How to Address a Cover Letter (+ Examples)
Knowing how to address a cover letter can help tremendously when writing and completing one. A proper start to a cover letter can ensure the hiring manager is engaged in the letter. Leading to an increased chance of the manager reading the other job application assets. Resulting in a phone interview or an in-person interview.
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.
How to Address a Cover Letter Without the Contact Person or Hiring Manager’s Name
There are two methods of greetings to use when you don't know the hiring manager by name. 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 whom you’re addressing. It takes a little research to determine to whom you should address your cover letter.
An important aspect of nailing this section is showing that you researched the company and specific role. Addressing your cover letter correctly is key.
When you don’t know the contact name of the reader, your options, in order of importance, are:
- Dear Hiring Manager (the best way)
- Dear Human Resources Team (or other team you’re applying for)
- Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Sir or Madam (implies a preferred gender)
- To Whom It May Concern (the worst way to address a letter)
If you don’t want to use a cover letter salutation like this, you should seek out the hiring manager’s name. Looking at the job description, job posting (job advertisement), searching the company website, or company LinkedIn for the manager's full name. LinkedIn can be a powerful resource for finding the manager or recruiter involved in placing this specific position. Using the manager’s name is a preferred method.
You put a lot of effort into creating a tailored resume and cover letter for job applications is cumbersome. As with many aspects of the job application process, using the correct name shows extra effort. And shows hiring managers that they should pay attention to your application.
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 professional's name who is hiring for the role.
How to Address a Cover Letter 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.
You can still personalize your cover letter without knowing the identity of the hiring manager. Pick a greeting that is a good fit for the company culture. For example, small and personal is great for a start-up.
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
Your options when addressing a cover letter to a committee:
- Dear Hiring Committee
How does a job seeker find the hiring manager to place on the cover letter? Here are three strategies for finding a hiring manager's name in advance of writing a cover letter.
Tip: When addressing a female employer, use the title "Ms." unless there is a certainty of the marital status of the other person. It's best to use "Ms." or "Miss" rather than "Mrs." when the marital status of the female employer is unknown.
Search the job description
Sometimes, a job listing can be found on LinkedIn jobs. 30% of the time, the job posters' name is listed on the right of the job advertisement. This would be the hiring manager. Here's what to do to find the hiring manager's name:
- Step 1: Search for the company you're applying to in the LinkedIn search tool, for example "Arc Worldwide".
- Step 2: Go to the company page on LinkedIn and on the left sidebar you'll see "Jobs", click that.
- Step 3: Search for the job you're applying for to see if the posting is available. See if the job posters first and last name is available.
Using the company LinkedIn profile
When the job posters' first and last name isn't listed on the LinkedIn job description and job advertisement, it makes it slightly more complicated. But achievable to find their name. Follow these steps:
- Step 1: Search for the company you're applying to in the LinkedIn search tool, for example "Arc Worldwide".
- Step 2: Go to the company page on LinkedIn.
- Step 3: Where it says numbers of employees, for example "1,370 employees" — click that.
- Step 4: Near the top of the page you'll see a link that says, "All filters" — click that.
- Step 5: Scroll to where it says "Title" towards the bottom left of the page, then add "Human Resources" to the title.
- Step 6: You'll see a list of HR directors who may receive your application. Pick the director or person you believe will see your cover letter to include as your greeting.
- Step 7: Your final greeting should look like this, "Dear John & HR Team—"
LinkedIn is a professional social media network. Looking up professionals on this network isn't considered "stalking" or poor behavior by any means. A potential employer will appreciate that the candidate decided to spend time researching the company in advance of writing a cover letter.
Search the company "About Us" page
Some teams and department heads are on the company website under the "Team" or "About Us" portion of the website. It should list the employee and job title. Reference this when producing a cover letter, email, or job application.
Referencing the hiring manager by name can influence a hiring decision. Since it makes the letter feel customized and tailored to the job description and prospective employer.
A targeted Google search
It's possible to use a targeted Google search to uncover key information about the hiring manager or the manager running the department.
Let's presume we were applying to a job inside a corporation. And wanted to know the name of the manager who runs the marketing department. We might do a Google search like this:
Or another example would be:
The results might show names, blog posts, or even emails of the person who runs that department or who holds those job titles.
Looking at the email address
Sometimes, a job seeker is requested to submit a cover letter to a specific email address. This is the email address of the hiring manager, recruiter, or HR manager who is filling the open position. Here is how an email might look:
When this is the case, we can assume that their last name is Smith. Meaning, the cover letter can be addressed in this format:
Final notes on guessing the hiring manager
If unsure of whom to address the cover letter to, it's best to use the departmental backups instead. Sometimes, it's better to use a general greeting when addressing the reader rather than a greeting that makes the job applicant appear incorrect.
While using the reader's name in both the cover letter greeting and the salutation at the end of the cover letter can be impactful. Never assume or guess who the hiring manager is. Following the methods above should provide ample framework for ensuring the letter is addressed to the proper reader.
How to Address a Cover Letter to a Company
Sometimes, cover letter writers have to address a letter to a company. When that's the case, don't address the company name; address the department. Here's what not to do:
Instead, do the following:
How to Address a Cover Letter to a Committee
Sometimes, cover letter writers have to address a letter to a committee. When that's the case, the following format should work perfectly.
How to Address a Cover Letter to Multiple Recipients
When addressing a cover letter to multiple recipients, there are two options. The first is to address the recipients if there are only two total recipients. The second is to address the recipients department. Like so:
How to Address a Cover Letter to HR
Sometimes, when emailing a human resources department, it's best to address the entire team rather than a specific manager. Here is how to start a cover letter addressing the HR team:
How to Address an Email Cover Letter
When emailing a cover letter or authoring a cover letter, email addresses the reader similarly to addressing the reader in the letter itself. For example:
Tip: When emailing a cover letter, always follow the instructions provided on the job description or job advertisement. Be sure to follow the job application instructions and details precisely. Not following the instructions can exclude a job applicant very quickly.
Cover Letter Resources
Cover Letter FAQ's
Questions and answers regarding cover letters.
How long should a cover letter be?
Only as long as it takes to make your point. Don’t have a specific word count in mind that you want to reach. If you can make your point in 200 words, use 200 words. If you need 400 words, then use 400 words. Keep your cover letter one-page at the most but keep it terse. The ideal cover letter length is one that has as few words as possible while being effective.
For more information on how long a cover letter should be, visit this resource.
Our favorite resources are included below.
Job interview resources
- Common Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions by Marquette University
- Preparing for Job Interviews by the University of Kansas
- Mock Interview Handbook by CSUCI
- Interview Guidebook by Lebanon Valley College
Resume and cover letter resources
- Writing a Resume and Cover Letter by USC
- Resume Writing Tips by the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Resume and Cover Letter Guide by Harvard University
Job search resources
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