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Traditional cover letter wisdom tells you to start a cover letter with something to the effect of:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to apply for the marketing manager position with the Thomas Company.

We say: A cookie cutter cover letter intro feels as outdated as a Hotmail address.

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Your cover letter is the best way to introduce yourself to a hiring manager—who you are, what you have to offer, and why you want the job—but you have an extremely limited amount of space to do it. So if you really want to get noticed, you’ve got to start right off the bat with something that grabs your reader’s attention.

What do we mean? Well, we won’t just tell you, we’ll *show* you—but first, a few super quick tips!

Tips for writing an effective cover letter

Here are a few pointers to guide you as you use our example cover letter openings—we’re getting there, we promise!—to craft your own:

  • Avoid boring or overused openers: Recruiters have read cover letters that start with lines like “I’m excited to apply for the front-end engineering position,” or “Your job posting on The Muse prompted me to…” so often they could wallpaper their homes with them.
  • Be lively and personable: People like reading interesting, engaging stuff. The kind that paints a picture, tells a story, and maybe even makes them smile. People like it when you’re human, genuine, and memorable.
  • Communicate that you’ll bring something to the company: You’ll get more into the details after your opening, of course. But your cover letter opener should still tell the reader, “This person can do something for us,” rather than, “This job would really help them.”
  • Stick to the point: Your opener, while creative, should still be relevant to the job. Don’t begin by highlighting an unrelated accomplishment or recounting an anecdote that never connects back to why you’re applying for the job.
  • Find an alternative to “To Whom It May Concern.” Seriously, banish those five words from your cover letter vocabulary forever.

30 strong cover letter openers

We’ve come up with 30 examples and separated them by the method they use to grab the reader’s attention. We don’t recommend copying and pasting them because, well, your cover letter should be unique to your stories, background, and interests, but you can most definitely use them to get inspired for your next application. (If you’re looking to see what an entire cover letter might look like, check out our article on the best cover letter examples for every type of job seeker.)

Start with passion

Employers want to hire people who care about what they’re doing. If you start your cover letter off talking about your passions and how they relate to the job, you’re telling the reader that you’ll be an engaged and motivated employee who’s likely to stick around. Plus, it’s a good way to tell the company a bit about who you are as a person right off the bat. Just be honest and realistic.

  • If truly loving data is wrong, I don’t want to be right. It seems like the rest of the folks at [Analytics Company] feel the same way—and that’s just one of the reasons why I think I’d be the perfect next hire for your sales team.
  • I’ve been giving my friends and family free style advice since I was 10, and recently decided it’s time I get paid for it. That’s why I couldn’t believe it when I found an open personal stylist position at [Company].
  • After about three years of trying out different roles at early-stage startups around San Francisco, watching more “find your passion“ keynotes than I’d like to admit, and assuring my parents that, yes, I actually do have a real job, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’m happiest when I’m doing two things: writing great content and getting it out into the world.
  • The other day, I took a career assessment, which told me I should be a maritime merchant. I’m not quite sure what that is, but it did get me thinking: A role that combines my skills in business development with my lifelong passion for the ocean would be my absolute dream. Which is how I found this role at Royal Caribbean.
  • As a kid, I once gave up a day of a family vacation to transport an injured lizard I found by our hotel two hours each way to the nearest animal hospital (and talked my dad into driving me pre-GPS!). When I was a bit older, I found out I could care for animals every day for a living, and I’ve been working toward that goal ever since.
  • “I am constantly checking my LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds—and not because of FOMO. Because I’m someone who wholeheartedly believes in the power of sharing ideas in online communal spaces, and I’m positive that I can help spark meaningful conversations as your next social media assistant.”
  • When I was growing up, I wanted to be one of those people who pretend to be statues on the street. Thankfully, my career goals have become a little more aspirational over the years, but I still love to draw a crowd and entertain the masses—passions that make me the perfect community manager.

Start with admiration

Companies often want to hire people who already know, love, eat, and sleep their brand. What better to kick off your cover letter than a little flattery? Of course, remember when you’re telling a company why you love it to be specific and genuine. Because while everyone likes a compliment, no one likes obvious self-serving B.S.

  • I pretty much spent my childhood in the cheap seats at Cubs games, snacking on popcorn and cheering on the team with my grandfather. It’s that memory that’s shaped my career—from helping to establish the sports marketing major at my university to leading a college baseball team to an undefeated season as assistant coach—and what led me to apply for this position at the Chicago Cubs.
  • It was Rudy, my Golden Retriever, who first inspired me to apply to your operations assistant opening—not only have we used your app to find other dogs to play with in our neighborhood, he’s really excited about the prospect of coming to work with me every day. As I learned more about how [Company] is using modern tech to help pets thrive in cities, I couldn’t help but get excited to be part of it, too.
  • When I was seven, I wanted to be the GEICO gecko when I grew up. I eventually realized that wasn’t an option, but you can imagine my excitement when I came across your events manager position, which would have me working side by side with my favorite company mascot.
  • When I attended SXSW for the first time last month, I didn’t want to leave. So I decided I shouldn’t—and immediately went to check out job openings at the company.
  • If I could make the NYC apartment rental process better for just one person, I would feel like the horrors of my recent search would all be worth it. So a customer service role at [Apartment Search Company], where I could do it every day? I can’t think of anything more fulfilling.
  • [Vacation Rental Company] is synonymous with luxury and escape, known for spaces that inspire. I’ve felt this firsthand every time I’ve stayed at one of your properties—whether I was throwing a bachelorette party or working from home in a new locale—and I would love the chance to contribute to this reputation as your destination manager.
  • I was an hour out from hosting my first big dinner party when I realized I had forgotten to pick up the white wine. In a panic, I started Googling delivery services, and that’s when I first stumbled across [Delivery Service Company]. I’ve been hooked ever since, so I couldn’t help but get excited by the idea of bringing this amazingness to nervous hosts like me as your next social media and community manager.
  • Though I’m happily employed as a marketing manager, seeing the job description for your company’s PR director position stopped me in my tracks. I’ve been wearing your glasses for many years, and have always been impressed by the way the company treats its customers, employees, and the community at large.
  • A group of us IT folks were sitting around talking about our favorite Pacific Northwest companies this morning (coincidentally, over coffee). As you might figure, Starbucks was among the first names that came up. What makes you such a standout among Seattle-based corporations? Here’s the list we compiled:

Start with accomplishments

For any given job, you’re going to be competing with a lot of other people—presumably, a lot of other similarly qualified people. So a great way to stand out in your cover letter is to highlight something about yourself—a character trait, an accomplishment, a really impressive skill—that’ll quickly show how you stand out.

  • My last boss once told me that my phone manner could probably defuse an international hostage situation. I’ve always had a knack for communicating with people—the easygoing and the difficult alike—and I’d love to bring that skill to your open office manager position.
  • Among my colleagues, I’m known as the one who can pick up the pieces, no matter what amount of you-know-what hits the fan. Which is why I think there’s no one better to fill this customer service leader position.
  • Last December, I ousted our company’s top salesperson from his spot—and he hasn’t seen it since. Which means, I’m ready for my next big challenge, and the sales manager role at your company is exactly what I’m looking for.
  • After spending three years managing the internal communications for a 2,000-person company, I could plan a quarterly town hall or draft an interoffice memo in my sleep. What do I want to do next? Put that experience to work as a consultant for executives looking to level up their communications strategy.
  • While you won’t find the title “community manager” listed on my resume, I’ve actually been bringing people together online and off for three years while running my own blog and series of meetups.
  • If you’re looking for someone who can follow orders to the T and doesn’t like to rock the boat, I’m probably not the right candidate. But if you need someone who can dig into data, see what’s working (and what’s not), and challenge the status quo, let’s talk.
  • I recently relocated my family to Texas. As we neared our new home, I noticed with intrigue the many wind turbines dotting the landscape. Suddenly, it hit me: “This is the career for me.” After unloading the moving van, I promptly researched companies in this sector that may benefit most from a skilled field engineer with expert electromechanical skills. And I discovered that [Company] is where I want to be.
  • You might be wondering what a 15-year veteran of the accounting world is doing applying to an operations role at a food startup. While I agree the shift is a little strange, I know you’re looking for someone who’s equal parts foodie and financial expert, and I think that means I’m your person.
  • Over the last 10 years, I’ve built my career on one simple principle: Work smarter. I’m the person who looks for inefficient procedures, finds ways to streamline them, and consistently strives to boost the productivity of everyone around me. It’s what’s earned me three promotions in the supply chain department at my current company, and it’s what I know I can do as the new operations analyst for [Company].

Start with humor and creativity

OK, before you read any of these, we have to stamp them with a big, blaring disclaimer: Do your homework before trying anything like this—learning everything you can about the company and the hiring manager to gauge whether or not they appreciate some comedic relief or a bit of snark. If they do, it’s a great way to make them smile (then call you). If they don’t? Try a different approach.

  • Have you ever had your mom call five times a day asking for a status update on how your job search is going, and then sound incredulous that you haven’t made more progress since the last phone call? That’s my life right now. But I’m hoping that soon my life will revolve around being your full-time social media manager. The good news is, I bring more to the table than just an overbearing mom. Let me tell you more.
  • Thank you so much for offering me the marketing manager position at [Company]! I wholeheartedly accept. OK, I know we’re not quite there yet. But if we were, here are just a few ideas for what I would do once in the role.
  • I considered submitting my latest credit card statement as proof of just how much I love online shopping, but I thought a safer approach might be writing this cover letter and describing all the reasons I’m the one who can take [E-Commerce Company]’s business to the next level.
  • I never thought that accidentally dropping my iPhone out of a second story window would change my life (it’s a funny story—ask me about it). But thanks to my misfortune, I discovered [Phone Repair Company]—and found my dream job as an expansion associate.
  • If we were playing “Two Truths and a Lie,” I’d say: I’ve exceeded my sales quotas by at least 20% every quarter this year, I once won an international pie-eating contest, and I have an amazing job at [Company]. The last, of course, is the lie. For now.

Jenny Foss, Erica Breuer, and Regina Borsellino also contributed writing, reporting, and/or advice to this article.