It's the best way to grab the employer's attention: Start your cover letter by pointing out a personal connection you and he share. That connection could be a person, event, or topic you both have in common — something you can talk about later in your job interview.
Connections You Already Have for Your Cover Letter
You might already have the juice for a great first line for your cover letter that pulls the employer in. Then it's just a matter of using that connection to build your first sentence. For example:
- You know the person you’re writing to. Let's say you met him at a party or professional event. In that case you could start your cover letter with something like: "It was a pleasure meeting you at the such-and-such dinner last week. As you suggested, I am applying for such-and-such job opening in your department at ABC Company."
- You know someone who knows the person you’re writing to. For example, if your friend works in his company, your first sentence might read something like: "So-and-so recommended I contact you about the such-and-such job opening at ABC Company. As my former co-worker, she knows my such-and-such qualifications well and thought I would be a good match for this position."
- You’ve had an experience with the company that somehow links you to the manager you’re writing to. Let’s say you read an article online that featured his company. In that case, you might start your cover letter with: "After reading your article on such-and-such on the ABC website, I was interested to learn more about the such-and-such project you're managing at ABC Company."
The opening sentence needs to work like a hook to grab your reader. At the same time your cover letter has to be sincere. False flattery will not work. Most people can sense that a mile away.
Don't Have a Connection to Write About in Your Cover Letter?
Think hard now...What connection do you have with the employer and how can you use that connection in the first paragraph of your cover letter to hook him or her?
Can't think of one? Then see if you can whip one up... in an honest way, I mean. Here are some thoughts on how you could do that:
- Google the manager's name. See what comes up in the search results. Do you find anything you have in common that could be used in your first sentence?
- Find the manager on LinkedIn and see if you have a second or third connection to him. If so, contact that person and ask if you may use her name in your cover letter.
- Read trade articles (in print and online) in the manager's field to see if he's mentioned for something he's accomplished or maybe find an article he's written.
- Attend in-person professional events to meet new people. Maybe you'll run into someone who knows the hiring manager, or maybe you'll meet the hiring manager himself!
I know this sounds like it could take some time and effort. But it's really worth it. The competition in today's job market is stiff. If the first sentence of your cover letter is a grabber, Mr. Busy Manager is more likely to read it (and your resume).
Want to see some good sample cover letter openers? Check out these sample cover letters.