We know it's frustrating when a job posting doesn't include the name of the person in charge of the hiring process.
We also know that's not an excuse to slap any salutation on your cover letter and send your application off.
According to Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, you should always do some research to figure out who exactly the person reading your letter will be.
You can even play it safe by writing at the beginning of your cover letter: "I noticed you're working in [whatever department] at [whatever company]," so you show that based on your research, it looks like they're involved in the hiring process.
In the case that you absolutely, positively can't find a person's name, Augustine said certain ways of addressing your cover letter are more off-putting than others. For example, "Dear Hiring Manager" and "Dear Recruiter" aren't great openings, but they're the best of many bad options.
Here's the full list of cover-letter openings, ranked in reverse order of egregiousness.
Business Insider staff
P.S. This advice doesn't apply in the case of an anonymous job posting, when a company is deliberately keeping their name and the names of their employees confidential.
5. "Dear Hiring Manager" or "Dear Recruiter"
The language in your cover letter should be at once professional and conversational, Augustine said. And these openings aren't overly formal or casual, which is a plus.
But the lack of customization — you could submit this letter to any company you're applying to — will still stand out.
"You're not earning brownie points" with this salutation, Augustine said. "But you're not putting people off" either.
4. "Dear HR Professional"
Augustine said this opening isn't necessarily accurate.
The person reading your application might not work in the company's human resources department, or they might call themselves a recruiter instead of a human resources professional.
3. "Hello" or "Hi"
With "Hello" and no name after it, you've gotten the conversational part down, but you've still failed to customize your letter.
"Hi" is a double whammy, since not only is it not customized, but it can also be considered slang, Augustine said.
2. "Dear Sir or Madam"
You might think you're being clever by covering your bases in terms of gender, Augustine said. But you're actually making a big mistake by being so formal.
If you're applying to a startup, for example, Augustine said this kind of language probably wouldn't fit the company culture.
Even if you're applying to a more traditional company, the fact that your opening isn't customized at all is a big turn-off.
1. "To Whom It May Concern"
"It's so incredibly formal in its language," Augustine said of this opening. "I read that and I think, 'This person doesn't care at all.'"
If they did care, they would have tried to figure out who exactly the recruiter or the hiring manager is.
Moreover, "To Whom It May Concern" conveys exactly the opposite impression of professional and conversational that you're trying to project.
Augustine's rule of thumb when writing cover letters is to ask yourself: If this letter was coming to me, would I want to read it? Chances are good that, if someone addressed you this way, you wouldn't be so intrigued.
Your cover letter is more likely to land in the right place when it is addressed to the correct person. Unfortunately, many job postings do not include a contact name. When this information is missing, it can leave you wondering how to address a cover letter. It’s always best to try and find the name of the person to address your cover letter to. You can use available resources to learn the name of the person responsible for hiring. Check the company website, make a phone call or look on social media. If your search is unsuccessful, there are other effective methods of addressing a blind cover letter. The salutation may be different, but how to address a cover letter with no name follows the standard format for how to address a cover letter.
Standard Cover Letter Formatting
How to address a cover letter starts with the same information, regardless of who you write it to. Always type your name and contact information at the top of the letter or at the top left corner of the page. Provide the date on the left side of the page, one space beneath your contact information.
Los Angeles, CA 90210
April 7, 2018
Use a General Title
If you are unable to learn the specific name of who to address a cover letter, use a general title. Address the cover letter to the human resources department or the department head of the job you want. This still sounds professional. Provide the company’s address under the name or title.
123 Main St.
Onecity, MA 02116
Human Resources Department
123 Main St.
Onecity, MA 02116
Vice President of Sales
123 Main St.
Onecity, MA 02116
To Whom it May Concern Cover Letter
If you are blindly sending a cover letter, you can always send a more generic "to whom it may concern" letter. Address your letter to “To Whom it May Concern” instead of “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam,” since you don’t want to assume one gender or another.
To Whom it May Concern:
123 Main St.Onecity, MA 02116
Include a Salutation
Begin the body of the cover letter with a salutation to the contact, much like you would when addressing any letter. The salutation should be to the same person the cover letter was addressed.
Dear Recruiting Representative
Dear Human Resources Team
Dear Marketing Manager
To Whom it May Concern
Formatting the Body of the Cover Letter
Follow the standard format for the body of your cover letter. In the first paragraph, state the position you are interested in, how you heard about it and why you qualify. Briefly highlight relevant key accomplishments in the second paragraph. Indicate how and when you plan to follow up in the last paragraph.
- Gender-specific salutations such as “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam” display a lack of creativity and could be offensive if the greeting is not appropriate for the reader.
About the Author
Leslie is a Los Angeles native with more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of online and print publications. She has degrees in both journalism and law.
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