When applying for a job, it can be difficult to know exactly how you address your cover letter. It may seem obvious that you can begin your cover letter with “Dear [name of hiring manager]”, but you don’t necessarily know who you are writing to, what their role is, or how they like to be addressed. To address your cover letter in the right way, it is important to learn everything you can about who is hiring you and what salutation works best for their situation.
Researching the company you are applying to is an important skill, and this is a great time to put it to work. Before you address your cover letter, try to find out who in the company will be reading it.
This may be as easy as reading the job posting. Some job postings will offer the name and contact information of the person responsible for hiring. If the job posting contains specific instructions about who you are writing to and how you should contact them, be sure to follow those directions.
If this is not the case, check the job posting for an email address. You may be able to discern the contact’s name by reading their email. For example, if the email address is email@example.com, you can search the company website for names like ‘tswift’, or search Google and LinkedIn for ‘tswift’ and the company name. These searches can lead to the full name of your contact.
If your online research still leaves you in the dark, you can even give the company a call and ask who you should contact about the job opportunity.
If you know the name of the person who will be receiving your application, address your cover letter to them. How you address them, however, may depend on their gender and what they prefer to be called.
It is best to go with a formal title, such as Mr., Ms., or Dr.
If you know that your contact is female, it is best to use Ms. as a title, as this does not make any assumptions about marital status. Only use Mrs. or Miss. if you know that she prefers it.
Mr. will work for all men. If you know that your contact holds another title that they prefer, such as Doctor or Sergeant, you can use this instead.
Acceptable titles to use in your cover letter include:
Sometimes you will be able to find the name of your contact, but not their gender or title. If this is the case, simply skip the title and greet them with their full name.
Alternatively, search for the person's name and company on Google and LinkedIn. If you can find a picture of them or any other information, you may be able to discern the appropriate title.
Even after researching the company, you may not be able to discover the hiring manager’s name. If this is the case, your best bet is to open your cover letter with a simple, generic greeting, such as:
Dear Hiring Manager
This is a common greeting, and one that hiring managers are used to.
If you have more details about which part of the company will be hiring you, you can also include the team in the greeting:
It is best to stay away from overly formal greetings, like ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and ‘To Whom it May Concern’. These aren’t quite red flags—they are unlikely to get your application thrown out—but they can seem stilted and overly formal in today’s workplace.
Finally, if you can’t find the perfect salutation, it is also acceptable to simply skip it altogether and get right to the body of the cover letter. Even if you don’t know who you are writing to, a great cover letter can make the case for you as a candidate.
For tips on writing a great cover letter, check out our article on Email & Cover Letter Examples To Pair with Resumes.
Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.
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