How to Start a Cover Letter With Examples and Tips

Young adult sitting at their computer brainstorming how to write a cover letter for an editing role. Speech bubble reads

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019 

What's the best way to start a cover letter for a job? The first couple of sentences of your cover letter are the most important ones. Recruiters and hiring managers often spend mere seconds scanning your application.

If your cover letter doesn't grab their attention right away, they may never even get as far as the second page. What should these all-important first sentences say? Keep in mind that you're hoping to differentiate yourself from the competition.

This might mean highlighting a contact, providing a quick window into your relevant background and experience, and/or emphasizing a significant accomplishment.

Think about why the hiring manager should select you, above all other candidates, for an interview, and you'll be on the right track.

How to Start a Cover Letter 

Be direct. In these opening sentences, you want to explicitly let the reader know which position you're applying for. Hiring managers are often looking at candidates for several open jobs at any given time. Make sure it's easy for them to discover your intent. For example:

I am interested in the coordinator position at ABC company.

Mention a contact. If someone referred you to the position, include that information early on as well. Referrals are one of the key aspects to securing an interview, so be sure to mention yours right away. For example:

Jane Doe suggested I contact you about the job, as she feels my skills would be a good fit for the position.

State an accomplishment. Try to state an accomplishment from your previous job. If you can, show how you added value to the last company you worked for. You might even add the job title you had if it's similar to the one you are applying for. For example:

As coordinator at XYZ Enterprises, I have increased my group's output by 37% over the past 15 months.

Express excitement. Convey your passion for your work, and your excitement about the job and company. Your cover letter is an opportunity to sell yourself to the hiring manager, and to share why you're well qualified for the job. For example:

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss what I have to bring to the position at ABC company.

Use keywords. If you can include any keywords from the job listing, do so. Maybe mention a skill you have that was included in the post. Don't overdo it though. For example: 

My track history of successfully managing teams and delivering projects on time and on budget makes me a good fit for this role.

Personalize Your Cover Letter

When you're not sure how to get started, it can be really helpful to review examples of cover letters. You can use these as a guide, but be sure to tailor your introduction to your personal circumstances and the job you're applying for.

The more closely you construct your cover letter to show that you're a match for the job requirements, the better your chances of getting selected for an interview.

Examples of Cover Letter Opening Sentences 

  • As an information technology professional with high-level management experience in the IT industry, I learned that the best way to achieve success was to utilize the resources I had by employing well-defined objectives and an attitude of empowerment.
  • I am very interested in the entry-level position that is available at ABC Investment Partners. I recently graduated from XYZ college and my courses in investments, finance, and business have equipped me with a solid base upon which I plan to build my career.
  • I am writing to express my strong interest in the international marketing position open at WellCam, Inc. My colleague Janna Doling recommended that I contact you directly about this position, owing to the years I have spent developing successful campaigns for XYZ company.
  • I'm writing to express my interest in the editorial assistant position listed on Monster.com. Given my five years of editorial experience and excellent capabilities, I would appreciate your consideration for this position.
  • I have a very strong interest in pursuing a teaching career. With experience working at both elementary and high school levels, as well as in activities outside of the traditional classroom, I have a diverse background with much to offer.
  • I have the pleasure of being acquainted with one of the counselors on your staff, Eleanor Seville. She let me know about the open position and recommended that I contact you.
  • I was excited to read about the administrative assistant job opening at XYZ company. I have several years of administrative experience in a variety of fields, including insurance and finance.
  • I understand that you have been deluged with resumes since Computer World released their list of the best companies to work for. Mine is one more, but I do have experience that is hard to come by.
  • My proven track record of successfully performing complex analyses on various corporations makes me an ideal candidate for the analyst opportunity that you have advertised.

What to Write in the Rest of Your Cover Letter

Of course, the rest of your letter is important too. You'll need to use an appropriate salutation, and make your cover letter closing polite and inviting. In the body of your letter, you have the opportunity to pitch your qualifications for the job in more detail than you have room for in your resume.

If there are specific events or accomplishments you feel are likely to make you stand out, you can briefly mention them and explain in more detail should you secure an interview.

Make sure your contact information is complete as well, and format your signature to match the letter style you are using.

Cover Letter Sample and Template

Download the cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs or Word Online) or read the example below.

Screenshot of a cover letter example
© The Balance 2018

Sample Cover Letter (Text Version)

John Smith
37 Oak Street
Middle Village, New York 10502
555-555-555
john.smith@email.com

January 12, 2018

Dr. Jane Doe
All Smiles Dentistry
5 Main Street, Suite A
Middle Village, New York 10502

Dear Dr. Doe,

My former coworker, Maria Rodriguez, suggested that I contact you to express my interest in the position of dental assistant in your office in Middle Village.

I’m a licensed dental assistant with over 10 years of experience helping dentists and hygienists make their patients smile. In my current role with ABC Dental, I have gained proficiency in the four-handed dentistry technique, as well as mastering Henry Schein Dentix software.

I also have the following skills and qualifications, as outlined in the job description on your website:

  • Experience taking and developing dental X-rays
  • Infection control expertise, including preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment
  • Knowledge of several different types of scheduling software
  • Language skills (bilingual: English/Spanish)
  • Excellent customer service skills and attention to detail

Most importantly, I love people. I consider it a great privilege to help dentists improve their patients’ lives by providing the very best support and customer care.

I’ve enclosed my resume and I hope you’ll contact me at your convenience to arrange an interview.

Sincerely,

Signature (hard copy letter)

John Smith

Article Sources

  1. Ladders. "2018 Eye-Tracking Study." Accessed Jan. 28, 2020.

  2. CareerOneStop. "How Do I Write a Cover Letter." Accessed Jan. 28, 2020.