One of the trickiest parts of writing a cover letter comes at the very beginning. Much of the time, you won’t know exactly who will read your letter. How do you address your cover letter when you don’t have the contact person’s name and/or gender?
First of all, try to find out the name 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. Also, take care not to assume that you know the gender of the recipient based on the name. Many names are gender-neutral, and some hiring managers may identify as a gender other than male or female.
Options for Addressing a Cover Letter
It’s also possible that you’ll do your research and still be unable to figure out to whom you are addressing your letter. In that case, it's better to be safe and use a generic greeting. It's also acceptable to start a letter without a greeting and start with the first paragraph of your letter.
You have a lot of options when addressing your letter. Learn more about the possibilities before you make your choice.
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:
- Dear Sir/Madam (27%)
- To Whom It May Concern (17%)
- Dear Human Resources Director (6%)
- 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 a title that reveals gender:
- Dear Sydney Doe
- Dear Taylor Smith
- Dear Jamie Brown
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.
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 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, or it could end up in their spam mailbox. 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. They may be hiring for multiple positions, and you will want them to identify the position you’re interested in easily.
How to Address 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.
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 the letter.
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 as well-written as any other documents you send.
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.
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.
Street Address (optional)
City, State Zip Code
Sample Cover Letter
This is a cover letter example. Download the cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Sample Cover Letter (Text Version)
12 Rogers Avenue
Townville, New Hampshire 03060
February 17, 2021
39 Main Street
Townville, New Hampshire 03060
Dear Mr. Lee:
I was excited to see your ad for the operations assistant position in your Townville offices.
I have five years of experience as an operations assistant/associate. In my most recent role at ABC Corp., I fulfilled orders, resolved customer issues, ordered supplies, and prepared reports. In previous roles, I’ve done bookkeeping, data entry, and sales support. Basically, anything your department needs to run smoothly, I can do – and most likely, I already have experience doing it.
My other skills include:
- Strong communication skills, in person, in writing, and on the phone
- Excellent attention to detail and organization skills
- Top-notch customer service
- Experience in the industry and passion for the product
- Adept at all the usual professional software, including Microsoft Office Suite
I’ve included my resume for your review. Please contact me if you have questions or would like to schedule an interview. Thank you for your consideration.
Signature (hard copy letter)
Before You Send Your Letter
Review Cover Letter Samples: It’s hard to write cover letters from scratch. To make life easier – and to make sure you don’t forget any of those pesky formatting rules—start by reviewing cover letter samples. Sending an email version instead? Look at a few examples of email cover letters to get started.
Customize Your Cover Letter: Why personalize your cover letter every time you apply for a job? Because even similar job titles have different requirements. The goal of a cover letter is to show the hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for this particular job. Customizing your cover letter will help you emphasize your skills and experience and how they fit with the job requirements.
Spell-Check Names: 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.