A cover letter is one of the first things your potential employer is going to see when they look at
your job application – this means you want to be able to get it right, especially at the beginning. First
impressions count big time, and so making sure you start your application off with a bang will get
employers eager to know more and hopefully hire you!
The difficulty lies in just how do you get that bang that makes them want to read more? Don’t worry
– it’s actually much simpler than it looks. With this article, you’ll find out the best ways to grab your
potential employer’s attention, show off your best bits, and really make a statement. Here are our 7
best ways to start your cover letter rather than the boring old “Hello”, so you can stand out from the
Show Employers That You’re Excited About the Company
No matter how qualified you are, if you’re not interested in the job you’re applying for, it will come
across in your application. Employers love nothing more than someone who is passionate and
motivated to work, not only because they can create a positive work environment and nurture
employees who are success-driven, but so that they know you’ll represent the business well and
maintain their good name.
It’s important to make sure that your enthusiasm is authentic, though – they will be able to see
through anything fake or unnatural, so make sure you express how genuinely exciting the job
opportunity is for you. Any evidence you can offer as proof of your enthusiasm is great – perhaps
you’ve had experience in this area before which you loved, or perhaps you’ve even interacted with
the company before. Any solid examples will really help push your application to the top – research
by Dr Katharine Hansen highlights enthusiasm as a very important trait for a cover letter to have.
Example: “I jumped at the opportunity to work with Company A as a sales assistant, as I have not
only experienced excellent customer service whilst purchasing here, but have also read countless
online reviews expressing the same positive treatment. Company A’s dedication in providing quality
services to their customers sparked a passion in me, and after 3 years of experience in retail, I am
eager to broaden my experience further with such a customer-focused business.”
Mention Any Referrals or Recommendations
One way to grab someone’s attention is to talk about what is familiar to them. In this case, talking
about people who the employer may know or may have worked with is a great way to draw
attention quickly. Of course, you want to avoid people that may be known for the wrong reasons –
so make sure you don’t bring up anyone who may have been fired or forced to leave the company
on bad terms. People who the employer respects are a great fit here, as it means that person
considers you a good fit for the role – and therefore so will your employer.
As before, remember to show your passion for the role, as well as expressing how grateful you are to
be able to apply for the opportunity. You don’t need to say a huge amount of the recommendation –
in most cases, purely the fact that this person recommended you is enough to kick off your cover letter and gain you some automatic respect from the hiring manager. You don’t want your whole
application to be based on someone else’s words – you want to be able to prove that you’re worth
the recommendation, too, so keep it short, simple, and tasteful.
Example: “I heard about this exciting opportunity from your Director of Engagement, John Smith. We
previously collaborated on a progressive employee recognition program for several local companies,
and he suggested I apply for this role, as it complements my abilities.”
Begin by Showing Off Your Greatest Achievements
As with any good piece of writing, your cover letter should have a veritable hook that pulls the
reader in (in this case, it’s your prospective employer), compelling them to carry on reading (and not
skimming) your cover letter. Without coming across as arrogant, try to quickly introduce your
greatest achievements that can make you stand out amongst the crowd, providing a true impetus
for them to single you out as a new hire.
To not to come across as a braggart; you should try and integrate your past achievements with your
current role. That is, how would you doing this thing in the past benefit your prospective employer?
Whilst it’s important to have a great resume full of amazing work experience and achievements, it is
equally important to be able to apply yourself and look to how you can add value to whatever
company you’re applying to.
Example: “By further automating or simplifying Company X’s database query system via custom-
created software, I managed to reduce employee downtime by over half, increasing revenue by
almost double over the next six months. I’d like to bring my expertise in automatization and task
efficiency to the position of Y at your company, Company Z, in the hopes of maximising your firm’s
Back It Up with Research (and a Bit of Flattery)
Research shows that flattery will get you far – especially if it is sincere. Now, whilst it’s not advisable
to sprinkle meaningless compliments all over your cover letter, it’s important that you do your
research about the company – and pair it with a compliment here and there.
Doing your research into the company itself shows your enthusiasm and that you are willing to put
in the effort to always learn new things all the time – imagine how you’d come across in comparison
to someone that just submits a generic, catch-all cover letter. However, a good word here and there
However, to avoid coming across as a sham, remember to bring up a statistic or a fact (from a
reputable source) about the company, or maybe even a recent award that they have been given. All
of this not only shows your capacity to think for yourself and do your own research, but it also puts
you in the good books of whoever happens to be reading your cover letter – we’re only human, after
Example: “After seeing your company get nominated for the third year in a row as Employees’
Choice, all whilst seeing record growth, I knew that you must be doing something right. Whilst there are many companies that specialise in marketing out there, your dedication to providing an ethical, safe, and yet productive working environment for your employees has inspired me to apply for a role at Company X as a human resources officer, with the intent of carrying on and further iterating
upon your ethos.”
Show Passion for Your Craft
Every job is, by nature, a craft of its own – whether you fit sinks as a plumber, or handle billion-dollar
mergers, a degree of skill is needed in both cases. If you see your job, or prospective job, as a craft to
further immerse yourself into and, by consequence, develop your own self, then you will come
across as much more sincere and true to yourself, and these are traits which employers always
Research shows that enthusiasm is contagious – so, a passion for your craft is surely to ignite a spark
of positive emotion in whoever happens to be reading your cover letter, improving your chances of
actually acquiring the job. Passion not only motivates yourself to work towards success, but also
those around you – and that is an asset within itself. Being this kind of person will surely make you
stand apart from the crowd and increase your chances of making it through.
Example: “Teaching has always been a passion of mine. Ever since high school, where I sometimes
was an impromptu teaching assistant, I’ve always been passionate and keen about sharing
knowledge with others and helping them through the learning process. With my twelve years of
experience as a teacher at a number of high schools, I am fully committed to bringing my
pedagogical knowledge to develop the best textbooks for students across the country at Company
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Humorous
Progressive journalist Jacob Riis said that humour is “the saving sense”. While you might think that
your cover letter doesn’t necessarily need ‘saving’ (and that may be true), it never hurts to inject
some humour where appropriate to the job you’re applying for and the company’s general ethos (a
barrister firm may have different outlooks on cover letter humour than a video-game company, for
Hiring managers are, like everyone else, human, and so anything that can catch their attention (and
keep it there) is a good thing. Before injecting any humour in your application, however, be sure to
do your homework on the working culture of the company you’re applying for, as well as the general
wording of the job advert to see if it is indeed wise to put in a joke or three. However, keep in mind
that you need to keep your jokes PG-friendly and free of any discrimination or potentially abusive or
Humour is a type of showing and not telling – that is, if the joke is not too forced, it highlights
(without using many words) the true type of person you are. And so, with the hopes that the joke
lands well enough, you will come across as a much better candidate without having to waste much
space in terms of verbose writing.
Example: “I could say that I am detail-oriented, or a self-starter, or even super-organised. But I am
instead going to say that I colour-code my colour-coding pens inside a colour-coded set of dividers –
I think that speaks for itself!”
Begin by Highlighting Your Beliefs
Whilst you could easily spend a whole paragraph describing yourself down to a tee, opening up with
a relatively short yet meaningful statement of your beliefs can put your true self across much better.
Of course, you should find yourself espousing a set of values that aligns with the organisation that
you are trying to apply for, but either way you should aim to be as unique and non-repetitive as you
You should try and keep it PG-friendly, without including any beliefs that are socially unacceptable,
such as racism, homophobia, or any other discriminatory beliefs. You should also try to phrase this
opening statement around the company’s own ethos (whilst not directly copying it) – it is key,
however, that in all of this you stay as true to your own self as possible whilst still appealing the
organisation’s goals and values.
Example: “As a doctor, I believe that every person, no matter who they are, is entitled to receive
adequate healthcare with the utmost of dignity and respect in the best possible conditions.”
In conclusion, while the perfect cover letter doesn’t exist, there are a good number of things that
you can do in order to put yourself at the top of the proverbial pile. You need to, of course, have an
impressive repertoire of achievements – from good grades, to eye-watering past experience, and
whatever skills your chosen employer might desire, these are at the crux of a good employee.
However, it is also equally important to come across as an honest, hard-working individual – facts
and techniques can be taught easily in comparison to teaching someone how to be hard-working
and passionate. You need to come across as an individual that is ready to put their head down and
get on with it, seeing every obstacle as a new challenge to tackle and eventually overcome.
However, in your quest for the best cover letter, don’t be afraid to be yourself and to stand up for
your principles, too – done via your statement of beliefs and the occasional injection of a few jokes,
if appropriate for the position you’re applying for. Ultimately, balancing these requires some skill
and it might take a few tries before you get it right – or perhaps you have a tip that we haven’t come
across yet. What do you think makes a good cover letter?