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Alison Doyle

How to Address a Cover Letter

By April 10, 2014

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cover letter addressHow to address a cover letter can be tricky if you are responding to a blind ad and don't have a contact person's name to include, or if you don't know the gender of the person you are addressing your cover letter to.

If you don't have a contact person at the company you can either leave off the salutation from your cover letter and start with the first paragraph of your letter or use a general salutation.

There are a variety of cover letter salutations you can use to address your letter. Employers who responded to an employer survey conducted by Saddleback College preferred:

  • Dear Hiring Manager (38%)
  • To whom it may concern (26%)
  • Dear Sir/Madam (18%)

Here are tips on how to address a cover letter when you don't have a name to include or when you're not sure of the hiring manager's gender.

Related Articles:

Read More: Should You Include a Cover Letter if It's Not Required? | How to Mention Relocation in a Cover Letter

Image Copyright Getty Images / Fresh Meat Media LLC

Comments
March 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm
(1) Dave says:

Speaking as a former hiring manager, I dislike “Dear Hiring Manager” since that’s not my title. My preference is for “Dear Sir or Madam.”

What I’m writing for, though, is to emphasize that if a name is given in the advertisement, ALWAYS address the letter to that person.

I once received a letter that was obviously copied from a book. For the date, the writer typed “Date: ______” and handwrote the date. The ad said “reply to Dave,” and the salutation was “Dear Hiring Manager:” (at least he properly used a colon. The first sentence was “In response to your advertisement in the Newspaper A/Newspaper B/Newspaper C, I am applying for a position as Position A/Position B/Position C…” (newspaper names and positions not revealed hear, to help protect the ignorant; this was 20 years ago, after all). The applicant had CIRCLED the newspaper name and position title.

Needless to say, he was not considered any further. The only reason the letter didn’t go into the shredder immediately is that I kept it, without identifying information, as an example of how NOT to write a cover letter.

Just a last point for applicants to consider: if the advertisement or job posting doesn’t specifically say “no cover letter,” write one. That was my first cut — if I couldn’t read the letter, I didn’t care what the applicant’s technical abilities were. Whether or not it’s stated in the job description EVERY job requires communications skills.

April 27, 2013 at 11:53 am
(2) Allen says:

Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Dave.

April 30, 2013 at 3:00 pm
(3) Suemi Moreno says:

So my question is, what if you don’t know AT ALL who the letter is going to be addressed to. What do I write instead of “Dear Dave”? I’m applying for Levi’s, and it’s asking me for a cover letter. First time I’ve applied for a retail store. Thank you! :)

May 6, 2013 at 10:41 am
(4) Sdee says:

@Suemi: If you don’t know who’s doing the hiring by name writing “Dear Sir or Madam” is sufficient.

May 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm
(5) Crystal says:

I have been applying to colleges most of which don’t give me a name to put on the CV but I just use : Dear [COLLEGE NAME] Search Committee

is that alright as well?

June 18, 2013 at 7:56 pm
(6) Laura says:

I’m applying to a job that is requesting the cover letter and resume be sent to the office manager, name is given, although I don’t feel this really is the person that is going to be reading my cover letter. Do I still address it to her? Or the more formal /general Sir or Madam? thoughts? Thanks

June 19, 2013 at 6:35 am
(7) Alison Doyle, Job Search Guide says:

If a name is given, I’d definitely address it to that person. Otherwise, you may insult her or it may appear you didn’t do your homework because they asked you to send to someone specific.

August 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm
(8) Joseph Terach says:

While I agree with all of the points in the post and the comments that have followed, and while I respect the opinion and paper-shredding ability of Dave the Hiring Manager, I will say this: If I had to choose one part of the cover letter to NOT worry about, it would be the salutation. Follow the job description’s instructions, nail the salutation and then move on! There is only one way a salutation can, by itself, exclude you from consideration, and that’s if you use a form letter (which you shouldn’t!) and forget to personalize the letter, leaving a painfully embarrassing: “Dear [Insert Name Here]:” – Joseph Terach, CEO, Resume Deli

August 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm
(9) Phyllis says:

Before you refer to someone as ignorant you might want to take a good look at your own communication skills. The word “hear” means to perceive or apprehend by the ear. The appropriate spelling in your judgmental comment should have been “here”.

September 5, 2013 at 3:00 am
(10) Shawn says:

Thanks mom. Mistakes happen, circling a multiple choice answer is a clear sign of employee apathy. The rest of the comment was very helpful.

My question is this: when addressing a named hiring manager (I called the employer to get their name), should you use a comma or colon?

Thanks

September 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm
(11) Nichole says:

Hey Shawn,

I think the comma is more appropriate, though there is nothing wrong with using the colon.

Best of luck!

September 21, 2013 at 8:25 pm
(12) hlanganisile says:

I applied for different jobs advertised on internet and. Later companies repplied and request acover letter and my main problem is that I’m not sure what position I applied for as I am applying everyday. Please help they are waiting for me to send the letter no later than tuesday

September 29, 2013 at 11:47 pm
(13) Yan Qin says:

My question is this: I did not got a full name on ad. Only says:”need more information, call Steven tel number:12345. and also did not know the companies address. How can I write this kind of cover letter? On the top left side, do I have to write company’s name, address and person who I need to contact? Thank you!

October 21, 2013 at 11:28 pm
(14) CJ says:

Yan Qin: If you are applying for jobs online, usually, information about companies can also be found online, if not in the ad itself. I will find that company website, search for names and contact information if it’s available, and call them if it’s not available, so that I am sure that I know who is getting the resume and cover letter, and how to correctly spell their name and address the cover letter. I also look for the company address, as that should also be included in your cover letter (along with the date), just like any proper business letter. If you are not sure how to write a business letter or business letter email, look online for examples, but it should include (at least these items) in this order: the date, their name, their title (if available, this is optional) and full address of the person you are sending it to, below that, the salutation, the body of the letter, the closing (sincerely), your signature, and your name typed below your signature. These little details CAN make a difference if no one else bothers to do it but you, you will stand out as Dave pointed out, as having gone the “extra mile” as it were. It shows that you understand the process and can communicate properly. I taught my son to always include a cover letter with a resume; it’s sad that this type of skill is not taught in high school, because it is absolutely critical in getting a job, any job- except, you know, fast food. I also bookmark every job I apply to, and keep those bookmarks in their own folder (or print each one) so that if they do call for an interview, I can find the ad and review the job as we talk on the phone. Good luck.

November 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm
(15) stephen kyei says:

am a manager of a company and some one asks me to write a cover letter for him . how should i go about it?

March 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm
(16) Daniel B says:

Conversely, someone could be an excellent communicator and still have quite an unimpressive cover letter. After all, the skills to write a good cover are very different from the skills to make sure the rest of your team knows what you’ve done and why you did it, or to clarify what is expected of you after receiving ambiguous instructions. “Formal writing skills” is only one of a dozen subsets of “Communication skills”.

April 15, 2014 at 2:52 pm
(17) Jarbucho says:

Maybe you shouldn’t be so offended by something so minuscule and subjective, Dave. I’m tired of HR and the companies that employ them being so hung up on formalities, layout and how they should be addressed. Sorry but no one knows what each company expects, they all expect something different.

Maybe HR should learn how to actually create job postings with the correct job requirements, skills ect. The entire hiring process, in my opinion, is extremely disingenuous anyways. A person either has the skill and is capable or they are not. If you are seriously thinking about throwing out a cover letter because they addressed you improperly, you really need to reassess how you hire people.

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