So, you've found a job you want and you're ready to apply. You've got a great CV ready to go, but you want to make sure your cover letter is going to help you put your best foot forward.
A cover letter is generally a one page document that supports your application and outlines why you believe you'd be an ideal candidate. While not all job openings will explicitly request a cover letter or address letter, as a rule of thumb, you should include a cover letter with every job application you submit. It's fine to develop a template cover letter to work from, but it's crucial to adapt the template and tailor each cover letter you submit according to the company and role you apply for.
Who should a cover letter be addressed to?
One aspect of cover letters that is often overlooked is also one of the most simple components: How you address the recipient.
How to Address a Cover Letter the Right Way
Many candidates make the mistake of starting each cover letter with "To whom it may concern," and while this is an acceptable and valid way to start a letter, it has become outdated and a little too formal and impersonal. The same goes for "Dear Sir or Madam". If this is you, it's time to update your approach.
Find out who will receive your cover letter
Chances are, you'll be able to find out who will be on the receiving end when you submit your application. Often, all it takes is a few minutes of research to find the full name of the person to address your cover letter to. Then, you'll know how to address a cover letter in the best way.
Many job listings will include the name of the contact person for the role towards the end of the job description. This will usually be an HR or recruiting manager, or sometimes the hiring manager of the role. You may even find that the email address of the person responsible for the role or job listing is provided with the full name of the hiring manager.
If no name is provided, go directly to the company website, or search LinkedIn and see if you can find out the name of the relevant person. The hiring manager would be the ideal choice, with the HR manager being your next best option.
Once you have a full name, be sure to use their surname when you address a cover letter to them. Using just their first name comes across as too familiar. While you don't want to be too formal, you also want to avoid being too casual when you address a cover letter.
It's considered best practice to use a title when you address a cover letter. However, this isn't always straightforward, and can be challenging if you're not sure of the gender or preferred pronouns of the recipient.
- When addressing a man, use "Mr."
- When addressing a woman, use "Ms.": This option covers all bases and shows you've made no assumptions about the marital status of the recipient. Using Miss or Mrs. could go the wrong way, so stick to the safe option of Ms.
- If you're unsure, use both their first and surname, to avoid it altogether.
How to address a cover letter when you can't find the hiring manager's name
If you've spent some time searching, but you can't find the hiring manager's full name or any other name for the person who's likely responsible for reading your job application, it's okay. Here are some examples of how to address someone in a cover letter when you don't know their name.
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- To the Head of Sales,
- Dear Customer Service Team Hiring Manager,
- To the Software Development Team Manager,
Now that you know how to address a cover letter appropriately, the next steps will be to perfect the contents of the cover letter to make sure it really works to your advantage. How to address the letter is only part of the battle, and although how to address a letter is important, the content is the real fight.
Address your cover letter properly with their name or at least dear hiring manager, dear sir or madam, or the right salutation like we detailed above, and then be sure to have an organized body. The hiring manager of the company will expect certain info from your letter. Address the things that may concern the hiring manager clearly and intelligently, and you'll have a great cover letter.