everything you need to know about addressing a cover letter

The importance of properly addressing your cover letter is often overlooked. Cover letters are often treated as an afterthought to your resume. Job seekers spend the majority of their time working on perfecting their resume and rush through cover letter writing. This can be a mistake. Some hiring managers won’t look at your resume if the cover letter is poorly written.

Your cover letter should be used to communicate your interest in and compatibility with the job. It’s often the first impression you’ll make with your potential employer. You want to make a good impression, and demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the role. Properly addressing your cover can help you avoid landing in the “no” pile.

how to address a cover letter

avoid ‘to whom it may concern’ and ‘dear sir or madam’

Many job seekers opt for generic greetings on their cover letter. There are a few that are outdated, impersonal and overly formal. Avoid using ‘to whom it may concern’ or ‘dear sir or madam’ in particular. Can you think of anyone you’d feel comfortable calling ‘madam’ in real life? Didn’t think so! So why would you use this greeting on your cover letter? These greetings are outdated and give the impression you did absolutely no research about the role, so you had to go with the most generic greeting of all time.

find the hiring manager’s name if possible

The best approach is to address the hiring manager by name. This shows you took the time to find out who is heading up the hiring process. LinkedIn is a good tool to search for the hiring manager’s name. Often the job will be posted by a recruiter or HR point person you can address it to. If that information is not available, you can also search LinkedIn for a department head or manager. For instance, if you’re applying to a role that’s in the marketing department, someone with the job title of ‘marketing manager’ or ‘marketing director’ at the company you’re applying to is probably a safe bet. Even if they aren’t the right person, they’ll probably know who is and be able to direct your application to the right person.

use their first name

Use the hiring manager’s first name in your salutation, especially if you’re applying to a more casual workplace. Including full names is acceptable as well. The advantage of using the hiring manager’s full name is there will be no confusion about who you’re addressing the cover letter to. For example, if you address your cover letter to ‘Mr. Smith,’ or ‘Jamie’ there could be more than one person with that name at the company.

when you really can’t find a name

Finding the name of a hiring manager isn’t always possible. If you’re having trouble finding the name of a hiring manager or someone within the company to address your cover letter to, you can keep it simple without lapsing into ‘to whom it may concern’ territory. According to a survey of 2,000 companies, 40% of employers prefer you address your cover letter to the ‘hiring manager’ when the hiring manager’s name isn’t available. It’s simple, to-the-point, and definitely more modern than the alternatives! Another option is to address your cover letter to the department you’re hoping to work in. For instance ‘Dear IT department’ is a perfectly acceptable option.

the ms., miss, or mrs. conundrum

Perhaps the most common question people have about salutations is about which prefix to use for women. Should you use Ms., Miss, or Mrs.? The simplest answer is not to use any prefix, especially if you’re not sure which one is correct. They’re no longer expected and can actually end up seeming dated. Address your cover letter to ‘Jane Jones’ to eliminate any possibility of getting it wrong. If you’re applying for a more traditional role and feel you should include a prefix, stick with the generic Ms. option, as it doesn’t assume marital status. For other titles as Dr. or Professor, they’re generally safe bets, no matter the gender of the person you’re addressing.

should you use ‘dear’ as a salutation?

It’s still perfectly okay to use ‘dear’ in your cover letter greeting. It’s extremely common and won’t stick out in a bad way. If you feel that ‘dear’ is too dated or too familiar, you can also use ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. It really comes down to your personal preference and what tone you’re looking to strike. However, you should generally avoid using salutations that are too informal such as ‘hey.’

always, always double check your spelling

Spelling mistakes are a surefire way to get your resume put into the “no” pile. Always double check your spelling of names, even if you think you know the right way. Never assume a person spells their name a certain way. There are multiple ways names can be spelled, even extremely common names. For example, is the hiring manager’s name spelled Sarah or Sara? Mark or Marc? People can be sensitive about their name being spelled wrong, so it’s well worth your time to do a quick double check.

 

Addressing a cover letter can be tricky. You may not know who will be reading your cover letter.  It’s often the first thing a hiring manager sees, and it’s important you get it right. Don’t overlook the importance of addressing your cover letter.

 

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