How to Address a Cover Letter

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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 learn 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.

It's also acceptable to start a letter without a greeting. Review advice on how to address a printed and email cover letter, along with examples of salutations and formats.

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 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.

How to Address a Cover Letter Without a Contact Person

There are 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:

  • Leave it blank (8%)

Do keep in mind that terms like "To Whom It May Concern" may seem dated, so the best options may be either to use "Dear Hiring Manager" or not to include a greeting at all. Simply start with the first paragraph of your letter.

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 the 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.

How to Address an Email Cover Letter

Hiring managers get a lot of emails each day. Make it easy for them to scan your email and follow up by including a clear subject line and a signature with your contact information. It's important to address the email cover letter correctly, including the name of the person hiring for the position if you have a contact, to ensure that your letter gets noticed.

Subject Line of Email Message

Never leave the subject line blank. There is a good chance that if a hiring manager receives an email with no subject line, they’ll delete it without even bothering to open it. Instead, write a clear subject indicating your intentions.

List the job you are applying for in the subject line of your email message, so the employer knows what job you are interested in as well. They may be hiring for multiple positions, and you will want them to identify the position you’re interested in easily.

Addressing the Contact Person

There are a variety of cover letter salutations you can use to address your email message. If you have a contact person at the company, address the letter to Ms. or Mr. Lastname. If you aren’t given a contact person, check to see if you can determine the email recipient's name.

If you can’t find a 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.

Body of Email Cover Letter

The body of your cover letter lets the employer know what position you are applying for, and why the employer should select you for an interview. This is where you'll sell yourself as a candidate. Review the job posting and include examples of your attributes that closely match the ones they are looking for. When you're sending an email cover letter, it's important to follow the employer's instructions on how to submit your cover letter and resume. ​Make sure that your email cover letters are written as well as any other documents you send.

Conclusion

If you have attached your resume, mention this as part of your conclusion. Then finish your cover letter by thanking the employer for considering you for the position. Include information on how you will follow up. Include a closing, then list your name and your email signature.

Signature

Your email signature should include your name, full address, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn Profile URL (if you have one) so it is easy for hiring managers to get in touch.

Firstname Lastname
Street Address
City, State, Zip
Email
Cell
LinkedIn

Review 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.

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.

Carefully Proofread Your Letter

Whether you're sending an email or uploading or attaching a printable cover letter, it's important to make sure that your cover letter and resume are written as well as any other business correspondence. If you can, have a friend proofread before you hit send, to pick up any typos or grammatical errors.