A cover letter is more than a one-page electronic document to accompany your resume. It’s your chance to jump into the spotlight and steal the show. Like an overture, your opening paragraph sets the mood for the audience and provides a preview of what’s to come.
The Opening Paragraph
A generic or flimsy opening statement won’t cut it. Capture the reviewer’s attention right off the bat by briefly mentioning the company or manager’s needs.
The hook could be something you read in the job description or the news, or if someone referred you, mention their name. The idea is to show the reviewer that you know something about his company and his challenges.
Then in that same sentence, introduce yourself and set the tone by expressing confidence in your ability to do the job or solve the manager’s problems.
Support the claims in your opening line and encourage the reviewer to read on by offering examples of your key skills and accomplishments in the second and third sentences. Just hit one or two highlights and save the details for the body of your cover letter. Remember, the first paragraph shouldn’t exceed two to three sentences.
Here are some samples:
Dear Mr. Jones:
I just finished reading about your company in Forbes, and I’m convinced that I can help your firm attract more customers. I’m an awesome user-experience architect, who has a knack for seamlessly integrating design and creativity into content-rich applications. And I’m known for embracing a customer-focused approach and creating great documentation.
Dear Mr. Black:
Bob Jones suggested I contact you about the open position on your development team. After hearing about your recent challenges, I’m certain that my extensive experience designing, coding, testing and implementing applications, as well as performing diagnosis and troubleshooting, can help you deliver projects on time and on budget.
Dear Mr. Smith:
I understand that ABC’s sales and marketing team has some very aggressive goals, so I thought you could use a data analyst like me on your team. I’ve helped XYZ Company increase revenue by 35 percent over the past three years by consolidating and analyzing data from a variety of internal and external sources, and turning what seems like dry information into actionable goals.
Once you’ve set the stage in your opening paragraph, you’re ready to write the body of your letter. We’ll tell you about that soon.