Start looking for jobs
The first couple of sentences in any cover letter have a loaded task: they are supposed to grab the attention of a recruiter who has already reviewed hundreds of applications. Then they need to convince a hiring manager to dive deeper into your background to find out whether your skills and personality match the position they need to fill.
Conveying all this in a few lines is by no means easy. After all, the beginning of an application letter should be catchy, but not overselling (especially when you are a student or graduate who doesn’t have years of experience to refer to). It should be professional sounding, but not boring. And the border between those extremes is sometimes blurry.
Therefore, it is a good idea to have a couple of cover letter examples you can fall back on, when you are desperate for inspiration. We have picked a few examples for first sentences in cover letters. (We have also included a brief explanation when to choose a certain sentence and what pitfalls to avoid in connection with it.)
1) The ‘better safe than sorry’ example
“I have read your advertisement of the junior research assistant position with great interest and would like to use this opportunity to apply for said position. What has particularly sparked my interest in this job is…”
Works well when...
...you do not consider yourself a great writer and the job you have set out to apply for does not require you to be one. In that case, just keep the start of your letter simple and straight to the point.
- Referring to the position with a generic or downright wrong term. Stick to the exact one mentioned in the job description.
- Forgetting to mention a specific reason why you found the job description interesting.
2) The ‘extra confident’ example
“The sales rep position advertised by you sounds like a great match with the skills and qualifications that I have been able to acquire during [relevant study programme or employment]:…”
Works well when...
...the job you are applying for requires a certain amount of self-confidence and sales abilities - and you actually have the skills and experience to back up your claims. You just have to be aware that you are using an element of provocation here that not every recruiter finds charming.
- Using phrases like “perfect match”, “no one better for the position” etc. Remember there is a fine line between confidence and douchebag.
- Making claims that you already know you can’t deliver on - after an opening line like this, you will be subject to extra scrutiny and tough questions in any interview.
3) The ‘enthusiast’ example
“Having finished my education in international business, I’m in search of an opportunity to combine my passion for exploring cultures with my professional career. Your advertisement of the position as business development manager for the French market, therefore, appears very intriguing to me. …”
Works well when…
...you don’t have that much practical experience in the field that you are applying for and you want to convey that you are eager and willing to learn.
- Coming across as uninformed. You have to rely on the information available to you to deduct what you can possibly learn from this job. For example, writing that you are passionate to learn about auditing when you are applying for a marketing position can raise some question marks on the recruiter’s side.
- Using too many buzzwords - enthusiasm is cool, but there is such a thing as an overkill.
4) The ‘creative quote’ example
“As economist Hal Varian has observed: ‘A billion hours ago, modern homo sapiens emerged. A billion minutes ago, Christianity began. A billion seconds ago, the IBM PC was released. A billion Google searches ago ... was this morning.’ I have chosen this quote as an introduction to my application as a digital marketing manager because…”
Works well when…
...you are applying for a position or to a company where you know a certain amount of creativity is appreciated in your communication - and you actually find a relevant quote.
- Attributing a quote to the wrong person. (Double-check! Only because you’ve read Ryan Reynolds saying it in an interview, doesn’t mean that he actually came up with it... maybe he was quoting Albert Einstein? Extra points, though, when a Ryan Reynolds quote gets you an interview invitation...)
- Using generic quotes. It’s great that you “seize the day”, but no hiring manager cares. As a rule of thumb: any quote that can be found on a greeting card that features a beach, footprints in the sand and a very pink sunset are not cover letter material.
Have you decided on your opening lines? Great, now you only have to write the rest of the application. Check out our cover letter guide for more tips.
5 Easy Ways To Make Your Cover Letters BetterPosted by Lea McLeod on September 9, 2015
Don’t write a sucky cover letter.
Use these 5 easy ways to make your cover letters better!
I read an article recently that said 95% of recruiters don’t read cover letters. It then went on to explain why.
One recruiter said cover letters were so unilaterally bad, he had concluded they weren’t worth reading, therefore he didn’t.
And I know we don’t like writing them because clients email me and say, “Well it doesn’t say a cover letter is required, so I must not need to send one, right?”
Wrong. You need to send one. Just make sure it doesn’t look like this:
This is the draft a client recently sent me of one she was planning to use. It’s one of the reasons 95% of recruiters don’t read cover letters.
I mean, really, if you were a hiring manager, how much time would you spend on this letter?
So I am an advocate for sending cover letters, whether they are requested or not. Some recruiters will read them. Some will not. You can’t control that.
What you CAN control is the quality, effort, and content you put into a letter that, coupled with a great resume will put you up 2-0 over the less prepared competition.
Here are 5 ways you can write a great cover letter, and get it read.
1. Save something for the interview.
The purpose of the cover letter is not to tell your whole life story. Nor is its purpose to regurgitate everything on your resume. When you do either, you make your cover letter longer than it needs to be. Look, don’t over-engineer this. I see way too many cover letters that are multiple pages.
If you think you have to write multiple pages, you’re making it too hard.
They won’t get read.
Besides, you need to save something for the interview!
The cover letter should be an invitation to look further at you, and create a compelling reason for a reader to grab your resume (and hopefully be mesmerized by it).
Your goal is to:
To that end it should be inviting to read, create a connection to the employer, and be no more than one page!
2. Make it inviting to read.
Remember that any given recruiter is looking at gobs of cover letters, and probably sifting through a couple of hundred emails per day.
Any document you send relative to a job search, iscompeting with hundreds of others documents for ‘eyeball time.’
To wit,83% of recruitersrecently said they spend one minute, or less, reading a cover letter.
That means they are skimming, not reading.
That means the example I showed you at the beginning is not going to tell a recruiter much at all. It’s impossible to skim. Most likely it will go in the discard pile.
So, your job is to give them meaningful, easy-to-digest-in-one-minute information.
- A simple opening paragraph that connects to them.
- Bullets of compelling evidence that position you as the perfect candidate
- A closing paragraph with a call to action.
- Strategically placed bold font to lead the viewer down the page.
- Lots of white space.
- Absolutely, positively no more than one page.
Compare this “look” of the example below to the one I showed you at the beginning.
Readable in one minute? Check.
Visually interesting? Check.
More likely to get read than the one at the top? Totally.
3. Unify your design.
Make your cover letter look and feel like your resume and other marketing material. This presents you as having thought through all your materials.
Some might call thisbranding.
Others might call it planning.
I like to think of it as being professional.
And it doesn’t have to be fancy. If you use horizontal lines at the top of your resume, convey that same look to your cover letter. Make them feel like a “matched correspondence set.”
If you want a proven template for your resume and cover letter materials, you needThe Resume Coloring Book! It walks you through step-by-step how to create your cover letter and resume, and is proven to get you more interviews.Check it out here.
4. Invite the reader in with a good introduction.
Please do not start a cover letter with: “I’m writing to apply for such and such position, # 123455.” Gah!
That’s how all the OTHER letters start. And you want to STAND OUT from them.
Instead, in that first paragraph make a connection of some kind to the employer. It can be anything from the mention of mutual acquaintances, an experience you had with the organization or industry, or maybe something you found on the employer’s web site that you can comment on.
I find this is often a sticking point for new grads. It can be challenging to finesse those initial sentences that connect you to an employer, in a way that makes them want to keep reading. What should you say other than, “I’m here to apply for….”? Do some research. Make it authentic and interesting.
Here is an example:
When I read the client testimonials on your web site, I summed up my impression in two words: Trusting Relationships. You blow your clients away with your commitment to their goals. It convinced me to apply for the Project Manager position that’s open.
You need someone in that job who understands the concept of Trusting Relationships. You need someone who can translate the vision of the client, to a delivered solution. I hope you agree that I am that person.
5. Provide your evidence.
Think of your cover letter as the “highlights” and the resume as the “detail” of why you are the perfect candidate. In your cover letter body, use 3 or 4 bullets to shareevidence and accomplishmentsthat position you as qualified.
- Be brief, articulate and to the point.
- Quantify the scope of work and results.
- Bold the keywords the employer is looking for in that job.
Here’s an example:
I understand how to connect client needs to the organization mission. I recently presented a project proposal for a $400K site wide sustainability program supported with schematics, flow charts, and spreadsheets.
I’m a perfect combination of strategy+ business. I’ve managed projects, programs, events, and people. I have the ability for turning chaos into solutions. I recently took an under-performing publication with a circulation of over 25,000 and generated a $750,000 profit in less than 9 months.
I listen with an ear for detail, and with the client relationship front and center – I’ve worked with up to 30 unique clients while sustaining nearly 100% client satisfaction in my programs.
Tie the examples and results to the desired skill set for the job.
End your letter with a call to action about when you will call the employer. For that to work, however, you must follow up on your commitment and call them. If you don’t, you’ve lost credibility in the search. As well, a P.S. might not be a bad idea, as P.S. memos on letters always get read. You can include a teaser about a great story you have, a big accomplishment, or atestimonial from a reference.
Ok, there you have it. You now have no excuse for writing a cover letter that sucks. In addition, I know these steps will help you feel more confident about putting your best (written) foot forward.
Please share this post with someone who needs to read it. Or donate a tweet or Facebook share below. That would be greatly appreciated!