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How to Address a Cover Letter?

Every time we apply for a job and start writing the cover letter, we immediately get stuck on the very first few words. Even if we have written one several times, we’re never entirely sure how to correctly address a cover letter. We start to search on the internet for a quick fix, but unfortunately, there are so many different options that we risk making a bad choice.

how to address a cover letter

Can you guess what will happen in this case? Your application will most probably go straight into the bin.

But this doesn’t have to happen, so let’s find out exactly How to Address a Cover Letter.

Is Addressing Your Cover Letter Properly Really That Important?

According to Ambra Benjamin, an Engineering Recruiter at Facebook, most of the time, they don’t even read the cover letters. They receive so many applications that they simply don’t have the time, and because of that, many companies are not asking for them anymore.

So why should you even bother to address it properly?

Let’s imagine that after they read your resume for roughly seven seconds, which is the average time that recruiters spend on it, they’re still not sure whether to call you for an interview.

In this case, they will probably go and check your cover letter. And the first thing they will see is the way you addressed them.

And seriously…

If you started your cover letter with “Hi there,” they don’t need to read any further, and you’ll have to apply for another job.

I know you probably think that nobody would use such a casual greeting, but unfortunately, this is more common than we would expect.

Use The Full Name of The Hiring Manager

Any time you write a cover letter, you should always do everything you can to find a full contact name. This will show the recruiters that you’re not sending random applications to every available job, but you’ve consciously decided to apply for that specific position.

When we read the job posting and we cannot find a contact name, we might think that they forgot to put it there or that it’s not essential.

Guess what?

What if I tell you that in most cases, this is a specific strategy designed by the recruiters to see who will make the effort to find a contact name?

When they’re expecting to receive a large number of applications, they need to find a way to speed up the initial screening. By making it more difficult to find a contact name, they can dismiss all those applications that prove a lack of effort.

how to address the cover letter

How To Find The Name?

The quickest way to find the hiring manager’s name is to directly call the company you’re applying for and ask to be redirected to the recruitment department. Explain to them what position you’re interested in and ask them if they can provide the name of the person that will screen the applications.

However, before doing that, double-check the job listing to make sure that the information is really not available.

Tips for finding it…

Sometimes the contact name is there, but we don’t know where to look. For example, the email address can give us the answer we’re searching for. If they ask you to send your application to [email protected]…, you can use “Dear Ms. Crawford” as your salutation.

Another option is to use LinkedIn’s search box. Type the name of the company with anything like ‘hiring manager’ or ‘hr department.’

What’s The Best Way To Address Your Cover Letter?

Once you have a name, begin with “Dear” followed by “Mr.” or “Ms.” and the last name. Avoid using “Miss.” or “Mrs.” since you probably won’t know whether they are married or not.

If you don’t feel comfortable with using “Dear,” it’s perfectly fine to leave it out. However, in my opinion, it helps to establish a personal yet professional connection.

Top recommendation…

In many situations, we cannot be sure if the person is a male or a female. Unless you’re 100% sure, “Dear name surname” is way better than making an embarrassing mistake. To illustrate, a name like Andrea, which is commonly used for females in an Anglo-Saxon country, is always a male name in Italy. To avoid any risk, omit the Mr./Ms. part.

Does The Hiring Manager Have a Title?

If the name you found through your research comes with a professional title, make sure to include it in your salutation.

In this case, the first name should also be omitted, and you can directly start your cover letter with “Dear Dr./Professor + last name.”

ow to address cover letter

What To Use When You Can’t Find a Name?

What if, despite all your efforts, you didn’t manage to find a contact name?

A generic formula is the only solution in this situation, but be aware that not all greetings are the same.

The safest option for addressing a cover letter when you have no name is “Dear Hiring Manager,” but you could also address the department you’re applying for like;

  • Dear Marketing Department
  • Dear Finance Hiring Team

What You Shouldn’t Use?

Two of the most common generic greetings that I would strongly advise against are “To Whom It Might Concern” and “Dear Sir / Madam.”

Not only are they highly impersonal, but also they look like you’re using the same cover letter to apply for different jobs without even trying to customize it.

Want To Know More Than Just How to Address a Cover Letter?

Here at the Employment Security Commission, we aim to assist applicants of every kind in finding successful employment.

Therefore, it must be mentioned that some confuse cover letters with motivation letters. They are not the same thing. If you’re actually applying for admission to an educational institute, please read my Motivation Letter Writing Guide.

We also have a database full of just about all job application processes in the US. Everything from Geek Squad Application and Victorias Secret Application to Spirit Airlines Application and Hilton Hotels Application. Just enter your dream employer’s name in our search box to check!

Once you’ve landed your interview, you might also want to familiarize yourself with Strengths and Weaknesses for Job Interviews or how to answer the dreaded question of Why We Should Hire You?

We even have answers to the more delicate questions you may have, like, What Shows Up on a Background Check? Do Casinos Run Background Checks? or Does McDonalds Drug Test?

Finally, if you’re thinking of investing in a really excellent resource for the whole cover letter writing process, I recommend Knock ’em Dead Cover Letters and Cover Letters Writing 2021: The Ultimate Guide.

OK, back to today’s topic…

Final Thoughts

So we know that many recruiters do not actually read a cover letter. However, we shouldn’t take this information as a good reason to underrate its importance.

And since the first few words are what they see when they decide to look at it, it’s crucial to know how best to address your cover letter.

A simple phone call to find out the hiring manager’s name will give you an instant advantage over the other candidates. However, in case you don’t find a contact name, a professional and customized formula will still do the trick.

Good luck with your application!

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About Eugene Casey

Eugene works in a busy employment agency in Chicago and has nearly 20 years of experience in finding clients the perfect job. His philosophy is simple, the right match for the right position is nearly always a win-win for both the employee and the company.

When he isn't working or writing for us, he enjoys cooking and exploring the United States, one state at a time.

He lives with his wife Lisa and their two German Shepherds, Wilber and Gus.

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