I’m just six or seven down down the list of responses to our advert in the Guardian. One thing that strikes me is the formal “Dear Sir or Madam” tone doesn’t work. Here’s a typical covering letter example with a plain, generic introduction. My eyes just scan over it and I lose interest in the application quickly:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to apply for the Researcher/Junior Account Manager position you have available as advertised in the Guardian.

We didn’t put a particular name on the job add, aside from telling people to write to leon@napoleoncreative.com. Leon is the name of the company dog, a pesky little Pug. Still, there’s no need to write too formally.

Then after all those generic applications, there’s this one:

Dear Gavin,

I hope you are well! My name is A____ and as a recent English Literature graduate who has spent the last three years dividing my time between writing about apocrypha in Hamlet and tinkering about on Photoshop, I am writing to apply for the Junior Account Management position at Napoleon Creative.

Oh, such a relief! Feels like I’m being talked to as a human, rather than a human resources robot. There’s a bit of humour in there too.

So definitely keep a human tone to your opening paragraph, as though you were meeting the person face-to-face. Keep in the mind the second covering letter example not the first!

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Gavin Ricketts is a Producer/Director with twenty year's experience. His book on writing CVs for the creative industries has helped Film and TV Crew win more work.