Cover Letters are an important part of the job seeking process that, when used effectively, will give you the attention you are seeking from a potential employer. With that in mind, use the opening paragraph of your letter as your first opportunity to get that attention. Write an opening that impresses the employer, establishes your expertise and piques interest!
One eye-catching approach is to start by highlighting requirements listed in job ads or typical attributes you know describe a successful candidate for the position. Choose points that best describe you and that you can support with examples in the letter’s body.
In this opening, Joe is applying for a senior level sales position with a technology solutions provider:
Hunter or farmer…VAR or solution selling…sales channels or vertical sales…warrior or cowboy…
No matter how Opex Systems describes it, I have done it and have done it successfully. As your next Channel Development Manager I meet each of your requirements, have the experience you need and will deliver on company goals and objectives.
In this opening, Sandra is applying for a Human Resource Manager position with a top New York City law firm:
Compensation & Benefits…Training & Development…Leadership…Change Management…
So often in this field we find a Human Resource Manager is good at some aspects of the job, but not all; in my career, I have been recognized for my accomplishments in each area. I enjoy Human Resource work and am focused on continuing in this role for a large, international firm such as Halt and Mathers, LLP.
In these next examples are variations of that same strategy. This is also a great tactic when you only have limited information about the position or company because you are using attributes and skills that you can assume all employers value.
Here Sandra is aggressively pursuing an Office Administrator position, a field related to Human Resources, with another major law firm:
The Office Administrator for Jamison Law Partners must be experienced and motivated. Managing the benefits and compensation programs is just the tip of the iceberg. The Administrator must effectively manage operations across your four locations and understand the psychology of employees of varying backgrounds. I am that person for Jamison Law Partners.
Here, Joe is using this approach to apply for a Sales Manager position with another company:
As a successful Sales Manager, I work with my teams to set goals and I understand how to motivate and coach them to reach those goals. Knowing products inside and out, in addition to working hard to research clients’ needs, sets me apart from other Sales Managers. With over 15 years experience and highly developed management skills, I will be a great leader for your Sales Team.
One of the harder cover letters to write is for the person that is trying to transition from one field into another. If this is your situation, introduce yourself as a qualified candidate by drawing upon the skills and expertise that will carry over to the new position.
In this opening, Greg is leveraging his media experience in sports TV to apply for an Executive Director position of an organization he has volunteered with for several years, which is named for a popular sports announcer:
During my almost 20 year career in sports media I have handled many challenging, entertaining and interesting projects. However, one of the most inspiring and rewarding aspects of my career has been as the Media Liaison for The Jeff Turbin Alzheimer’s Foundation. Now, realizing I can combine my media experience and passion for sports with my devotion to this organization, I am formally applying for the Foundation’s Executive Director position.
Oftentimes companies require a formal application process for internal moves and promotions. Here is the language Andrea used to get the attention of a Senior Manager of the international construction company where she works:
Construction Estimating is an exciting and demanding field that I enjoy immensely. Working with subcontractors and calculating the materials, quantity take-offs and service estimates require attention to minute details and expertise managing the entire bidding process. Getting my start in this field at your firm, I was conscientious about my skill development and have now earned a reputation of producing professional, complete and consistent estimates for our clients.
All of these candidates used the rest of their cover letter to back up what they claimed in their opening paragraphs, describing exactly how they fit the job. Joe talked about his skill creating partnerships and cross-selling with peer companies. Sandra made several specific points about her abilities to manage people and also gave examples of how she handled challenging projects, including mergers and expansions. Greg supported his claims by talking about project management, recruiting, budgets and public relations work he has done. Andrea went on to give examples of big projects she had worked on which she knew the Senior Manager would recognize.
The opening of a cover letter is your opportunity to get the employer’s attention; using one of these strategies will surely set you apart from candidates using the standby opening “The ad for the sales position caught my eye immediately.” Remember to back up your opening paragraph with great content throughout your letter and a solid résumé. A “Wow!” opening will only get you to the next step if you follow it up with real information!
Kimberly Schneiderman is the owner of City Career Services, a company that provides job search tools including Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interview Workshops to goal-oriented professionals at all levels and across all industries. Kimberly has authored numerous career-related articles and videos, and is a recognized presenter on topics such as job search strategies, goal setting strategies, and interviewing. Kimberly can be reached directly at Kimberly@citycareerservices.com