How To Address A Cover Letter (With Examples)

By Heidi Cope and Experts - Mar. 15, 2021

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These days, learning how to navigate the job search process can sometimes feel like a landmine. Applying to a job is no longer as simple as getting an application from the manager and making a connection in person.

Searching for and applying for jobs is now more than ever an online expedition. Although having sites like Zippia help you apply to more jobs because you are no longer limited to local positions, it also comes with its own hurdles.

One of these hurdles is writing a cover letter, often to a person you don’t know. When sitting down to write a cover letter, you may be asking yourself how to address a cover letter correctly when you don’t know who the hiring manager is and how formal addressing a cover letter needs to be.

Thankfully, addressing a cover letter is quite simple, Keep reading for details on how to address a cover letter with confidence.

First Steps to Address a Cover Letter

The first step in addressing a cover letter is researching who the cover letter will be read by. One way to make a very good impression, especially with online applications, is taking the time to research who the hiring manager or recruiter is for the department you are applying for.

You can call the HR department at a company and ask for the hiring manager’s name to be used on a cover letter. If you were contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn or another job hiring platform, you can confirm with the recruiter who the cover letter should be addressed to. Properly addressing the cover letter by having the correct name is the most important step.

Regardless of who’s receiving your cover letter, we recommend sticking with “Dear” as your greeting. It’s a timeless classic for a reason, and there’s really no need to risk your opener with something more daring.

How to Find the Hiring Manager’s Name

Since knowing the hiring manager’s name is 95% of the battle, let’s go through a step-by-step process of finding out your cover letter’s recipient:

  1. Read the job posting. The obvious first step is to carefully review the job listing and see if a contact person is given. Or perhaps the email address they’ve told you to send your application documents is obviously a person’s name, like john.smith@company.com. Even for less obvious ones, you can try Googling the email address and see what turns up.

  2. The company website. Most company websites have an “About Us” and/or “Company Directory” page. Try to navigate to your department and see if you can find a hiring manager’s name.

  3. Check professional networking sites. The company’s LinkedIn page might also have information about hiring managers for different roles. You can also search for “[company name] + recruiter” and see what turns up. You might not find exactly who you’re looking for, but a quick message might help direct you.

  4. Targeted Google search. Searching for the company’s name, location, and the position title you’re applying for might turn up some information on the hiring manager.

  5. Contact the company. If all else fails, you can always call or email the company (someone in human resources is a good idea) to ask for the hiring manager’s name. If you explain that you’re trying to address your cover letter correctly, they’ll most likely be happy to help.

Samples Of Addressing A Cover Letter: Special Honorifics

How you address your cover letter is core to its format. To address a cover letter correctly, you will need to make sure you have an appropriate salutation paired with the correct title/honorific.

For example, if you are addressing a cover letter to a person with a medical degree or doctorate, you will need to write “Dr.” before their name. Not doing so is unprofessional.

Examples

  • Dear Dr. Keller

  • Dear Dr. Michael Ward

  • Dear Dr. Liz Sells

If you do not know the correct title of the person, do not put a title with the name. The same goes for people with other special titles, like Reverend.

Examples

  • Dear Rev. Bill Smith

  • Dear Prof. Johnson

  • Dear Lt. Saraceno

  • Dear Principal Luzi

As you can see from the above examples, you can include the person’s full name or only their last name after their title. The choice is yours.

How to write a cover letter

Samples Of Addressing A Cover Letter: Mrs. vs. Ms.

It is better to address women without the Mrs. title. The Mrs. title implies that the woman is married and since that information is not easy to come by, keep it safe and address the woman as Ms.

Examples

  • Dear Ms. Keller

  • Dear Ms. O’Brian

  • Dear Ms. Sells

Don’t ever use “Miss,” as it is seen as infantilizing.

For males, keep to Mr. as the title. You don’t need to write “Master” or “Sir” when addressing your cover letter. Using alternative titles can seem old-fashioned and much too formal.

Samples Of Addressing A Cover Letter: Unkown Gender

If the hiring manager or recruiter’s name is gender-neutral, try looking the person up on LinkedIn to learn their gender. If they have a photo and a personal blurb, it should clear up any confusion.

Not everyone has an easily-findable picture online, though. In those situations, avoid using Mr. or Ms. in your salutation. Instead, write out the hiring manager’s full name:

  • Dear Sam Kenney

  • Dear Alex O’Hanson

  • Dear Jamie Tyrell

Samples Of Addressing A Cover Letter: Unknown Recipient

If the hiring manager or recruiter’s name is not available online, then you can address the cover letter with a generic salutation. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can write, “Hey you!” or “Dear hiring person,” but there are a few phrases you can use that are professional and fine to use.

If you do not know the recipient of the cover letter, you can use a more generic greeting or you can even go without a greeting. It is better to be safe than sorry for these greetings as they are a key part of your cover letter.

Generic forms of addressing a cover letter include:

  • Dear Hiring Manager

  • Dear Talent Acquisition Team

  • Dear [Company Name] Recruiter

  • Dear Human Resources Manager

  • Dear Human Resources Department

  • Dear [Position Title] Hiring Team

  • Dear [Position Title] Hiring Manager

  • Dear [Position Title] Recruitment Team

  • Dear [Position Title] Recruiter

  • Dear [Department] Team

  • Dear [Title of Person You’d Report To]

The more specific you can get, the better. It shows that you’ve done your research and aren’t just sending the same cover letter to hiring managers all over town.

Some people like to use “Dear Sir or Madam” as a generic greeting for a cover letter, but using that is a bit too formal for the United States.

Using the greeting “To Whom It May Concern” is also too stuffy for most cover letters and will probably not match the rest of your writing style, making it seem awkward.

Cover Letter Subject Lines

All right, so you’ve got a perfectly-address, beautifully-written cover letter. Now it’s time to make sure the recipient actually opens up your email with a winning subject line. The ultimate goal is for the hiring manager or recruiter to know exactly what to expect when they open your email.

With that in mind, here are a few options for formatting your subject line:

  • [Position Title] Application – [Your Full Name]

  • Application for [Position Title]

  • Application for [Position Title] – [Your Full Name]

  • [Position Title] Looking for New Role – [number of years] years experience

  • Application for [Position Title] Position – referred by [Referral Name}

  • Referred by [Referral Name] – [Position Title] Position

Never leave your subject line blank, or the recipient will probably delete it without ever opening it. It may even just go straight to their spam folder.

Additionally, we always recommend including the position title, because hiring managers and recruiters are often hiring for multiple open roles simultaneously.

Final Thoughts

When applying for jobs, making sure you have every detail perfect can be a nerve-wracking time. With the tight job market, you are probably applying to many jobs at the same time, but don’t let the volume of the applications lower your quality of applications.

Take the time to research who you should address your cover letter to — it can make a great first impression on recruiters and hiring managers.

Address the cover letter with the correct title or honorific, and when in doubt, go without. Address your cover letter with a title or honorific if you are not sure what to use.

Addressing the cover letter with class is a simple way to making a great first impression for recruiters and hiring managers.

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Author

Heidi Cope

Heidi Cope is a former writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog. Her writing focused primarily on Zippia's suite of rankings and general career advice. After leaving Zippia, Heidi joined The Mighty as a writer and editor, among other positions. She received her BS from UNC Charlotte in German Studies.

Expert

Matt Warzel, CPRW, CIR

Matt Warzel a President of a resume writing firm (MJW Careers, LLC) with 15+ years of recruitment, outplacement, career coaching and resume writing experience. Matt is also a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR) with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Marketing Focus) from John Carroll University.

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Topics: Cover Letter, Guides