6 Tips on How to Address Your Cover Letter

Maddie Lloyd
by Maddie Lloyd
Get The Job, Guides - 11 months ago
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After days, weeks, heck, maybe even months of job searching, you’ve finally found your dream job. Hooray! Now it’s time to write a cover letter so good that you’ll land an interview, get the job, and find said cover letter taped to the office refrigerator for all to admire.

But wait! You haven’t even gotten started yet, and you’ve already hit a roadblock. How do you even go about starting the dang thing? Do you use Mr. or Ms.? Señor or Mademoiselle? Your majesty? Who in great gravy are you even talking to?

Addressing a cover letter can be tricky, but before you go into a tailspin of panic — just sit back, relax, and keep reading to figure out exactly how to address your soon-to-be award-winning cover letter.

1. Use a Formal Full Name Greeting

Whenever possible, use the hiring manager’s first and last name, including the titles “Mr.” “Ms.” or “Dr.” whenever applicable. The hiring manager is most likely the person who’s going to be looking at your cover letter, so it’s a good idea to address it directly to them.

If their name is not included in the job listing, you could look up the title of the employer or hiring manager on the company’s website. If you’re feeling particularly ballsy, you could call the company and ask an administrative assistant for the name of the hiring manager.

2. How to Address a Cover Letter Without a Name

Sometimes, even after stalking a company’s website and all of their social media platforms, you just can’t figure out the name behind the mysterious “Hiring Manager” title.

Even if you find yourself in this position, you should still try to be specific in your greeting. You have a few options here. You could:

  • Address the head of the department for the position you’re applying for
  • Address your cover letter using terms like “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources Manager”

Just make sure that your cover letter shows that you put effort into addressing someone in particular, and you’ll be good to go.

3. Addressing a Cover Letter to Someone With a Gender-Neutral Name

Come on, people, it’s 2017 — there are children alive today named Apple, for goodness sake (Thanks, Gwenyth Paltrow). A lot of names aren’t gender-specific, and it’s probably not a good idea to try to make an assumption in this scenario.

With ambiguous names like Taylor, Cameron, North, West, East, Apple, Banana (you get the idea), you have a few options for how to approach the situation. You could…

  • Include both first and last names in your greeting, without any title
  • Search company websites or LinkedIn accounts to try to find a photograph or more details about the hiring manager to determine their gender

Again, if you’re not sure about the gender or sex of the person you’re addressing your cover letter to, do not make assumptions. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot by offending Mr. Banana.

4. About that Title…

Even if you are confident about the gender of the person you’re writing to in your cover letter, it’s important to use a proper title to address them.

If the person you’re writing to is a doctor or has a PhD, you’ll want to address them as “Dr. Banana” rather than “Mr./Ms. Banana.”

When addressing a cover letter to a female employer, make sure to use the title “Ms.” unless you’re confident that she prefers another title, such as “Miss” or “Mrs.”

5. Greetings and Salutations!

There’s a variety of salutations you can use when addressing your letter. If you’re creative, you’ve basically got an indispensable amount of greetings you could use. One could almost say the cover letter is your oyster.

On a more serious note — there are some greetings that work well when used in a cover letter, and others that are best left in your imagination.

Here’s a list of cover letter salutations employers respond well to:

  • Dear Mr. Banana,
  • Dear Apple Banana,
  • Ms. Banana,
  • Apple Banana,
  • Dear Hiring Manager,

And here’s a list of cover letter salutations employers like quite as much:

  • To Whom it May Concern,
  • What is up, my dude?
  • Dear Sir or Madam,
  • Hello/Hi

Greetings like “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam” are generic and impersonal. Plus, they make you sound like you’re about a hundred years old. Greetings like “Hello,” “Hi,” or “What’s Up?” are best left for personal or email correspondences.

The most important part of your salutation is including a name or job title. Your cover letter could be the first impression you make on an employer, so you want to show them that you did your company research and know who you’re writing to.

6. Formatting Your Cover Letter Salutation

Once you know who you’re addressing, what title they prefer, or just a specific job title — it’s time to put that all together into your actual cover letter. Once you’ve got it all together, it should look something like this:

Dear Apple Banana,

First paragraph of letter.

And just like that — you successfully addressed your cover letter! Congratulations!

Final Thoughts

Cover letter greetings are often the first opportunity you get to make an impression on an employer, so it’s important that you make that impression a good one.

Small mistakes like cover letter blunders can instantly have an impact on your chances of getting an interview, so it’s essential that you put your best foot forward right at the beginning and show that you took the time to research who you’re addressing your cover letter to.

Now that you know how to address a cover letter, it’s time for you to address your employers and let them know you’re the best person for the job!