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.
Cover Letter Salutation Examples
Get Formatting and Punctuation Tips
What is a cover letter salutation? A salutation is the greeting you include at the beginning of a cover letter written to apply for a job. In your salutation, you will set the tone for your letter, which should be professional and appropriate. Avoid casual salutations (“Hey There” or “Hi” or “Hello”) in your job search correspondence.
How to Write a Cover Letter Salutation
When you're writing a cover letter or sending an email message to apply for a job, it's important to include an appropriate salutation at the beginning of the cover letter or message.
Standard business correspondence formatting requires that, after providing your own contact information and the date of your letter, you then write down your contact person’s name, the company’s name, and the company’s address.
The formal salutation / greeting comes next: “Dear [Contact Person’s name].” If you have a contact person for your letter, be sure to include their personal title and name in the salutation (i.e. "Dear Mr. Franklin"). If you are unsure of the reader's gender, simply state their full name and avoid the personal title (i.e. "Dear Jamie Smith"). Leave one blank line after the salutation.
You should always make every effort to find a contact name to use in your letter. It leaves a good impression on the hiring manager if you have taken the time to use their name, especially if you needed to work a little to find it.
If this information was not provided in the job announcement and you cannot find it on the company’s web site, then it is a good idea to call the company, ask to be forwarded to their Human Resources department (if they have one), explain that you will be applying for a job there, and ask for the name of their hiring manager.
When you can't find a contact person or if you are unsure of who will be reading your cover letter, you can use a generic salutation (i.e. “Dear Hiring Manager”).
When You Have a Contact Person
The following is a list of letter salutation examples that are appropriate for cover letters and other employment-related correspondence when you have the name of a contact.
Dear Mr. Jones
Dear Ms. Brown
Dear Riley Doe
Dear Dr. Haven
Dear Professor Lawrence
Follow the salutation with a colon or comma, and then start the first paragraph of your letter on the following line. For example:
Dear Mr. Smith:
First paragraph of letter.
When You Don't Have a Contact Person
Many companies don't list a contact person when they post jobs, because they have a team of hiring staff who sort through cover letters and resumes before passing them to the hiring manager for the appropriate department.
They prefer to leave the hiring manager anonymous until he or she contacts you for an interview.
An organization may also not want to disclose who the hiring manger is to avoid emails and phone calls from applicants, particularly if they anticipate receiving a large number of applications from potential job candidates. So, don't worry if you can't find someone to address your letter to. It will be forwarded to the correct department and recipient.
If you don't have a contact person at the company, either leave off the salutation from your cover letter and start with the first paragraph of your letter or, better yet, use a general salutation. When using a general salutation, capitalize the nouns.
Examples of General Salutations
Follow the salutation with a colon or comma before beginning your first paragraph on the following line. For example:
Dear XYZ Enterprises Recruiter,
First paragraph of letter.