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So you’ve already prepared a really impressive resume — yay! But wait, don’t send it off yet! A resume without a cover letter is like peanut butter without jelly: something’s missing. As you already know, a resume is where you list your skills and educational background, but the cover letter is how the recruiter gets to know you more personally.
If you have no idea where to start, no worries! Check out my detailed guide on how to write a good cover letter.
But say you already have a great cover letter. This brings us to the title of this article: how to address a cover letter. Does that seem like a small, insignificant detail to you?
Well then, consider this. A hiring manager has to look through dozens, if not hundreds of resumes and cover letters, and spends an average of 6 (!) seconds on each of them.
This means they will likely automatically disregard everything that appears a little off at first glance. That’s right — all of your hard work could end up tossed right into the trash.
So I am guessing you can see why addressing your cover letter properly is an integral part of doing your cover letter right.
Agreed? Great, let’s move on!
In this article, I will tell you all you need to know:
Table of contents
So, who will be reading your cover letter? The answer to this question is what you need to find out how to address it.
Of course, generally speaking, it is usually recruiters and hiring managers.
But first off, this can differ depending on the company;
and second off, it would be nice to address the person reading your cover letter personally.
Makes sense, right? So, down to business.
Since you’re applying for a position with a specific company, I am going to go ahead and assume you have already visited their website in order to find out more about what they do and who they are.
If not, it’s high time you did, so go ahead and take a look right now.
As I said, it is best to address the hiring manager directly. This can really be as simple as writing:
“Dear hiring manager” “Dear Sales Recruitment Team” “Dear Customer Service Search Committee”
at least now the person reading your cover letter knows that you did not send the same cover letter out to every other company in the city.
Still, adding an actual name would be better.
Where can you find this information? Keep reading.
Nobody is anonymous in the 21st century, so the name of the person you are writing to has got to be out there somewhere. Here are a few simple ways to find out the recruiter’s name in order to address them directly:
Be aware of what “Miss” and “Mrs” imply!
“Miss” is used to refer to young women (or girls!) who are not married.
Using this title to address the hiring manager can sound pretty patronizing, and not like you are taking her seriously at all. Long story short, a woman being referred to as “Miss” might well feel insulted.
“Mrs.” means the opposite of “Miss”, and that means using this title is not any better.
Calling a woman “Mrs.” implies that she is both older and married, and perhaps even that she is now going by her husband’s surname. A bit presumptuous, don’t you think? And if the recruiter you are writing your cover letter to is not married, calling her “Mrs.” is especially inappropriate.
At the end of the day, someone’s marital status is completely irrelevant to their professional life, so avoid using either of the above. This is where “Ms.” comes in handy.
Ms. is respectful and marital status-neutral, and should therefore be the only title you use to refer to the hiring manager you are writing to — if she is a woman, that is.
Addressing men is much simpler.
“Mr.” can be used to refer to any man, regardless of age and marital status.
The obvious difference between these two situations actually says quite a bit about our societal norms, but that is a topic for an entirely different article. 😄
Okay, so let’s say you have searched the internet up and down and the name of the hiring manager you are addressing is nowhere to be found.
Nobody is answering the phone at the company headquarters, either. I know this all sounds a little far-fetched, but bear with me.
Or maybe you just don’t want to start with “Dear X” at all for whatever reason.
That’s not the end of the world. In fact, it is also widely seen as fine to start your cover letter by diving right in and not get bogged down by details. This means something like:
“H-E-B’s commitment to quality, the environment, and customer satisfaction is well-known to all Texans…”
Okay, so now you know what to write, all that’s left is how to write it!
They key is keeping things clear and organized. The address should be at the top of the page, preferable on the left, underneath your name and contact details. Take a look at this example:
Start with your personal information.
Your name: Ann McGee Your position: Office Manager Your mailing address: 110 West Avenue Buffalo, NY, 71998 Your phone number: 716-881-2989 Your email: email@example.com
Below this should come the date, say:
Put the hiring manager’s details next.
Customer Service Hiring Team Manager OR Mr. James Jackson
Company name and address:
300 West Olmos Drive
San Antonio, TX, 78212
Now for the actual greeting.
Dear Customer Service Hiring Team Manager/Mr. James Jackson,
To sum up, the whole thing should look like this:
Ann McGee Office Manager 110 West Avenue Buffalo, NY, 71998 716-881-2989 firstname.lastname@example.org 12/05/2019 Customer Service Hiring Team Manager OR Mr. James Jackson H-E-B 300 West Olmos Drive San Antonio, TX, 78212 Dear Customer Service Hiring Team Manager/Mr. James Jackson,
And that’s it, you’re home. Everything is right where it should be, nice and organized. Now, make your case!
The following examples are fast ways to botch the good impression you are trying to make from the get-go.Bad example
Umm, excuse me, but do I know you? This greeting sounds a little too familiar and it probably out of place in 99% of cover letters. Leave this kind of greeting to when you actually get to know each other.Bad example
To whom it may concern,
This one sounds waaay too impersonal and even archaic. Not to mention it also looks very copy-paste, like you just sent the exact same letter to every company you applied for. This may just be the worst greeting on this list, so avoid it at all costs.Bad example
Dear Sir or Madam,
Again: too old-fashioned. There must be some information about who will be managing the hiring process, so find it!Bad example
Dear Human Resources Director,
This one might sound good, and it could be, but that is dependent on whether it is in fact the Human Resource Director who is managing recruitment. If not, this will get pretty awkward pretty fast.
Are you ready to send your cover letter? Great! But before you go, take a quick look at this checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
Alright, it looks like this cover letter is ready to go! Good luck, and see you again soon when you need help preparing for your interview 😄