You’ve found the perfect job and finally sat down to write that cover letter (good for you!), but immediately you’ve run into a roadblock. How do you even start the darn thing? Should you use Mr. or Ms.? Do you include a first name? And what if you’ve searched high and low, but can’t find the hiring manager’s name?
Don’t fret! Follow these rules for cover letter salutation salvation.
Rule #1: Use a Formal Full Name Salutation
Unless you know for sure that the culture of the company is more casual, use the hiring manager’s first and last name, including a “Mr.” or “Ms.” (e.g., Mr. Jack Smith).
Most letters I see still use the “Dear” greeting, though I’ve seen a growing trend of people dropping it and starting with “Hello” or just the name. Either way works. The most important part is having the actual name. Never use “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear or Sir or Madam”—nothing could be more generic (not to mention archaic). Your cover letter could be the first opportunity you have to make an impression on the hiring manager, so make sure you show that you did your company research.
One note of caution, if you can’t decipher whether to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” based on the name and a little Google stalking (and you don’t have an easy way out with a “Dr.”), just drop the title.
Rule #2: If You Don’t Know the Hiring Manager, Guess
Sometimes, even after hours of online searching (try these tips), you still might not be able to definitively figure out who exactly the hiring manager for the position you’re applying for is—and that’s OK.
If you can only find a list of the executives of the company and you’re not completely confident who the hiring manager is, use the head of the department for the position you’re applying for. In the end, no one will fault you for addressing the letter higher up than necessary. This approach is definitely better than not using a name in your cover letter, because it still shows the time and effort you took to find out who the department head is.
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Rule #3: Be as Specific as Possible
So, you’ve done your due diligence and after an exhaustive search—nothing. You just can’t find a single name to address your cover letter to. If that’s the case, don’t worry. The company is likely privately held with no reason to share who its employees are—and, more importantly, is aware of this.
If this is the case and you don’t have a name to use, try to still be as specific as possible in your greeting. Consider using “Senior Analyst Hiring Manager” or “Research Manager Search Committee”—something that shows that you’ve written this letter with a particular audience in mind.
Ultimately, you want your cover letter to convey your interest in the position. To start off on the right note, get the salutation right by being as specific as possible—ideally with the name of the hiring manager. Of course, that can’t always happen, but as long as the effort is clearly made, you’ll be starting your cover letter in the right place.
Cover Letter Salutation Examples
Get Formatting and Punctuation Tips
What is a cover letter salutation? A salutation is the greeting you include at the beginning of a cover letter written to apply for a job. In your salutation, you will set the tone for your letter, which should be professional and appropriate. Avoid casual salutations (“Hey There” or “Hi” or “Hello”) in your job search correspondence.
How to Write a Cover Letter Salutation
When you're writing a cover letter or sending an email message to apply for a job, it's important to include an appropriate salutation at the beginning of the cover letter or message.
Standard business correspondence formatting requires that, after providing your own contact information and the date of your letter, you then write down your contact person’s name, the company’s name, and the company’s address.
The formal salutation / greeting comes next: “Dear [Contact Person’s name].” If you have a contact person for your letter, be sure to include their personal title and name in the salutation (i.e. "Dear Mr. Franklin"). If you are unsure of the reader's gender, simply state their full name and avoid the personal title (i.e. "Dear Jamie Smith"). Leave one blank line after the salutation.
You should always make every effort to find a contact name to use in your letter. It leaves a good impression on the hiring manager if you have taken the time to use their name, especially if you needed to work a little to find it.
If this information was not provided in the job announcement and you cannot find it on the company’s web site, then it is a good idea to call the company, ask to be forwarded to their Human Resources department (if they have one), explain that you will be applying for a job there, and ask for the name of their hiring manager.
When you can't find a contact person or if you are unsure of who will be reading your cover letter, you can use a generic salutation (i.e. “Dear Hiring Manager”).
When You Have a Contact Person
The following is a list of letter salutation examples that are appropriate for cover letters and other employment-related correspondence when you have the name of a contact.
Dear Mr. Jones
Dear Ms. Brown
Dear Riley Doe
Dear Dr. Haven
Dear Professor Lawrence
Follow the salutation with a colon or comma, and then start the first paragraph of your letter on the following line. For example:
Dear Mr. Smith:
First paragraph of letter.
When You Don't Have a Contact Person
Many companies don't list a contact person when they post jobs, because they have a team of hiring staff who sort through cover letters and resumes before passing them to the hiring manager for the appropriate department.
They prefer to leave the hiring manager anonymous until he or she contacts you for an interview.
An organization may also not want to disclose who the hiring manger is to avoid emails and phone calls from applicants, particularly if they anticipate receiving a large number of applications from potential job candidates. So, don't worry if you can't find someone to address your letter to. It will be forwarded to the correct department and recipient.
If you don't have a contact person at the company, either leave off the salutation from your cover letter and start with the first paragraph of your letter or, better yet, use a general salutation. When using a general salutation, capitalize the nouns.
Examples of General Salutations
Follow the salutation with a colon or comma before beginning your first paragraph on the following line. For example:
Dear XYZ Enterprises Recruiter,
First paragraph of letter.