you – so make every word count!