In a competitive job market it is crucial to make the best first impression you can. Small things like the cover letter salutation can make a big difference. Nailing the cover letter opening conveys professionalism and adds that personal touch.
It is always best to try and find out the name of the hirer on the company website, by calling the company receptionist, or by looking on LinkedIn. If the name is readily available and you don’t use it, the hirer will think that you’ve rushed and haven’t taken the time to get the cover letter greeting right.
However, it is not always possible to find out the contact person’s name. In these cases, it can be difficult to know how to address an email cover letter and if you get it wrong, the danger is that your carefully constructed professional resume may never be viewed. The good news is that there are options for how to open a cover letter and it is not complicated.
How to start a cover letter
Ideally you should have the right person’s name. It is generally best to use ‘Dear’ followed by either ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’ (unless you specifically know that a woman prefers ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’).
If you’re not sure of a person’s gender because they have a name which could be both, use their full name and leave off the salutation. If you know that someone is a qualified professor or doctor you should use the appropriate letter salutations.
Cover letter salutation examples:
Dear Ms. Jenkins
Dear Mr. Washington
Dear Dr. Brown
Dear Professor Simon
How to address a cover letter without a contact name
Many job postings don’t include a contact name and even with a bit of investigating you can’t find out who the hiring manager is. Sometimes companies prefer the hiring manager to be anonymous for various reasons.
In these cases, you can use general salutations for addressing your cover letter. Many choose the classic cover-letter ‘To whom it may concern’. This is absolutely fine though a little old-fashioned, consider the company image and think whether it’s suitable or not. Here are some other general salutations you can use…
Dear Hiring Manager
Dear Company Name
Dear Sir or Madam
Dear HR Manager
Tips for writing a polished cover letter
Main body of the cover letter
How long should a cover letter be? You cover letter should be concise. It should let the employer know what position you’re applying for and what your main strengths are. It should not be as detailed as your resume but should focus on a few key points. Read this guide on what not to put in a cover letter.
Identify the most important requirements in the job posting and focus on these. Make sure you follow the employer’s instructions to the letter and proofread your cover letter numerous times before sending it.
Cover letter ending
In the final paragraph of the cover letter let the employer know that you’ve attached your resume (assuming you have). Thank them for their time and for considering you for the position. You can finish with the closing line ‘Yours Sincerely’, followed by your email signature.
If you’ve taken time to write a resume which grabs the attention of the employer and have written a polished cover letter you’ll hopefully get through to the interview stage. It would be a tragedy if the employer didn’t know how to contact you so make this clear in your email signature. Make sure you include the following:
Address (including city, state, and zip code)
You can also include any social media links, such as LinkedIn, if it helps your application.
Email subject line
This is one of the most common mistakes that candidate’s make and it looks sloppy. The hiring manager receives so many emails that they might not open an untitled email. Write a clear email subject line which includes the position you’re applying for.
Lastly, remember to attach your resume! If you forget the hirer may send a polite email telling you to resend it, or they may not bother. Many candidates use a resume builder to create attractive, professional-looking resumes which stand out.