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.
Now that you’ve written your resume in English, and you’ve found a job advertisement, here are a few tips on how to write a respectable cover letter. I consider these tips to be the ‘good manners’ you’d want to extend to your potential new company.
When we’re editing cover letters at English Trackers, I’ve come to realise that many people don’t know how to start or finish a letter in English.
Compared to some of the flowery endings you find in other languages, English is incredibly simple and the salutation and sign off should be learned in pairs.
Let me explain.
The Salutation – How to start a cover letter
There are three possible choices:
You know the person’s name – then use it:
You don’t know the person’s name – but have been told to write to the HR department:
You don’t know the person’s name and don’t want to offend either gender:
NOTE: Do not use ‘To Whom It May Concern’
This should only be used on letters of reference, certificates etc. These kinds of documents are submitted over and over again, and are therefore addressed to many different people – whomever it mayconcern.
The Sign Off – How to end a cover letter
There are only two choices: Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully
Here’s a very simple way of remembering whether you end with Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully.
“You can never have more than one ‘S’ in a salutation and signoff.”
Therefore – Dear Sir & Yours sincerely – should never appear together.
If you know the person’s name, you ALWAYS sign off with Yours sincerely. For every other salutation, you sign off Yours faithfully.
- Dear Mr Parker – Yours sincerely
- Dear Ms Little – Yours sincerely
- Dear Sir – Yours faithfully
- Dear Madam – Yours faithfully
- Dear HR Manager – Yours faithfully
I said it was simple! If you want more info on coping with letter etiquette, download the English Trackers Email Etiquette Tips – we’ve covered just about every eventuality in there.
Setting the tone
Tone is not an easy thing to master in another language. You need to write in such a way that you don’t presume anything – that the person will call you for an interview, that the company will hire you etc. – but you do want to show you’re a good fit for the position.
Endings are very hard – as hard and important as the beginning of a cover letter, and they merit a fair amount of time. You want to end on a positive note that points to the future – the possibility of an interview, the submission of further information.
In the edited version below, these two points are merged together into one fluid and positive last sentence.
I thank you for taking the time to consider my application, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you in more detail.
In the following unedited example, the first sentence is not too bad in terms of tone, but the second sentence is basically an order; there is not even a please or a thank you!
In case this application together with my attached CV has paid your attention I will be happy to elaborate on the value I can bring xxx company.
As I am permanently employed it is very important that you treat this application with full discretion and confidentiality.
Below, is a polite, edited version of those two sentences:
Should you wish, I would be very happy to discuss the contents of this letter and the enclosed CV in person. I would also request that in light of my on-going permanent employment this application be treated with full discretion and confidentiality.
And don’t forget, when you’ve finished writing – edit, edit, edit.
Re-read it and then if possible, leave it for a night. Come back to it fresh and go through it again. Ask someone else to read it – preferably a native English speaker – and only when you are sure it’s error free and ready to represent you politely – then push SEND!
Good luck with your job applications.
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