Addressing A Cover Letter To An Unknown

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.

Your cover letter is more likely to land in the right place when it is addressed to the reader. Unfortunately, many job postings do not include a contact name. When this information is missing, you can use available resources to learn the name of the person responsible for the hiring process. If your search is unsuccessful, there are other effective methods of addressing a blind cover letter. The salutation may be different, but the content follows the standard format for cover letters.

1. Search for a contact name with any information you have. For instance, check the job posting for the company’s name and number, then call and ask for the name of the hiring manager. If the call is unsuccessful, use professional-networking websites, such as LinkedIn and Ryze, to connect with someone who works in the company’s human-resources department.

2. 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.

3. Leave a blank line beneath the date and type the contact’s name. If you were unable to learn the name, use a general title such as “Hiring Manager,” “Recruiting Representative” or “Human Resources Department.” Provide the company’s address under the name or title.

4. Begin the body of the letter with a salutation to the contact. If you don’t have a name, use a greeting such as “Dear Hiring Manager,” “Dear Recruiting Representative” or “Dear Human Resources Team.”

5. 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; and indicate how and when you plan to follow up in the last paragraph.

6. End the letter with a closing statement such as “Sincerely” or “Regards.” Leave a blank space beneath the statement for your signature then type your name.

Warning

  • 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

Tina Amo has been writing business-related content since 2006. Her articles appear on various well-known websites. Amo holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in information systems.

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