Many job seekers consider cover letters a necessary evil. Knowing they cannot send a resume without one, they slap together a generic letter, often using a template that guarantees their letter looks just like everyone else's cover letter. Avoid consigning your cover letter to the wastebasket by using one of these three ways to start your letter off well and grab your job recruiter's interest.
Make a Personal Connection
One of the strongest ways to start a cover letter, or to get a job, is to point out a mutual acquaintance or reference. If you know someone at the company, such as someone who used to work there (and left on good terms) or someone whose name would impress hiring managers at that company, use his name in your opening paragraph. When a job recruiter reads that the former head of the company suggested you apply for an open position, she is sure to give your letter some attention. Just make sure that the person whose name you are using has given permission and even give him a copy of your cover letter so he knows what you said in case someone calls him to follow up.
Tell a Story
What is it about this particular company that attracts you? Did its products matter to you as a child? Have you always dreamed of working there? Do you know people who work there? If any of these examples apply to you, move them right into the opening paragraph of your cover letter to grab your job recruiter's attention. Tell the story about your relationship with the company or with the job field to make the reader realize you have a greater motivation for applying beyond just, "I need a job." Take a little extra time to tell your story briefly but well, and then find a skillful way to transition to the body of the letter.
Brag About Yourself
Far too many cover letters start off with a standard and trite opening along the lines of, "I am interested in applying for a position at your company." Instead of telling the job recruiter something she already knows, jump right in to your credentials and achievement. Lead with your strengths. Use your opening to discuss your past successes and your unique experiences that make you the exact applicant that the company wants. Do not be ashamed of bragging about yourself at the beginning; no one else is going to do it for you, and if you hide the best stuff about yourself down in the fourth or fifth paragraph of your letter, the hiring manager may never see it.
In this fast-paced world, job recruiters often glance at cover letters for only a few seconds. Make those seconds count by grabbing attention in your first paragraph. When a cover letter starts well, the job search stands a great chance of ending well too.
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