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.
If you're sending your resume and a cover letter to a company and you don't know the name of a person to whom you can address the letter, take some time to find out who the right contact is before you use a generic salutation. Addressing the letter to a generic person can leave an unfavorable impression of you. It's often not very difficult to discover the name of the hiring manager or the HR recruiter for a particular position.
Avoid Using a Generic Address
Using a generic address or salutation can leave a bad impression on people at the company to which you're sending your resume. To some, it implies that you are either not really very interested in the position, too lazy or not resourceful enough to discover who the hiring manager or HR recruiter is for the role. When you address the letter to a person, it immediately puts your resume in the hands of an appropriate contact, rather than in a stack of other unsolicited resumes.
Call and Ask
Call the company and ask for the Human Resource department. Explain to an HR representative that you don't want to send your cover letter without a specific name and ask if you can have the name of the hiring manager or the HR recruiter for the position. Introduce yourself and get the name of the person with whom you speak. Because you've been introduced over the phone, the person may be a good contact to use when following up on the status of your resume or application.
Ask Friends and Colleagues
Determine if you have friends or colleagues who work at the company to which you're sending your resume. Join or log in to LinkedIn (see website in Resources) or another business social networking site and run a search for the company name in your network. Ask a friend or colleague who works at the company if she can discover the name of the hiring manager or recruiter for the position. You may want to suggest that your friend submit your resume on your behalf if the company has an employee referral program that pays a bonus when employee-recommended candidates are hired.
If you cannot find a person to whom you can address the letter, be specific in your generic address and salutation. Address the letter either to the hiring manger or recruiter for the position and include the name of the position so it's immediately apparent what job you're applying for when someone opens the mail and reviews your cover letter. For example, use "Hiring Manager for ABC Position" or "HR Recruiter for XYZ Position" to help get your resume and cover letter directed to the right person as quickly as possible.
About the Author
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
Suggest an Article Correction