You’ve found the perfect job and finally sat down to write that cover letter (good for you!), but immediately you’ve run into a roadblock. How do you even start the darn thing? Should you use Mr. or Ms.? Do you include a first name? And what if you’ve searched high and low, but can’t find the hiring manager’s name?
Don’t fret! Follow these rules for cover letter salutation salvation.
Rule #1: Use a Formal Full Name Salutation
Unless you know for sure that the culture of the company is more casual, use the hiring manager’s first and last name, including a “Mr.” or “Ms.” (e.g., Mr. Jack Smith).
Most letters I see still use the “Dear” greeting, though I’ve seen a growing trend of people dropping it and starting with “Hello” or just the name. Either way works. The most important part is having the actual name. Never use “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear or Sir or Madam”—nothing could be more generic (not to mention archaic). Your cover letter could be the first opportunity you have to make an impression on the hiring manager, so make sure you show that you did your company research.
One note of caution, if you can’t decipher whether to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” based on the name and a little Google stalking (and you don’t have an easy way out with a “Dr.”), just drop the title.
Rule #2: If You Don’t Know the Hiring Manager, Guess
Sometimes, even after hours of online searching (try these tips), you still might not be able to definitively figure out who exactly the hiring manager for the position you’re applying for is—and that’s OK.
If you can only find a list of the executives of the company and you’re not completely confident who the hiring manager is, use the head of the department for the position you’re applying for. In the end, no one will fault you for addressing the letter higher up than necessary. This approach is definitely better than not using a name in your cover letter, because it still shows the time and effort you took to find out who the department head is.
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Rule #3: Be as Specific as Possible
So, you’ve done your due diligence and after an exhaustive search—nothing. You just can’t find a single name to address your cover letter to. If that’s the case, don’t worry. The company is likely privately held with no reason to share who its employees are—and, more importantly, is aware of this.
If this is the case and you don’t have a name to use, try to still be as specific as possible in your greeting. Consider using “Senior Analyst Hiring Manager” or “Research Manager Search Committee”—something that shows that you’ve written this letter with a particular audience in mind.
Ultimately, you want your cover letter to convey your interest in the position. To start off on the right note, get the salutation right by being as specific as possible—ideally with the name of the hiring manager. Of course, that can’t always happen, but as long as the effort is clearly made, you’ll be starting your cover letter in the right place.
You’ve always been told that you shouldn’t write, “To Whom It May Concern,” on your cover letter. But what should you do when you don’t have the name of the hiring manager?
Related: 11 Tips For Creating Compelling Cover Letters
Here’s today’s Q&A quick tip.
First, Track Down The Name
Obviously, it’s ideal to use the hiring manager’s name in the letter. So, the first thing you should do is try to track down the hiring manager’s name online (i.e. the company website, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.).
You can also call up the company directly to ask for the name. Simply call up the company and say, “Hi, my name is ____ and I’m applying for a position at your company. Would it be possible for me to get the name of the hiring manager so I can address him or her in my cover letter?”
If All Fails, Use ‘Dear Hiring Team’
If the hiring manager’s name is nowhere to be found and the company is unwilling to give you his or her name, you should use “Dear Hiring Team” in your cover letter salutation.
By addressing your cover letter to the hiring team, you increase your chances of getting it in front of the right pair of eyes.
Why Can’t You Use Someone Else’s Name?
But what if you know the name of someone else (not involved with hiring) who works at the company? Can you just address it to them instead?
“That person may not be the person that’s hiring, and they could easily throw [your cover letter] in the trash,” said J.T. O’Donnell in a recent episode of Career Q&A. “You don’t know if they’re going to forward it to the right person or not. You DO NOT want to risk that.”
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This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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