How to Address a Cover Letter
Addressing a cover letter can be tricky if you are responding to a job listing and either don’t have a contact person’s name or don't know the hiring manager's gender.
First of all, take the time to try and find out the name and gender of the contact person. Some employers will think poorly of an applicant who does not take the time to find out the hiring manager’s name.
However, if you do some research and are still not sure to whom you are addressing your letter, it's better to be safe and use a generic greeting or none at all.
It's acceptable to start a letter without a greeting.
Read below for advice on how to address a cover letter, and example salutations.
Options for Addressing a Cover Letter
When you're not sure to whom to address your cover letters, you have a few options.
The first is to find out the name of the person you are contacting. If the name is not included on the job listing, you might look up the title of the employer or hiring manager on the company website. If there is a contact number, you might also call and ask an administrative assistant for the name of the hiring manager.
If you cannot discover the name of the contact person at the company, you can either leave off the salutation from your cover letter and start with the first paragraph of your letter, or use a general salutation.
Tips for Using a General Salutation
There a variety of general cover letter salutations you can use to address your letter.
These general cover letter salutations do not require you to know the name of the hiring manager.
In a survey of more than 2,000 companies, Saddleback College found that employers preferred the following greetings:
- Dear Hiring Manager (40%)
- To Whom It May Concern (27%)
- Dear Sir/Madam (17%)
- Dear Human Resources Director (6%)
How to Address a Cover Letter for a Non Gender-Specific Name
If you do have a name but aren't sure of the person's gender, one option is to include both the first name and the last name in your salutation, without any sort of title that reveals gender:
- Dear Sydney Doe
- Dear Taylor Smith
With these types of gender-ambiguous names, LinkedIn can be a helpful resource. Since many people include a photo with their profile, a simple search of the person's name and company within LinkedIn could potentially turn up the contact's photograph.
Again, you can also check the company website or call the company’s administrative assistant to get more information as well.
What Title to Use
Even if you know the name and gender of the person to whom you are writing, think carefully about what title you will use in your salutation. For example, if the person is a doctor or holds a Ph.D., you might want to address your letter to “Dr. Lastname” rather than “Ms. Lastname” or “Mr. Lastname.” Other titles might be “Prof.,” “Rev.,” or “Sgt.,” among others.
Also, when you address a letter to a female employer, use the title “Ms.” unless you know for certain that she prefers another title (such as Miss or Mrs.).
“Ms.” is a general title that does not denote marital status, so it works for any female employer.
How to Format a Salutation
Once you have chosen a salutation, follow it with a colon or comma, a space, and then start the first paragraph of your letter. For example:
Dear Hiring Manager:
First paragraph of letter.
Spell Check Names
Finally, before sending your cover letter, make absolutely sure that you have spelled the hiring manager’s name correctly. That is the kind of small error that can cost you a job interview.
Cover Letter Examples
Here are examples of cover letters addressed to a hiring manager, cover letters with a contact person, and more samples to review.
How to Write a Cover Letter
This guide to writing cover letters has information on what to include in your cover letter, how to write a cover letter, cover letter format, targeted cover letters, and cover letter samples.
Top Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid
Most Common Cover Letter Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
The first thing that most employers notice when evaluating a job applicant is his or her cover letter. An effective cover letter can prove that you write well, think clearly and possess the qualities you need to succeed in the job. Avoiding mistakes will help you to jump the first hurdle and get screened in for an interview.
Most Common Cover Letter Mistakes
Submitting a Cover Letter With Errors. Submitting a letter with grammar and/or spelling errors is a sure way to get screened out.
Use spelling and grammar checking tools to identify some issues, but never trust that they have caught all your errors. Place a finger on every word, read your letter out loud and have friends and advisors review your communications before forwarding them to employers.
Sending a Generic Letter. The most common mistake in cover letters is using a generic approach and sending the same letter to every employer. Make sure you mention the specific job for which you are applying in your first sentence. Carefully consider the characteristics of the ideal candidate, as listed in the job posting, and explain how your skills, experiences, and personal qualities will enable you to excel in that particular job.
Not Getting the Facts Right. It is surprising how often job seekers address their letter to the wrong person or reference the wrong company.
This is often the case when candidates are applying for many jobs at the same time. Carefully check you salutation and be certain that you list the right contact person and mention only your target company throughout your letter.
Using an Outdated Greeting. Refrain from using old-fashioned terms like "Dear Sir or Madam" if you don't have the name of a contact person.
Try gender-neutral terms like "Dear Human Resources Manager." Address women as "Ms. Jones" as opposed to "Mrs. Jones" or simply start with the first paragraph of your letter and don't address it to anyone.
Cover Letter is Too Short. Providing a letter which is too short can send the wrong signal to employers about your work ethic or level of interest in the job. You will also have missed the opportunity to frame your background for employers and to lead them towards a positive view of your candidacy.
Cover Letter is Too Long. An overly lengthy letter can burden the reader and increase the likelihood that they will jump over your letter and move right to the resume. The same can be said for paragraphs which are too dense. Aim for 3 to 5 paragraphs no longer than six lines each.
Including Too Much Information. There is some information that you don't need to include in your cover letter. In fact, including it can hurt your chances of securing an interview. Don't give employers any more information than they need to know.
Not Providing Concrete Examples. Expressing empty opinions about your strengths will generally not convince employers about your suitability for the job.
Back up your statements about your assets by referencing a job or role where you successfully employed that strength. For example, instead of simply stating "I possess strong writing skills and an outstanding work ethic." try "Strong writing skills enabled me to revise a grant proposal and secure $100,000 in additional funding from the Jones Foundation."
Not Expressing Enough Interest. Don't leave the hiring manager wondering about your level of interest. Express a genuine enthusiasm for the job so that the employer knows that you are highly motivated to pursue the job.
Read More: Cover Letter Grammar Errors to Avoid | Cover Letter Examples | Cover Letter Format | Email Cover Letters