How to start a cover letter

Knowing how to start a cover letter is key to stand out from the crowd. Hiring managers can be rather unforgiving when making their first selection of candidates, so making a good first impression is crucial. But, what should the first paragraph of a cover letter include? And how do you begin a cover letter that grabs the reader's attention? Well, stop staring at a blank screen and buckle up, because we’ll cover the 7 best ways on how to start a cover letter in this article.

The start of a cover letter

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager, and you’ll understand why the start of a cover is so important. Like a CV, cover letters are easily disregarded if i they look unprofessional, are incomplete, or have obvious mistakes. To avoid ending up at the bottom of the pile, you’ll want to fuel the reader’s curiosity with a solid cover letter beginning. Whatever you decide to write about, the start of a cover should always include the following basic elements:

  • Your contact information
  • A greeting
  • A self-introduction
  • An attention-grabbing topic

The length of your introductory paragraph should be 2-4 sentences and about 25-75 words in total. Any longer, and you risk losing your reader’s attention. Any shorter, and it may appear that you haven’t put much effort. As long as you follow one of the 7 best ways on how to start a cover letter for a job below, you’ll be all set!

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How to begin a cover letter

Like most people, you probably landed on this page because you’ve been scratching your head trying to start a cover letter. We can’t blame you; the inspiration isn’t always there when you need it most. Sometimes, all it takes is a little push to get those gears turning. Luckily for you, we’ve lined up 7 of the best ways to start a cover letter. On top of that, we’re giving you an example of each to help you get started.

1. Reflect on their mission or vision

The start of a cover letter is a great opportunity for you to reflect on a company’s mission and vision, because it shows that you’re in sync with where they’re heading. It also shows that you’ve taken the initiative to do a bit of research on the company website. Employers love it when you display knowledge about the company and its values. However, don’t just copy and paste their statements; go about it in an indirect way. Here’s an example of how to start a cover letter addressing the company’s values:

As a lifelong sports athlete, I’m passionate about inspiring others with my work ethic, and want to do everything in my power to bring out unrealised potential in others. I believe there are a lot of innovative solutions out there to make sports a bigger part of people’s lives. (PS. Can you guess which company’s mission and vision we’re reflecting here?)

2. Start with your goal

Most employers aim to hire people who are serious about realising their potential within the company. If an employer feels that hiring you will help you achieve your goals, they’re likely to believe this will also benefit the company. If you show that you're in it for more than just the job or salary, you'll let the employer know you're serious about your application. Being driven and goal-oriented in general is almost always a positive characteristic. Here’s an example of how to start a cover letter with your goal:

Since starting my computer science degree, my goal has been to intern at one of the top IT companies in the UK to boost my chances of becoming a programmer for Google. I truly believe that your company will give me the experience, skills, and qualifications to do just that.

3. Refer to a connection

Have you ever started talking to someone you just met, and realised you have mutual connections? It often starts a waterfall of conversation. If you have a connection with someone at the company you’re applying with, the beginning of a cover letter is your chance to mention them. It grabs the reader's attention because they’ll wonder why someone at their company knows you or even recommends you. Instead of seeing you as a complete stranger, they’ll at least take confidence in the fact that you have a trusted connection. Here’s an example of how you can refer to a connection at the start of a cover letter:

Last week, one of my friends [Name] approached me about a marketing role at your company. He and I worked together for some time before he joined your company. He felt that I would be a great fit for the role, and that I would be an excellent addition to the team.

4. Present a researched fact

Knowing how to start a cover letter with a researched fact can be very effective. Similarly to mentioning their mission and vision, presenting a researched fact shows that you’re interested in how far they’ve come and where they’re headed. You don’t have to go into the nitty-gritty details, but you’ll want to find something newsworthy. You can even throw in a compliment to show your appreciation for what they’ve accomplished. You don’t want to go over the top with this, but it’s a sure-fire way to catch the reader's attention.

When I was reading the news last week, I saw a headline about how your company was giving out free workout sessions in the community. I read in a report that almost 20% of the people that joined signed up for courses on your website. This was a huge success in my eyes, and my compliments go out to the marketing team. I would love to come up with creative marketing strategies to bring more people to your platform.

5. Name a recent achievement

Naming an achievement at the beginning of your cover letter is a great way to raise your employer’s eyebrows. The whole point of CVs, cover letters, certificates, and university degrees is to gauge whether you can achieve the goals set out in your new role.

By naming a recent achievement, you’re a step ahead in having to prove yourself. Do make sure that if your employer asks for evidence, you’ll have something to show for it. Better yet, have a recommendation letter from a former manager at the ready that includes some of your recent achievements. Here’s an example of how to start a cover letter with an achievement:

In my last three months as a copywriter at [Company], I achieved a consistent word count of 12,500 words each week. As a team, we completed 3 large-scale writing projects totalling almost 1 million words in just under 6 months. I’d love to use my writing experience to increase traffic, and deliver quality content to your website.

6. Show genuine interest

This is the simplest and most effective way to start your cover letter. Just like someone showing interest in you, employers appreciate it when you show interest in their product or service. Simply state why you’re passionate about the brand, and if you’re a customer, the reason why it benefits you.

Your passion will often translate to your performance in the new role, which is what employers are looking for. How you go about this is entirely up to you. Just make sure to show some personality. Here’s an example of how to start a cover letter by showing genuine interest:

I was excited to see a position open up at your company. I’ve been using your personal trainer service for the past two years, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Not only that, but I’ve managed to get in better shape thanks to your personal trainers. I strongly believe I would be a great fit for the team, and I want to help others achieve similar results.

7. Share what you learned

Sharing what you learned shows employers that you’ve taken something away from your past experiences. This is valuable because employers look for someone who embraces change, and sees it as a learning opportunity. You’ll immediately pique their interests, because they want to know what you want to take away from working for them. Here’s an example of how to start a cover letter by sharing something you’ve learned in the past.

As a sales executive with management experience in the tourism industry, I learned that building lasting relationships was the best way to achieve success. Without them, my business strategies would have dissolved very quickly. Because your company focuses on people, I believe this lesson will help me succeed in my new role.

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How to start a cover letter: in summary

A strong cover letter beginning can make or break your application. Some hiring managers can be very picky, so spend some extra time on this part of your cover letter. Here are bite-sized summaries of each method covered in this article:

  • Reflect on their mission or vision
    Shows you’re in sync with where the company is heading.
  • Start with your goal
    Shows that you’re in it for more than just a job or money.
  • Refer to a connection
    A trusted connection boosts your credibility.
  • Present a researched fact
    Shows that you’re knowledgeable about the company’s role in the market.
  • Name a recent achievement
    Shows that you’re capable of achieving the goals set out in your new role.
  • Show genuine interest
    Shows that you can get behind products or services the company offers.
  • Share what you learned
    Shows that you embrace change, and see it as a learning opportunity.

Want to know more about how to write a cover letter? Check out our cover letter examples to use as a reference for when you start writing. If you haven’t created a cover letter yet, you can also use our handy cover letter template to save time. No matter how convincing the start of your cover letter is though, it won’t be as effective without a clear CV. Don't have one? Or want to go over yours once more? Use our free CV builder.

FAQs about how to start a cover letter:

  • What is the best opening line for a cover letter?

  • A good first sentence of your cover letter should show enthusiasm about the company and position you’re applying for. Starting sentences should also have relevant keywords related to the company and position, so that applicant tracking systems can easily pick you out of the bunch. Most importantly, keep it simple and straightforward. As a rule of thumb, write no more than 20-25 words in your opening sentence. The same applies for the end of a cover letter.

  • How do you start a cover letter greeting?

  • The most simple and straightforward cover letting greeting is to write ‘Dear’ followed by their full name. Also, make sure to use their title such as ‘Dr.’ or ‘Professor’ followed by their full last name if they have them. You can still make the cover letter salutation specific if you don’t know their name. Do some research on the company website to find out which titles they use. You can also address it to the department such as ‘Human Resources’ to make sure it goes to the right place.

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