A cover letter is the first thing that a prospective employer, their Human Resources executives, department heads or interviewers will read before proceeding to your Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV). Gone are those days when you needed to scribble a cover letter and mail or fax it to the employer.
In all probabilities, you’ll be sending a cover letter online- by email. In some instances you might have to write a cover letter on the jobs portal of an employer. Or sometimes, a recruitment website or agency can request you for a cover letter.
This brings us to the vital question: How to start a cover letter?
As I mention earlier, the cover letter is something that would be read first. Therefore, let’s fully comprehend the importance of a cover letter.
Importance of a Cover Letter
The most important feature of a cover letter: it creates your first impression. And you’ll most likely never know who’s reading it. For all you know, it could be the founder and CEO of the company.
Or it could be a veteran HR manager or a junior executive, recruitment agent or just about anyone. Therefore, I wouldn’t advise you to take risks while writing a cover letter.
It’s also important to know, that your cover letter may entice the reader to proceed to your CV or Resume. Unless you create that killer first impression upon the reader-regardless of who it is, you stand better chances of being considered for the position.
Therefore, your cover letter is of utmost importance. And more than that are is how you start a cover letter.
In this article, I will guide you how to start a cover letter with tips on how to write those tricky opening lines too.
Now let’s explore the various kinds of cover letters you might require while applying for work and not merely a job.
Writing Different Kinds of Cover Letters
Broadly speaking, there’re five different kinds of cover letters. Therefore, you’ll need to create the one that suits the requirement of an employer.
This is the first tip: Understand fully what an employer is looking for by reading the job post or advertisement. And check the skills they’re asking for before you actually get down to writing a cover letter.
These are five different types of cover letters that you would require.
- Cover letter for fresher applicants.
- Cover letter for jobseekers with some experience looking for advancing career.
- Cover letter for highly experienced candidates applying for very senior positions.
- Cover letter for freelance jobs.
- Online cover letter while applying for job through company website or recruitment portal.
Here, it’s vital to understand that a generic, all-seasons cover letter won’t create an impression unless you’re applying at your neighborhood store or a very small business. Therefore, you’ll need to create one according to the position, nature of job and employer.
Now let’s see how to write a cover letter with tips and opening lines.
How to Start & Write a Covering Letter
There’re different ways to write a covering letter depending upon the nature of job and company, as I mention earlier. Hence, here’s how to start a cover letter depending upon various factors.
Cover Letter Highlighting Education
A cover letter that highlights your education is the best if you’re applying as fresher. You could use this format also if you’ve been an exceptional student having high scores for your university degree.
And you’re graduated from any of the super prestigious colleges or universities of the world. In such cases, the best way to open a cover letter is by writing a line about your degree.
For example, you can start the cover letter by saying you’re a graduate of that particular university and the degree you hold. The second line should mention your scores during your final exams.
In the second paragraph, mention how your educational qualifications would prove useful for the position you’re applying and its relevance to their field of business.
This is the most important part of the cover letter because it clearly indicates you’ll use your qualifications for the employer’s benefit.
Conclude by writing something about successful projects you’ve done as part of your course and how the experience would prove useful at work.
Start a Cover Letter to Show Your Skills
If you’ve some experience at a job and would like to advance your career, the best way to write a cover letter is by showcasing your skills. Mind you, I’m talking about your skills and not your experience.
These are two different things. Skills are what you can do for an employer and how well you can do that. Experience is the span of time you’ve been working with one or more employer.
You can therefore open the cover letter with the first two sentences speaking about your current or previous job and the skills you have for the one you’re applying.
Here it’s important to be very specific about your skills since that’s what would impress the person reading your application letter. Hence, it needs to be compelling enough to ensure they move to your Resume or CV.
To start a covering letter that shows your skills, you’ll first have to clearly understand what the position you’re applying for involves. And find what skills you have to match the job. In the first two lines, speak about these skills.
In the second paragraph, mention the duration you’ve been using these skills at work and how they would prove useful to a new employer.
You can close the cover letter with a short paragraph stating your educational qualifications and their relevance, if any to the job you’re seeking.
By starting a cover letter that highlights your skills and concludes with your education and their relevance to the job, an interviewer or official is sure to read further. This could translate as an interview call and land you that job.
Cover Letter Indicating Career Growth
Another excellent way to start a cover letter is by indicating your career growth. This format is very useful for highly skilled and experienced candidates.
You can start by writing your current or last position and describe your journey from fresher to this position in two to three sentences.
And in the second paragraph, begin with how this experience and skills are helping your current, previous employers and how a new employer can benefit. Point out that you’re looking for serious career growth and aren’t applying merely for a higher position or the salary that comes with it.
The objective to start a cover letter in this fashion is to clearly convey that you have a successful career in that field and are interested in sharing your expertise with the new employer while looking for growth.
The very fact that you’re having a successful career is adequate to prompt the reader to shortlist you for an interview, sometimes without even referring to your CV or Resume.
However, to use this way to start a cover letter, you’ll need all the skills and expertise that an employer is seeking. Their requirements have to be a perfect match of what you have on offer.
Since these types of cover letters are for very experienced and skilled, senior positions, they can be fairly short. A cover letter of two paragraphs would usually suffice.
The first paragraph should contain your career growth details and the second or last paragraph about what you wish to achieve with the new employer, as reasons for applying.
Cover Letter as Appeal
There’ll be some cases where your cover letter has to open like an appeal to the employer. This might sound strange or laughable.
However, this is also an excellent and acceptable way to start a cover letter. So, how does a cover letter that reads like an appeal to an employer actually work? I’ll explain.
You start the cover letter with an appeal for the employer to hire someone that has your qualifications, skills, experience and- the most vital part- enthusiasm.
Point out in the first two sentences why you’re appealing to the employer to hire someone like you, who’s enthusiastic about the position. And of course, reasons why your appeal should be considered- meaning the value you’ll bring to the company if you get the job.
When you start a cover letter as appeal, you’ll be addressing the exact needs of an employer and pointing out the relevance of your application. You’re actually appealing to the employer to do something about their business in a subtle manner while indicating your suitability for the position.
A cover letter that reads like an appeal is ideal for every jobseeker that’s particularly enthusiastic about a career. Here it’s important to understand that your cover letter, CV or Resume are in complete sync with one-another.
Meaning, your CV or Resume should also reflect that enthusiasm and show that you have valid reasons to appeal for the job as it benefits the employer and your needs.
Cover Letter with Research
If you start a cover letter with research, there’s every possibility of getting that interview call and perhaps the job too. Research shows your profound knowledge about the industry and your willingness to grow.
For example, you can start a cover letter with words such as: “Studies by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates his country will require a million lab technicians by the year 20xx since the industry is projected to grow worth $xxx billion.”
In the second sentence, mention how your education, skills and experience will help the employer benefit from this boom.
Add some more lines by researching into the profession from various reliable sources such as government websites, professional forums and world renowned consultancies and news websites.
When you blend the industry trends based upon proper research and show an employer why your skills are relevant, there’s a big chance that you’ll be invited for an interview.
That’s because you’ll actually impress an employer about the need to hire you while clearly showing your knowledge about the field.
Cover Letter with References
A cover letter with references is useful mainly for freelance and part-time jobs. Never use these cover letters while applying for fulltime jobs are fresher or veteran jobseeker because it can prove counterproductive.
To start a cover letter with references, simply start with mentioning the last successful job done for an employer, with basic details such as the type of assignment and name of employer.
However, ensure that you have a reference or permission to provide a reference from that freelance employer. Use this example to inform the employer about your expertise and how it’s useful for clients across the country or even abroad.
Examples and references you provide have to be 100 percent verifiable since a freelance assignment employer will hand you the job only after checking the skills and rates of countless competitors.
In such cases, start your cover letter with the latest assignment. Include a few jobs you’ve done for top companies or difficult assignments that paid very high.
A cover letter with references is the best way to seek freelance jobs. That’s because the employer has flexibility to choose from a vast talent pool around the world and pay whatever they deem reasonable. You’ll be competing against people that could have much superior skills too.
Read: Professional References – Who to Use as a Reference
Cover Letter for Online Applications
Nowadays, most top companies want you to apply for vacancies through their own website. And recruitment portals also ask you to write a cover letter online within a specific number of characters.
These can prove slightly difficult to write since you might not know what position you’ll get or would be considered for. All large companies get thousands of applications daily on their websites. Therefore, your cover letter has to stand out from others.
On company websites, there’re two types of covering letters you might have to use. While applying for a specific position or job, use any of those I mention above, depending upon various factors.
But if you’re serious about working for that top company and would like to apply for any position, use a rather generic cover letter.
Start a cover letter for such applications by speaking about your educational qualifications, a bit about skills and experience and conclude with reasons why you’d love to work for this specific employer.
The same principle applies to online applications on job portals where you have to write a cover letter. Unless applying for specific jobs, create a generic cover letter.
Here too, you can start a cover letter with your education followed by skills and experience. But leave out the reasons for selecting a specific employer. Instead, conclude with a few words on how you can add value to the employer.
Actually, generic cover letters are most tough to start and write because it’s similar to shooting in the dark. Therefore, define your objectives well and mention them clearly on such cover letters.
Now that you know how to start a cover letter and various tips and examples, it would be easier to write one. I suggest you create a few test cover letters first. And then move on to creating ones that you can use while applying for jobs. Remember, a cover letter doesn’t work on the one-size-fits-all principle. Hence, you have to customize each one.