When it comes to your cover letter, the way you introduce your document, greet your employers, and summarize your career story can make or break your ability to grab employer attention and get you one step closer to landing the job. In short, first impressions are powerful, and it’s critical you use your opening statement to tip the scales in your favor. Here are a few tips and recommendations that can help you send a strong message right from the start.
Think first, then write.
Before you starting typing text into your Word document and shaping the nuts and bolts of your message, lay the groundwork. Gather your notes and records from the last 10 years of your career. Think about your “elevator pitch”, or the 30-second sound bite that summarizes what you’re looking for in an employer, what you can do, and why you’re the perfect hire. When you’re ready, draft a quick outline of your entire letter. Think of this as a road map and your chance to prepare the path before you begin your journey.
Start with the basics.
Since your entire letter won’t take up more than a page of text, your introductory statement should not exceed a single paragraph, or about five lines of text. Begin your letter by briefly stating the position you’d like to apply for and how you found out about it. Then, with the help of your outline, summarize your most important credentials and selling points. If you’d like to jazz up your letter with a hook or gimmick, like a famous quote, a joke, or a funny story, that’s fine, but use the space on the page (and your employer’s time) efficiently. Keep your message tight.
Strike the right tone.
Your tone and language should feel warm, professional, and respectful. The first few sentences of your letter should resemble the written equivalent of the attitude you’ll project during the first minute of your interview. Edit anything that sounds robotic, cold, awkward, or silly. Confidence and competence are the best way to inspire trust.
As you end your first paragraph, suggest a forecast of what will come next. A smooth transition can help your reader shift gears from one statement (a warm hello) to the next (a review of your background and skills). — For more on how to create a fluid and attention-grabbing job application, check out the resume and cover letter building tools on MyPerfectResume.