Answered by Bryan, Hiring Expert at IBM Corporation, on Thursday, September 5, 2013
There are many ways you can start out a cover letter including pointing out your interest in the specific opportunity, briefly mentioning why you are a good fit and asking for an opportunity to speak with the company / company contact to provide additional details about your relevant background and experience. That is pretty standard and straightforward approach. However, the ones that catch my attention are usually a bit more creative. Essentially, if someone can figure a way to catch my attention, there is a good chance I will give them a bit more interest while reviewing. You do not want to get too creative, but a quick quip that mentions how many resumes the company or hiring manager is probably reviewing through with the a follow up such as...Mine is one more, but I do have some experience that can be challenging to come by.
One other thing to think about is whether or not you even need a cover letter. If the role is an engineering or technical role, you may not need to waste time on a cover letter as most recruiters and hiring managers are less concerned with your writing capabilities and more interested in your engineering or technical skills. In fact, many of them never even look at the cover letter more than a few seconds for those types of roles. However, if the role does need strong written communication skills, you definitely want to provide a strong cover letter.