Careers advice

How to start a cover letter: 4 attention grabbing intros

A good cover letter intro is like a good espresso – short, sharp and energising. Here’s how to brew one of your own.

A cover letter is your chance to prove you’re the perfect candidate for the role, and a vital step towards clinching that all important interview.

But this won’t happen if the reader doesn’t get past the first sentence. Your opener needs to grab their attention, and make them hungry to find out more.

Today, we’re going to answer your questions by exploring how to start a cover letter, NZ style. We’ll look at greetings, what to do when there’s no name in the job ad and some different approaches you can adopt.

Will your readers fall at the first sentence?

What is the best greeting for a cover letter?

Before you start working your wordsmith magic, you need to say hello … the right way.

You may see this section referred to as a ‘cover letter salutation’, but we’ll stick with ‘greeting’, because we aren’t from the Middle Ages. The ideal cover letter greeting looks like this:

  • “Dear James Webster,”

Easy as.

Use ‘Dear’, because it’s a formal letter, and address it to the recruiter or hiring manager by using their full name. This is often included in the job listing, or can usually be found easily by stalking the company website.

How to start a cover letter without a name

We recommend putting serious time into finding a name when addressing your cover letter – this tiny bit of personalisation goes a long way.

Even if you’re not 100% sure it’s right, no one will penalise you for addressing the letter to the head of the department the role sits within. If you’re applying to a really small business, you could even go with the owner – it shows you tried.

Failing all of this, the next best option is, ‘Dear Hiring Manager’. While it lacks the personal touch, this greeting works because it’s basically invisible. It’s not as cold as ‘To whom it may concern’ (avoid this at all costs), and not overly informal like, ‘Hi there’.

Attention grabbing ways to start a cover letter

None of the below examples are better than the others, we just gave you a choice to fit your personal style, and the type of role you’re applying for.

1. Being energetic from the get-go

Enthusiasm for the role and/or company always goes down well. While it’s important not to come across as fake, when done well, this intro can really help you stand out.

Example:

“I was hugely excited to see the assistant restaurant manager role you’re listing on Trade Me Jobs. I’m an experienced head waiter, with a track record of effective leadership and a passion for delivering great customer experiences. What’s more, I’ve been a loyal customer of yours for years, and would love to join your team!”

Try adding some extra energy into your cover letter opener.

2. Leading with your values

While some careers (think doctors, teachers and charity workers) are considered ‘callings’, personal values are becoming increasingly important across New Zealand’s job market.

If you think it’s appropriate, a value-led cover letter can be highly memorable.

Example:

“Businesses should take climate change seriously. As a software engineering graduate with a passion for sustainability, I believe technology is key to making the commercial sector greener. Your reputation for pioneering this technology, and partnering with businesses to implement it, excites me, and I’d love to become part of your mission.”

3. Targeting an achievement

Evidence-backed success stories grab the reader’s attention, and get them thinking about the improvements you could make to their company. The trick here is to get your message over without appearing arrogant.

Example:

“In the last 18 months, I’ve beaten my quarterly sales target by a minimum of X%, every time. In total, this has brought in an additional $XX,XXX of revenue for the business. I’d love to bring this track record, and my passion for customer service, to the Sales Manager position listed on Trade Me Jobs.”

Highlighting a professional achievement can be a strong way to start your cover letter.

4. Mentioning a contact

If someone within the company recommended you apply for the job, make sure the hiring manager knows. Why? They see hundreds of applications a day, and if yours is backed by someone who’s already landed a job at the company, that means something.

Example:

“I was excited to learn about the Social Media Manager role from my former colleague, Lauren Irvine. She and I worked together running digital and social campaigns for a wide variety of companies at BUSINESS NAME. She thought my skills and personality would be a good match for your team.”

Another way to make your application easy for the hiring manager is by including a link to your online job profile, or portfolio of work. Today, employers often want to check out your digital presence, and this platform lets them build a better picture of you by viewing your skills and experience at the click of a button.