How to Start a Cover Letter (with examples)

April 16, 2020

How to start a cover letter? Whether you’re reading a book, starting a new movie, or writing a cover letter, the beginnings are always the most important part. Think about it- you wouldn’t stick around for a boring movie to see how it ends, so why would a hiring manager keep reading if he’s not instantly impressed? There are a right way and a wrong way to go about greetings in cover letters.

So, how to start a cover letter greeting? You want to avoid personal greetings like ‘Hello’ and ‘Hi’, but you don’t want to be so impersonal either, settling for ‘To Whom It May Concern’. The best thing to do is to find out the actual name of the hiring manager and write ‘Dear’ so-and-so. Use a personal title, if you know it, such as Ms., Mr., or Dr.

It can be hard to know what to do when you’re opening your cover letter with a greeting. Is it too personal? Will they think I’m professional enough? What if there’s no name? Every cover letter will have its own battles to deal with, but you need to know how to conquer them all. We will be discussing how to properly greet in a cover letter of all situations.

start a cover letter

How to Greet in a Cover Letter

Your greeting will be the first thing the hiring manager sees, and it can either be a good thing…or a really bad thing.

If they find you too professional, they might not find you as a sincere individual who actually cares about the position.

On the other hand, too personal of messages will make you look unprofessional, and that’s an instant boot to the trash can for you. 

So what are some general rules to follow when putting together a greeting?

Let’s take a look:

Never Start with ‘Hello’, ‘Hi’, or Other Personal Messages

Unless you actually know the individual you’re corresponding within the cover letter- such as being friends for years- you should never use personal messages.

A personal message is severely off-putting to an employer and will make you appear unprofessional. That’s not the type of person they’re likely seeking for their establishment.

And don’t think just because you’re not bidding for a managerial position that you can slide by with a personal message such as ‘Hello’. Even if you’re applying to be a waitress or an employee at a department store, you still need to show that you’re professional. 

This gives the employer a glimpse into your lifestyle and behavior. If you think it’s okay to simply put ‘Hi’ as a greeting for your cover letter, then maybe you think it’s fine to be late 3 times a week or take an extra 10 minutes on lunch breaks. It might sound a little intense, but it’s simply the truth.

Don’t be Too Impersonal, Either

When you think of a cover letter, your first thought is likely ‘To Whom It May Concern’. It’s easy, it’s professional, and you can pretty much copy and paste this onto every cover letter and never think twice about it. But does that mean it’s the best choice?

While it might be your first choice, you should almost never put ‘To Whom It May Concern’.

Why?

Well, because it’s simply too professional.

It shows the employer and hiring manager that you didn’t care to look further into the company to try and find any names. And sometimes, the names are directly stated on the job application.

If you missed this and still wrote something very impersonal, that’s a major red flag to employers.

Always Try and Find a Name

The best thing you can do when writing a greeting is to always try and find a name to put in your greeting.

Sometimes it’s easy and is written in the job post, but other times might call for a little bit more digging and diligence.

Scope out their website to see if they have a specific hiring manager, manager, or boss, and add that to your greeting. 

When using someone’s name, you need to be careful.

If you can, you should always try to use Ms., Mr., or Dr. when sending your greeting with a name attached. This appears more professional. Avoid using Mrs. or Miss, though. Just because you’re almost positive they are or are not married, doesn’t mean you should assume so- maybe they are going through a divorce?

If you’re unsure about their title, then skip it. Instead, simply use their first and last name. This is much safer than using personal titles and still looks professional to the hiring force.

Whether using a personal title or not, you should start with ‘Dear’, such as Dear Dr. Hubbarb or Dear Ms. Julia Kinley.

If not using a personal title, you can get by with simply saying ‘Dear’ followed by their first or first and last name- Dear Julia Kinley or Dear Julia.

What if You Can’t Find a Name?

One of the biggest issues a job seeker faces is not being able to find names on the websites. If this is the case, you can still be a bit more specific without resorting to the typical ‘To Whom It May Concern’ messages.

Most of the time, when no names are listed, the company has a specific team that does the hiring procedure.

See if you can find the actual name of the hiring team on the company’s website. If nothing is listed, then you can always resort to ‘Dear (The Department You Are Applying For) Hiring Team’.

For instance, if you’re trying to apply for a job within Human Relations, you would write ‘Dear Human Relations Hiring Committee or Team’. 

Still can’t find or think of the right ‘team’ to write to?

Don’t panic.

If you can’t find any specific information whatsoever, your last resort is to send a cover letter with ‘Dear Hiring Manager’.

This is the preferred greeting for almost every company as it’s professional without being too personal or impersonal- the perfect middle ground.

The point is to refrain from using ‘Hello’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’ at all costs. These are almost instant dealbreakers.

Do as much research as humanly possible. This shows the company you cared enough to find out more info on the business, which makes you stand apart from the sea of applicants who only want a job- not this job.

Related Questions

What is the best way to start a cover letter?

The goal is to sell yourself with your cover letter. Let the employer know you’re the best choice for the job. That being said, once you have the right greeting in place, you can move on to the start of your cover letter. This first paragraph should be the most interesting without too much fluff. Simply state why you want the job and why you’re the best job seeker for the position.

What can you stay instead of “To whom it may concern”?

Avoid using this phrase as much as possible in your job seeking adventure. Always try and find actual names as this shows you’re serious about the position. If you can’t find a name, consider writing to the hiring department of the specific area you’re applying to, such as customer service or human resources.


You may also like

Who Should You Address a Cover Letter to?

How to Organize a Cover Letter

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!