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Written by Anna MuckermanAnna Muckerman

How to start a cover letter (2024)

15 min read
How to start a cover letter (2024)
Artwork by:Lizabeth Zaft
A compelling cover letter begins with a powerful start. At CVapp.ie, we provide simple guidance on how to start a cover letter that grabs attention and elevates your career potential.

Considering the limited time employers dedicate to scanning each job application, it's essential to immediately hook the interest of employers with your cover letter's introduction, To ensure a lasting positive impression, an effective cover letter should:

  • Quickly pique the hiring manager’s curiosity, motivating them to learn more about you
  • Spotlight standout hard skills, special skills, successes or accomplishments
  • Showcase your personality in a professional, effective manner

Achieving these three goals can be done in several ways, but you’ll need an engaging cover letter introduction. Don’t worry – we’re here to help you choose the best cover letter introduction style for your needs.

How to start a cover letter:

If you’re wondering how you even begin a cover letter, we’ve got you covered! We’ll explore the five following strategies for crafting an effective cover letter:

  1. Start your cover letter with an achievement
  2. Begin your cover letter with a personal story
  3. Open your cover letter with a relevant statistic or fact
  4. Highlight strong connections you may have to the job or company
  5. Start with a strong belief statement

Let’s dive deeper into each of these below:

1. Starting a cover letter with an achievement

To make a strong first impression, lead with a noteworthy achievement. This technique is particularly effective in target-driven professions such as sales or real estate. To strike the right balance and avoid appearing arrogant, be sure to substantiate your success with quantifiable data like figures or percentages.

Additionally, ensure the accomplishments you include in your cover letter are relevant. While an outstanding feat like a record-setting sales month is certainly noteworthy, if it doesn't closely relate to the responsibilities of the position you're aiming for, it's better to showcase an achievement that’s more applicable. 


Try an achievement-focused cover letter introduction, like this introduction from our cook cover letter example:

“Over the years, I have prepared and served food to thousands of patrons across Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In 2018, I was awarded the Bigby & Bright Rising Star Award for my dedication to exquisite cuisine. I pride myself on my presentation and experimental flair in the kitchen, and my number one career goal is to bring my customers the highest levels of joy and satisfaction.”


2. Share your professional story

A great way to start a cover letter includes elaborating on your professional background or story. While professionalism is always a non-negotiable, sharing anecdotes about your professional development or your early interests in the industry can foster a more meaningful connection with employers, setting you apart from a sea of applicants fixated on just the nuts and bolts.

To master this personalised approach, it's essential to research the culture of the job or industry you're applying to. Is there a strong human element emphasised in the company's mission statement? In environments that prize creativity and innovation, a cover letter that outlines your own professional story could strike the right chord, especially for those seeking internships or scholarships. 


Start your cover letter with an anecdote or personal story, like the following example from our veterinarian cover letter example:

“When asked as a young child what we wanted to be when we grew older, I remember my classmates listed a variety of careers. Some said astronauts while others opted for librarians, my brother suggested becoming a radio DJ in the morning and a fisherman at night. For me, the answer was the same then as it is now: I wanted to be a veterinarian.”


3. Offer a relevant statistic or fact

Impress employers by starting your cover letter with a solid industry fact or statistic that showcases your dedication or passion for the industry. Mention the statistic or fact and include where it came from. Then, tie it into your vision for the job and the industry. This tactic is especially powerful for higher-up or executive roles, as it shows you're thinking about the company's overall direction.

Your goal with this cover letter introduction is to provide insightful, relevant information that highlights the role you can play in the company’s future. It can also be a good way to weave in any relevant professional achievements or standout skills you possess.


Start your cover letter with a fun, fact-based introduction:

“Did you know that according to the BBC, honey has one of the longest shelf lives of any other kitchen staple? After seven years working as a pastry chef, I have come to love honey for its flavour, longevity, and texture. In many ways, I credit honey – and my skills in the kitchen – for being one of the reasons I won the Dublin Pastry Chef Award for 2024!”


4. Explain your connection to the job, industry, or company

In today's job market, who you know matters, and if you have connections to the company, it's smart to mention them in your cover letter's opening sentence. The trick is to do so subtly—steer clear of blatant name-dropping. Instead, share any key achievements or insights gained through your contacts.

Remember, a connection can be more than just a person. Maybe you have another compelling connection to the industry, the company's mission, or even the city the company is based in. These can be woven into a narrative that illustrates your relationship with the company. Just be sure to keep your tone genuine and straightforward—overdoing it could make it seem like you're just trying to charm your way into the job. 


Start your cover letter off with a values-based introduction, like this one from our teacher cover letter example:

“It is a great privilege to inspire and educate future generations of leaders. Having spent twelve fantastic years teaching in early childhood and secondary schools in Galway and Kilkenny, I have had the honour of providing guidance and instruction to more than 8,000 students throughout my career. There is no greater joy than that of impacting young people’s lives and seeing firsthand how powerful a tool education can be.” 


5. Start your cover letter with a belief statement

Starting with a strong belief statement of why you believe in what you do is a powerful way to show why you're the best candidate for the job, particularly for roles in caregiving or educational professions. When your work demands personal commitment, a belief statement is a natural choice to show what drives and energises you.


Consider the belief statement below from our administrative cover letter example

“Changing the lives of others is often viewed as a challenge that requires intensive effort. After nine years experience working as a receptionist, social media manager, and administrative assistant, I have learned that improving the lives of others is often in the smaller details: remembering staff birthdays, taking action on customer feedback, keeping important company documents organised, and keeping the office efficiently run. Serving others is a privilege, and I would love the opportunity to serve the Jumping Geronimo team as your newest administrative assistant.”


In this example, it becomes clear that the applicant has a passion for service and attention to detail, traits that employers typically value. Before crafting your belief statement, however, be sure to research the employer. A heartfelt introduction fits well in compassionate workplaces, but might be less appropriate in other jobs and industries. 

What’s the best greeting for a cover letter?

There's no universal rule, but starting with "Dear," followed by the appropriate title and the last name of the hiring manager or the person you're addressing, usually fits the bill for professional settings. For example: “Dear Mr. Monaghan,” or “Dear Mrs. Corr.” Formatting your cover letter greeting like this is usually a safe bet when you're unsure about which greeting to use.

Expert tip

Should you put a greeting in a cover letter?

Yes! Just like you wouldn't skip saying "Hello" when you meet someone, you shouldn't leave out a greeting in your cover letter. It's usually even more important to include an appropriate greeting in a cover letter, since it's a formal introduction to someone you haven't met yet.

How do you start a cover letter greeting? 

Pick a greeting that aligns with the company's style and industry culture. If you're in a laid-back or creative field where you know that everyone goes by first names, using a formal title and last name might seem a bit disconnected. If you already know the person you're writing to or you're sending your cover letter as an email, starting with a simple "Hi (First Name)" or "Hello (First Name)" works perfectly. 

  • Use the name of employers, when known, for a more personalised touch
  • Choose formal and friendly greetings
  • Use a collective noun when there is more than one potential recipient
  • Avoid guessing name titles. Instead, address the recipient with their first and last name
  • Refrain from generic greetings, such as "To Whom It May Concern."
  • Use only the first name for greetings, unless you know the name of the employer

How to address a cover letter to an unknown recipient: 

Starting your cover letter with the recipient's name can instantly make your application feel more personal and show that you're interested in the role. However, if you don't know the name of your recipient, here's how to handle it:

  1. Think about whether you'll be talking to one individual or a group
  2. Try to figure out if your reader is likely in HR or another department
  3. Get a sense of how formal or relaxed the company is

These tips can guide you in picking the right greeting for your specific situation. Now, let’s take a look at some more options:

When writing to one or several HR team members:

  • Dear [Company Name] Hiring Manager/Team
  • Dear [Company Name] Recruiter/Recruitment Team

For addressing those outside of HR:

  • Dear [Scholarship Name] Chair/Committee
  • Dear [Company Name] Manager/Management Team

And for less formal company cultures:

  • Greetings, [Company Name] Family
  • Hello, [Company Name] Team

Key takeaways 

Your cover letter's introduction is the first paragraph after the greeting, and it's likely the first part of your cover letter that potential employers will read. Ensuring this section is engaging and well-crafted is essential, as it sets the tone for the rest of your cover letter and can help make (or break!) the first impression employers have of you. 

In the end, there isn't a single right way to start your cover letter: it really depends on your individual background, the specific industry you’d like to work in, and what the employer is looking for. For this reason, it’s important to read the job description thoroughly so you know what employers are searching for in a potential candidate. 

Remember, the most important aspect of your cover letter introduction is how it aligns with your personal brand and resonates with employers. 

For a more tailored and impactful start to your cover letter, why not check out our professional cover letter examples or begin creating a job-winning CV with our online cover letter builder? We’ll guide you through the process and help you create an impressive CV in minutes. Start crafting your perfect cover letter today!

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