So you’re looking for a great new job, and you really want to impress potential employers.

How can you do that in today’s crowded and competitive marketplace, when so many equally qualified candidates are applying for available jobs?

One of the best ways to spark employer interest from the start is by writing attention-getting cover letters.

The cover letter is your first introduction to a prospective employer. When you’re one of many candidates applying for the same position, it’s important to stand out from the crowd and make a great first impression. However, even after your resume is polished to perfection and ready to go, it’s challenging to figure out how to start a cover letter.

Here are some tips on diving in to write an appealing cover letter that gets results.

Skip the small talk

Many candidates – often because they aren’t sure how to start a cover letter – open with a statement that they’re applying for the job because they saw it advertised in X place. Imagine something generic like, “I’m sending you this cover letter to apply for a job.” This is a mistake simply because it sounds just like so many other cover letter openings. And, it’s frankly boring.

Employers are looking for candidates who stand out. You can do this by leaving the throat-clearing off the opening of your cover letter and getting straight to the point.

Strut your stuff

Have an impressive (or impressive-sounding) job title? Got any great accomplishments that make the job you’re applying to perfect for you? Open your cover letter with this information in the first sentence, and employers will sit up and pay more attention to what you have to say.

Too much modesty is typically not a good thing when you’re applying for jobs. As the journalism expression goes, “Don’t bury the lede.” Always start with the good stuff.

Fly your passion flag high

If you don’t have any particularly significant accomplishments – or even if you do – starting your cover letter by expressing your excitement for the job is another great way to gain an employer’s attention. After all, look at it from the employer’s point of view: No one wants to hire a person who’s not actually interested in doing the job.

You can highlight your personal enthusiasm for the company you’re applying to, the work itself, or both. Chances are, employers will be more interested in moving to the interview stage with a candidate who’s motivated to perform the job they’re looking to fill.

Embrace (logical) keyword stuffing

The term “keyword stuffing” has become associated with bad online marketing practices, but it can be a good tactic for the opening of your cover letter – if you use it strategically. Many employers use applicant tracking systems as a first-stage screening tool to decide which cover letter and resume packages merit further review, so if you hit the right keywords, you have a better shot at the job.

Of course, writing a string of keywords as the first sentence of your cover letter is a very bad idea. Instead, incorporate the most important and relevant keywords into an opening paragraph that highlights your skills and experience.

One size doesn’t fit all

Finally, keep in mind that while you theoretically might be able to send your resume to multiple employers with no changes, your cover letter should be customized to the specific job and company you’re applying to. The best attention-getting cover letters are tailored to speak directly to one person — the hiring manager who will decide whether you score an interview.

Start your cover letter with confidence and a healthy dose of passion, and you’ll find yourself with a much better chance at landing your dream job.

It can be hard to find a new job you love. If you feel stuck and are wanting some support, consider applying for a free discovery session or click here to learn more about how career coaching can help. You don’t need to do this alone.

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