How to Address a Cover Letter (With a Name, Without a Name) in 2020
Knowing how to address a cover letter can help tremendously when writing your letter. A proper start to your letter can make sure the hiring manager pays attention to your cover letter and continues to read it in its entirety. This leads to the hiring manager continuing to read your resume and potentially offering you a job interview, phone interview, or other next steps in the process.
The perfect cover letter is one that’s targeted to the job description, job advertisement, and prospective employer. From what you bring up in your first paragraph (your opening paragraph), second paragraph, and more. Your greeting is a key part of that targeting process. A generic greeting or generic salutation is what makes your letter feel like a generic cover letter. Which feels like a generic template you’ve used for each job application you’ve submitted to every potential employer.
Without the Contact Person or Hiring Manager’s Name
There are two methods of greetings that you should use. One where you know the specific person you’re addressing in your letter. This should be reflected in your cover letter greeting and first/second paragraph. And when you don’t know the name of who you’re addressing.
When you don’t know the contact name of the reader, your options, in order of importance are:
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear Human Resources Team (or other team you’re applying for)
- Dear Sir/Madam
- To Whom It May Concern
If you don’t want to use a cover letter salutation like this, you should seek out the hiring manager’s name. You can do this by looking at the job description, job posting (job advertisement), searching the company website, or company LinkedIn for the full name of the hiring manager. LinkedIn can be a powerful resource for finding the manager or recruiter involved with placing this specific position. Using the manager’s name is a preferred method.
Tip: Perform an informational interview to determine the name of the manager who is hiring for the position. For job seekers, this is a type of interview process where you ask someone who works within the company for career advice. Through this process, you can find out the name of the professional who is hiring for the role.
With the Contact Person or Hiring Manager’s Name
When you have the manager’s name, you can be more specific about how you address your letter. You can write a more effective cover letter since you can speak to the person in your letter. For example, in your first paragraph or second paragraph, you can address them by their first name.
Your options when addressing a female professional:
- Dear Cindy Who (full name use)
- Dear Ms. Who (indicates their marital status as unknown)
Your options when addressing a male professional:
- Dear John Sanderson (full name use)
- Dear Mr. Sanderson (indicates their marital status as unknown)
Your options when addressing someone with a Ph.D:
- Dear Dr. Smith (doctorate)
Your options when addressing someone with a federal role:
- Dear Senator Buress
- Dear President Obama
- Dear Senator Ryan Buress
Your options when addressing someone with a military role:
- Dear Sgt. John Smith
- Dear Sgt. Smith
- Dear General Smith
- Dear General John Smith
Your options when addressing someone with an academic role:
- Dear Professor Jenkins
- Dear Professor Michael Jenkins
How to Format Your Salutation
There are two grammatical options for formatting your salutation:
Using a colon to start your letter. Or:
Using an em dash to start your letter. When emailing a cover letter, you should use this same salutation format.
When you know the manager’s name, it’s okay to address them by name in your body paragraph, opening paragraph, and final paragraph of your cover letter. This makes it appear even more personalized and shows your writing skills.
Here is an example of using the manager’s name in the final paragraph:
Cover Letter Example
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