A cover letter, in its most basic form, is a sales pitch.
The product you are selling, of course, is yourself (or arguably, your services). Now, when anyone purchases any product of service, they want to know two things:
(A) Will this product or service be useful, enjoyable or otherwise solve my problem?
(B) If so, how?
In that all-important first paragraph of your cover letter, you need to answer those two questions for your prospective employer.
Examples First Paragraphs For Cover Letters Responding to Unsolicited & Solicited Job Openings
When Responding to a Job Posting
If your cover letter is in response to a job listing or announcement, your job is easier – but it’s still important to state the purpose of your cover letter in the first paragraph because the typical mid-sized company receives hundreds of pieces of correspondence every day about a wide range of issues.
“Dear Ms. Borgia:
I am a chemist responding to your recent listing
in the September 12th edition of Toxicologia Roma
indicating your need for a skilled exterminator…”
Note that the applicant not only stated who he was and what position he was seeking but also where he saw the job listing. The fact that he is a chemist who reads (and possibly subscribes to) the professional journal cited gives him a great deal of credibility, which in all probability will make Lucrezia interested enough to read further.
When It’s Unsolicited
It’s not at all a bad idea to simply write a query letter to a company for which you are interested in working offering your services. In fact, according to some sources, a many as 70% of all available jobs are never announced or listed. However, in this kind of cover letter, you still want to be very specific about the kind of work you are seeking and for which you are qualified.
The following example:
“Dear Mr. Kirk:
I have recently completed an advanced training
program in the maintenance of matter-antimatter
cooling systems and am writing to inquire about
any openings for reactor cooling technicians
aboard your vessel, or if you anticipate any
openings in the near future…”
is much better than:
“Dear Mr. Kirk:
I’ve always wanted to travel and work on a
starship, and was hoping you might have
an opening somewhere…”
The first rule about writing cover letters is BE BRIEF…but the second one is BE SPECIFIC. Don’t waste this person’s time; let him/her know right away why you have taken the time to contact his/her company.