How Not To Start Your Cover Letter

While writing a cover letter, your first instinct is probably (not inappropriately) to start your cover letter like this: “I am applying for the (full time/part time) position of (Job Title) at (Company X).” The reason this isn’t inappropriate is because it does the hiring manager a favor in terms of organization—he or she won’t be skimming through your cover letter trying to figure out what it pertains to. This can be a rather dull way to start off a cover letter however, so you may want to consider augmenting or changing it.

If you do change it, you may want to put a heading on your cover letter which explains its purpose. For example, the heading could say “John Doe Cover Letter – (Job Title).” Rhen you could start out your first sentence however you want. On that note, a heading like “John Doe Resume – Page (#)” is also great to include on the pages of your actual resume.

One common suggestion is to start out like this: “At my recent managerial position at Company Y …” or “My experiences in customer service have given me skills in (list them) …” These beginnings jump right into what you have to offer, which may be more effective at catching the attention of a hiring manager who is reading hundreds of resumes a week. Again, if you do this, you should have a heading on your cover letter so that the hiring manager doesn’t get confused about what it is you actually want, especially since resumes (and their objective statements) can easily become separated from cover letters.

You also could try combining these ideas with the standard cover letter greeting to make something a little more interesting which is also still effective at conveying your purpose. “I am applying for a position as (Job Title) at Company X where my skills in (list them) can help your company to (retain more customers/enhance your databases/improve office efficiency/etc.). This has the convenience of telling the hiring manager what the purpose of your cover letter is while also jumping straight into the meat of what you can bring the company.

There is really no reason that practicality can’t go hand in hand with generating interest. Your ability to do so could in fact itself be seen as a job skill. A sentence like this consolidates your writing a bit, and with a cover letter, short and sweet is almost always best.

Hiring managers typically review dozens if not hundreds of resumes for positions these days, so grabbing attention often means taking a moment to stand out from the crowd.

At the same time, you want to make it your priority to make your cover letter’s purpose obvious, since you don’t want the hiring manager to give up on your application simply because it’s confusing to understand what it’s for. When hiring managers print out resumes and cover letters, it can be easy for them to become separated and mixed together with other job applicants’ paperwork. So try to balance pragmatism with style and impact when you start your cover letter.

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