You spent hours writing the perfect cover letter, paying attention to every detail, from the font and tone down to the format.
Unfortunately, when it comes time for the hiring manager to review it, your cover letter gets passed over briskly.
It may be because you didn’t properly address your cover letter.
We’re now well into the year 2020, and believe it or not, there are right and wrong (read: potentially even offensive) ways to address a cover letter.
Read on to learn how to address your cover letter – even without a contact name – for a printed letter and an email, and how to properly format your greeting.
Addressing a Cover Letter
Regardless of how you’re applying for a job – be it directly, via a recruiter, or via a recommendation – you should always address your cover letter to the hiring manager.
This is true whether you know who will be reading your cover letter or not.
However, this can be difficult when you don’t know the contact person’s name, gender, and or marital status.
Addressing a person by the wrong name or by a gender they don’t identify as can amount to a major a blight on your application.
Luckily, there are several options for addressing your cover letter that will avoid potentially insulting the hiring manager and hurting your chances of getting the job.
Use a Generic Greeting
In the event that you don’t know – and can’t find – the name of the hiring manager, it’s best to use a generic salutation. While doing your research and finding a contact name is always preferable, in order to address a cover letter without a contact person, these general greetings will get the job done:
It can also be acceptable to use “Dear Sir or Madam” in your cover letter, but we would advise against it, as you might end up alienating a hiring manager who does not identify as either of those pronouns. As your cover letter greeting provides what will be the hiring manager’s first impression of you, you’ll want to make sure it’s done right.
Use the Hiring Manager’s Name
The best way to address a cover letter is by using the hiring manager’s name. Using their name shows that you have taken it upon yourself to do the research and find out who exactly will be reviewing your application. It subtly shows a dedication and drive to be professional and do things the right way.
If you’re lucky, the hiring manager’s name will be listed in the the job description. If this is the case, addressing your cover letter is going to be a piece of cake.
However, you’ll need to be careful, as sometimes job listings include the name of the recruiter – not the hiring manager. Addressing the recruiter instead of the hiring manager won’t kill your chances, but you should always check the company’s website for confirmation that who you’re addressing is the right person.
If you can find a contact name, your salutation should look like this:
This format for your salutation is best because you need not worry about mistaking someone’s gender identity or marital status.
How to Find the Hiring Manager’s Name
If the hiring manager’s name is not listed in the job description or application, there are a few other places you may be able to find it:
The company’s website is the first place you should look. Many companies include a page on their website dedicated to introducing its employees, along with their names and positions. If your prospective company has such a page, you’ll likely find an appropriate contact name.
LinkedIn is the next place you should look for the hiring manager’s name. For better or for worse, most professionals in 2020 are on LinkedIn. Adjust the filters to find your desired location and company, then browse names and position titles to find what you need.
If the strategies above fail to produce a suitable contact name, you should try Google. Using basic search operators (shortcuts for performing specific searches), you’re likely to find the names you need if they exist online. Try something like site:companywebsite.com “position title”. This will yield all pages on the company website that mention the position title you’re looking for.
|Check out this guide for more helpful search operators to aid in your search.|
In the event that you’re still coming up short, you can call the company’s customer service or help desk and ask them directly. While not ideal, you’re sure to find the hiring manager’s name this. You’ll also make a strong impression of yourself even before submitting your application.
If all of these options fail, you can always fall back on one of the generic salutations listed above.
Use a Professional Title
Even if you know the name of the hiring manager you are addressing, you may still want to add a bit of professionalism by including their appropriate professional or academic title.
While a professional title will add a touch of class to your cover letter, only do so if you are sure of the hiring manager’s gender identity, marital status, and academic or professional background. For example, calling an unmarried woman “Mrs. Last Name” may be offensive, so it’s best to avoid this title unless you’re absolutely sure of the hiring manager’s status.
Acceptable titles include:
If you’re not completely sure of the above titles, make sure you use a generic salutation, or a simple first name last name greeting if you have a contact name.
How to Address an Email Cover Letter
Sometimes it’s necessary – or even just easier – to send your application via email. And while it may be easier, it comes with its own problems.
Hiring managers tend to receive tons of emails every day. Many of those emails are just spam or marketing emails. Others are legitimate job applications like yours.
It’s important to address your email and cover letter – including both a clear subject line and a contact name – in a way that is clear and professional, else it may be rejected or passed over entirely.
Email Cover Letter Subject Line
When you’re sending your cover letter by email, the subject line becomes the most important part, as it’s the very first thing the hiring manager will see.
Keep it professional by including only the position you’re applying for and your name – and never leave it blank! A blank subject line is liable to be ignored or even deleted.
Your subject line should use one of the following formats, depending on the job listing:
A professional subject line like this will surely attract the attention of the hiring manager and give you an opportunity to impress with your cover letter.
Addressing Your Email Cover Letter
You should address the hiring manager in your email cover letter the same way you would in a printed cover letter. That is, using a professional salutation that includes the hiring manager’s first name and last name, or at the very least, a generic greeting like those outlined above.
However, unlike printed cover letters, it’s not necessary to include the hiring manager’s contact information or company address just above the salutation, as you are not sending the letter to a physical location.
Cover Letter Salutation Examples
In order to demonstrate how the above cover letter greetings are used in real life cover letters, we’ve compiled some examples below. These example cover letter greetings will show you exactly how it should look when you address your cover letter properly – no matter what the situation.
Addressing a Cover Letter With No Name
If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, you can always use “To Whom It May Concern” to address them. Although a bit old-fashioned, it’s still professional and effective.
Cover Letter Salutation With Only Last Name
There are times when it’s only possible to locate the last name of the hiring manager at a company. In these situations, it’s ok to address them using a title, followed by their last name. Mr., Ms., Dr., Prof., etc., are all great options for this strategy.
Addressing a Cover Letter to the “Hiring Manager”
In the event that you can’t even find a last name with which to address your prospective employer, a modern alternative to “To Whom It May Concern” is “Dear Hiring Manager.” With this salutation, you demonstrate a directness and professionalism that will be appealing to hiring managers.
Cover Letter Greeting with First and Last Name
Ideally, you’re able to find a first and last name. In this case, addressing the hiring manager is easy: just use their name. This kind of greeting is not only the most professional, and the least likely to offend, it’s also the one that shows you’ve done your research into the company and who you might be working for.
Use the Right Cover Letter Greeting
No matter which way you choose to address your cover letter, the important thing is that you do it properly and keep it professional. While a generic greeting is not ideal, as you should always be looking to find a contact name, any of the above salutations – if done correctly – will work well enough to get you your chance at an interview.
However, a poorly done or insensitive greeting could cost you the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Therefore, it’s important to get it absolutely right.