The basics of addressing a cover letter
“You should do the research to find the hiring manager for the position and address the cover letter to that person,” says Jessica Sweet, certified professional career coach and founder of Wishingwell Coaching. “If the company has listed the position with an external recruiter, start there, but if you feel you're a great fit, you can send your cover letter and resume to the hiring manager directly if the recruiter has dropped the ball.”
If the job listing doesn’t make it clear who will be reading your application or who the hiring manager is, do your research.
Check for the job listing in multiple locations—LinkedIn, InHerSight, Indeed, and the company’s own careers page. One of them may list a name or recipient.
The job posting may list the title of who this hire would report to (i.e., the digital marketing strategist will report to the VP of marketing). Once you know their title, search it on LinkedIn or look for them on the company’s “team” page.
Google the email address where you are to send your application materials. This might help you find a name. Alternatively, there might be a name in the email address itself, gsmith@ACME.corp, for example, which you can use to find a full name with LinkedIn or the company's website. Perhaps you find a recruiter at the company named Gretchen Smith—she might be the one.
Read more: How to Nail a Phone Interview
How to address your letter if you know the recipient’s name
Address your cover letter using the recipient’s full name.
Sweet says: “I suggest that people use full names such as ‘Dear Jane Smith,’ rather than ‘Dear Ms. Smith.’ Don't make assumptions about how people prefer to be addressed.”
Use a prefix like Ms. or Mr. only if you are certain about the person's preferred pronouns; steer clear of Mrs., which assumes marital status.
Doctor or Dr. is fine if you know they hold such a degree.
Sergeant/Sgt., Lieutenant/Lt., Colonel/Col., etc., for military ranks.
Professor/Prof. for our friends in academia, usually for those who do not hold a Ph.D. or M.D.
How to address your cover letter if you don't know the recipient’s name
“Always do the research to find the person's name,” says Sweet. “You can find the information easily by doing some research on a site such as LinkedIn. Only in a case where the hiring company is unlisted should you use the address, ‘Dear Sir or Madam.’”
Sometimes you simply won't be able to find the recipient’s name, and that’s okay. Here’s how you can address your letter in that case:
- Dear Sir or Madam
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear Marketing Team Hiring Manager
- Dear Recruiter
- Dear Recruiting Team
- Dear ACME Recruiting Team
Read more: How to Address a Cover Letter with No Name
How you should never address a cover letter
There are ways you shouldn't address your cover letter. Sweet cautions against one in particular: ”Never use ‘To whom it may concern.’ It just looks lazy. Take the time to find the name of the hiring manager for the job.”
Never, ever address your cover letter with:
Hi, hello, hey, hi there, yo, hey hey—You’re not texting your Postmate
Dear HR professional—You’re not a robot
To whom it may concern—This is not an open letter on HuffPost
Dear reader—You’re not writing an advice column
Greetings and salutations—You’re not an actor from the 16th century
Happy Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday—Easy, tiger
Dear all—All? Like, all of them?
Read more: Action Words to Make Your Resume Stand Out
About our source
Jessica Sweet is the owner of Wishingwell Coaching, she is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). Her work has appeared in many publications, including Forbes.com, Monster.com, Business Insider, Fast Company, and more.