Who Should You Address a Cover Letter to?

May 14, 2020

Who should you address a cover letter to? We all know how important cover letters are, but you might not consider the initial greeting to be a big piece of the cover letter puzzle- but it is. In fact, you should be even more careful when putting together a greeting, as this is one of the first things the hiring manager notices. A bad greeting equates to a lackluster, informal cover letter. Period.

So, who should you address a cover letter to? The cover letter should always be addressed to an actual person using a name. You can use ‘Dear Michelle Smith’ or ‘Dear Ryan Howard’, or opt for Ms. Smith or Dr. Howard. If you can’t find a name to address to, using ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or ‘Dear Finance Team’ also works.

Addressing your cover letter to an actual person is the key to success when it comes to creating a stellar document. We are going to discuss how to properly address someone in a cover letter as well as a few things you want to completely avoid. Remember- take care of how you address the cover letter and you’ll only see positive feedback.

how to address a cover letter

Who Should You Address a Cover Letter to?

There are a few do’s and don’ts when it comes to addressing someone in your cover letter.

The do’s are what will lead you to an interview, but the don’ts may leave your cover letter sitting in the wastebasket- either in real life or virtually.

That being said, addressing is very important in a cover letter. Let’s take a look at some of the do’s. 

How to Address a Cover Letter the Right Way

There are actually three different great ways to address someone in your cover letter.

All work fine, but you also have to pay extra close attention when using some of these tactics. For instance:

1. Always Use Their Name

There’s no way around it- you should always, always, always use someone’s name when you’re addressing a cover letter.

This shows that you actually care enough about the job to seek out a name. It also shows that you’re a professional individual who likes to speak in a business casual way, and hiring managers respect that.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it’s personal, which shows that you’re not simply copy-pasting every cover letter sent.

Now, there is a specific way you should address someone when using their name. Here are a few great examples:

  • Dear Michelle Smith,
  • Dear Ryan Howard,
  • Michelle Smith,
  • Ryan Howard,

As you can see, the best way to address someone when using their name is to either use ‘Dear’ or forgo the initial phrasing altogether and simply write their name.

And don’t worry- that’s a completely acceptable way to address someone. 

2. Use a Personal Title

You also have the option of addressing someone using their personal title. However, this is a tad trickier than simply using their first and last name as mentioned above.

The first thing to remember is that you need to be positive about their personal title. For instance, don’t guess that he is a professor or doctor and then be incorrect about it.

Secondly, you want to avoid using Mrs. at all costs.

Even if you’re pretty sure that she is married, you shouldn’t automatically assume that she is. Some people may be going through personal issues- such as a divorce- in which they do not want to be referred to as ‘Mrs.’ any longer.

That being said, stick to the more common ‘Ms.’ or ‘Mr.’ when addressing someone in your cover letter. If you’re sure, you can also use Prof., Rev., or Sgt.

3. What If There is No Name?

One common issue that people run into when trying to figure out how to address their cover letter is that they simply can’t find a name. Well, we’re here to tell you this- you need to search high and low for a name.

Addressing someone with a name is the absolute best way to start your cover letter, so do everything you can to find a name.

Sometimes the name of the hiring manager is listed directly on the listing- in which case your job is easy.

Other times, you will need to do a bit more digging to find a name. Search the company’s website as best you can to find the hiring manager. In some circumstances, you may also want to call the company to get a name.

How bad do you want it? …it’s all about whatever means necessary.

Even after a lot of searching, though, you may still find yourself without a name to address your cover letter to- and that’s still okay. This is especially true if there is no name on the job post or the company website, and the posting specifically says ‘No Calls’ about the job. Trust us- don’t call just to get the name. They will be peeved.

So what can you do?

Well, you can always simply address the cover letter to the hiring manager by saying ‘Dear Hiring Manager’.

This is still considered professional and personal. However, try and direct your cover letter to the actual department you’re applying to. For instance, you can say ‘Dear Customer Service Department’. 

What Not to do When Addressing a Cover Letter

Just as there are three great ways to address your cover letter, there are also three things you should absolutely avoid.

Using any of these to address someone in your cover letter might get your cover letter tossed directly into the trash can- and yes, it is that serious. Let’s take a look:

1. Never Be Too Informal

Being informal is one quick way to show the hiring manager that you are not a professional and they shouldn’t count on you to be professional with their customers, either. It can even give them the impression that you’re unprofessional in other areas, too, which can lead them to believe that you’re not punctual or possibly disrespectful.

That being said, avoid addressing someone in a personal way such as saying ‘Hey’ or ‘What’s Up’.

And yes, although most people wouldn’t do this, you might be surprised that some people are unaware that these are not greetings to place on their cover letter. Yikes!

2. Don’t Be Too Impersonal, Either

You can probably ask any hiring manager and they will say the same thing- the second they see ‘To Whom It May Concern’ they want to explode.

This is such an impersonal and outdated way of addressing someone in a cover letter and hiring managers hate it. It’s best to ditch that lingo entirely.

3. Don’t Skip it Altogether

Some may think that it’s best to ditch the addressing entirely if they can’t find a name and don’t think their greeting is ‘good’.

But no greeting is a big no thank you from hiring managers. It’s pretty disrespectful and shows that you don’t know how to write a proper cover letter. If anything, even saying ‘Hello’ is better than nothing at all. 

Related Questions

Do you include the company address on a cover letter?

Yes. It’s pretty standard to have the company’s address, as well as your address, on a cover letter. Even though it may seem a bit outdated, even emailing or messaging a cover letter online should still include the company’s address.

How do you start off a cover letter?

After your greeting, start your cover letter off with a bang. Draw the readers in by sharing a useful piece of your background, whether it’s from previous employers or education.


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