How to Address a Cover Letter (With Examples)
Updated August 31, 2023
Make a positive first impression by addressing your cover letter to the right person. An appropriate salutation is specific and sets the tone for the rest of your cover letter, demonstrating your attention to detail and making your job application stand out.
Below, you’ll find tips on how to address a cover letter and examples to help you start a cover letter that will catch the hiring manager’s attention.
When you know the hiring manager’s name
Establish a personal connection by addressing the hiring manager directly. If you have their full name but aren’t sure of their gender, begin with “Dear” followed by their first and last name. Even if you know their gender, this is always a safe option. For example:
Dear Robin Lopez
Dear Shadi Hamid
If you are certain of their gender and want to use a title, use either "Mr." or "Ms." Avoid using "Mrs." or "Miss" since this will involve some guesswork about their marital status. (You may make an exception if you know the hiring manager personally and they have told you their preference.) Follow the title with their last name. For example:
Dear Ms. Greene
Dear Mr. Johnson
Since your cover letter is likely going to be the first thing a recruiter or hiring manager sees, it's important to use good judgment in choosing a salutation.
—Mary Morgan, SHRM-CP
Avoid greetings like “Hey,” or “Hi,” which are too casual for formal documents like cover letters.
"To Whom It May Concern" Alternatives
"Greetings" "Hello" "Hi there"
For example, "Greetings Conference Attendees,"
"Dear [Team or Department]"
For example, "Dear Customer Service Department,"
"Dear [Job Title]"
For example, "Dear HR Director,"
"Dear [First Name]" or "Dear [Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr./Professor] [Last Name]"
For example, "Dear Dr. Lee,"
Otherwise, you may use only their first name.
For example, "Dear Mark,"
When your contact has an academic or professional title
There are times when you may want to replace "Mr." or "Ms." in your cover letter salutation with a different prefix. For example, if the person holds a Ph.D., it is considered more respectful to address them as “Dr. Last Name,” instead of “Ms. Last Name.” Other academic or professional titles you may encounter include:
When you don’t have a contact name
If you don’t know to whom you should address your cover letter, do some research to find the hiring manager’s name. Addressing a specific person tells the hiring manager that you’ve written the cover letter for this specific role. It also shows that you’ve taken the initiative to learn more about the company.
When making your choice on how to address the cover letter, consider the culture of the company or industry to which you are applying. For example, starting the letter with 'Greetings' is informal and may not be suitable if you are applying for a position at a traditionally conservative company, such as a bank or accounting firm.
Mary Morgan, SHRM-CP
To find the hiring manager’s name, refer to the job listing, carefully search professional networking sites and the company website, or conduct targeted Google searches. If you still can’t identify the hiring manager, try calling the company. Explain that you’re applying for a job and would like to address your cover letter to the correct person. Alternatively, you can email the company.
When you still can’t find the hiring manager’s name
If you’ve done your research but are still unable to find a name, use a generic yet well-thought-out salutation. Show that you’ve thoroughly read the job description by tailoring your salutation to the specific job and company. What company department is the job part of? Who will you be reporting to?
The headline on the image says, "Cover letter format"
A woman sits at a table writing on a piece of paper. There's a simple cover letter represented by lines. On one side of the cover letter, there are labels for the sections of the cover letter. The labels are:
1. Date and contact information
3. First, introduce yourself
4. List relevant experience in the middle
5. Express gratitude in the closing
6. Professional close and signature
It’s always acceptable to use “Dear Hiring Manager,” but there are also other options, such as:
Dear Finance Department
Dear Company ABC Team
Dear Company XYZ Recruiter
To the Marketing Department
Dear Head of Design
Related: Cover Letter Samples
Avoid using impersonal greetings like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” These are outdated and overly formal.
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