Heath Alva
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Who do you address a cover letter to? 4 situations and examples
Last updated: June 25, 2022
Heath Alva
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Who do you address a cover letter to? 4 situations and examples
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Think of a cover letter as the outfit you choose for an in-person job interview. You want to make sure it fits the occasion and gives the right impression to the hiring manager. The well-chosen outfit shows that you’ve done your research and take the interview seriously.

Now, apply this to the cover letter. Not only does it have to have the right format and an appealing greeting, but it must also be addressed to the right person. But what if you don’t know who exactly you’re addressing your cover letter to? Or worse, what if you’re not sure what gender-specific pronoun — if any — you should use? Scroll down for our two cents on how to address your cover letter properly and make sure it doesn’t end up being tossed in the trash.

How to address a cover letter when you know the hiring manager’s name

If you know the name of the hiring manager for your prospective position, you’re in luck. All you need to do is write the manager’s first and last name in the salutation line. Typically, you’ll begin your letter with “Dear” as a greeting. It’s simple and professional — don’t overthink it. If you’re writing a traditional cover letter in a standard business letter format, you’ll also need to include the hiring manager’s name on the business address line. Here’s an example so you can see how it should look:

How to address a cover letter without a contact person

If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager for the position you’re applying for, it’s time to do a little research. Try your best to find the hiring manager’s name by doing a quick Google search for the company’s website, finding the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile, or even calling the company’s human resources department to get the last name.

If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, you can simply address it as “Dear Hiring Manager.” You could also address the department or team you’ll be working with or list the hiring manager’s actual job title, like in this example below.

You have a little leeway in addressing your cover letter when you don’t know the full name of the hiring manager. What’s important is to make an effort to find the most specific information out there — it will make a good impression.

There are a few greetings you should definitely avoid, though. For instance, don’t use overly informal openings like “hello” or “hi.” And perhaps most importantly, don’t ever start a cover letter with an overly generic greeting like “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” These are formal, out-of-date, and a sure sign that you didn’t make an effort to find the hiring manager’s full name.

How to address a cover letter when your contact has an academic or professional title

If you’re in academia or another field where you might run into professional titles, you’ll need to take those into account when addressing your cover letter.

You’re most likely to run into the professional title of Doctor, but Professor, Reverend, Judge, and military titles may also appear on occasion. In general, if you know your hiring manager has a title, you should use it. If they don’t often use that title, they can let you know when you meet in person. When addressing your cover letter, you’ll greet the hiring manager with their abbreviated title followed by their last name, like in the example below:

You’ll follow the same format if your hiring manager uses a title like Mr., Mrs., or Ms. However, since these are social titles rather than professional ones, you should avoid these unless you explicitly know that they prefer to be addressed like this.

How to address a cover letter with gender-neutral names

If you come across a hiring manager’s name and it’s gender-neutral, we’ve got good news for you: all you have to do is address them by their first and last name. Since addressing a hiring manager doesn’t require gendered titles, you can simply follow the advice outlined above. Even professional titles aren’t gendered. It’s important to be respectful and make a good impression on the hiring manager, so do your best to address them how they prefer.

8 cover letter tips to make a good first impression

Your cover letter is often your true first impression to your prospective employer. It should highlight your accomplishments and showcase some of your personality. The balance can be a bit tricky at times, so here are eight tips for writing the best possible cover letter.

1. Customize your cover letter for the job

Send a unique version of your cover letter to each job you apply for, and avoid sending the same letter to every company. Include specific and relevant information about the job you’re applying for to make your letter stand out.

2. Highlight your accomplishments

It can be tempting to use your cover letter to detail all of your responsibilities at a previous job. Instead of talking about your day-to-day tasks, highlight your accomplishments. In short, your cover letter shouldn’t sound like a job description for your old position. It should talk about all of the things you’re good at and exactly what you’ve done to prove it.

3. Include more information than what’s on your resume

Summarizing your resume wastes cover letter space. Instead, talk about what resume experiences make you the best candidate for the job. Go beyond explaining your job duties to talk about the challenges you overcame or the outcomes you produced through your duties.

4. Explain any critical gaps in your experience

Your cover letter can be a great place to explain circumstances that might otherwise make the hiring manager pass you over for the job. Most of the time, this will be something like a long employment gap.

Don’t get too into your personal circumstances, and don’t unnecessarily point out places where you don’t meet the qualifications. This is an opportunity to explain big-picture scenarios, not the nitty-gritty of your particular skills.

5. Edit your cover letter thoroughly

First impressions matter, so make sure your grammar and spelling are pristine throughout your cover letter. This also demonstrates professionalism and attention to detail.

You can use a self-editing tool to help you polish your letter or ask a friend or family member to look it over for you.

6. Include clear contact information

Give the hiring manager a clear way to contact you in the event your cover letter gets lost in the shuffle of application materials. Typically, this will be your email address or phone number in the last line of your cover letter. Contact information can also be placed in the address section toward the top.

7. Format your cover letter properly

Follow all application directions related to submitting a cover letter, such as whether it should be pasted into the body of an email or included as an attachment. If you’re sending it in the body of an email, you can skip the address formatting and go straight to the salutation. Adjust your cover letter accordingly based on how you need to submit it.

8. Convey personality and enthusiasm

Your cover letter is the place to let yourself shine. You can show who you are and why you care about this job. While you should still remain professional, don’t be afraid to let a little personality shine through.

Make sure your cover letter gets in the right hands

Addressing a cover letter can be tricky, but with our guide for every cover letter scenario, you’ll be able to address it correctly in no time. Remember that your goal is to demonstrate respect for the hiring manager by addressing them in their preferred manner. And of course, once you address your cover letter, you’ll want to write a good one using the tips we’ve provided.


For more job search tips, visit the Getting Hired Resource Center.

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