Addressing Your Cover Letter: How to Impress the Hiring Manager

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So, you’ve found a job you want to apply for, and you’re ready to send your resume and cover letter. Wait, are you really ready? Take a moment: Have you addressed your cover letter properly? Personalizing it shows that you pay attention to detail and care enough about a potential job to do some research about the company and its hiring manager. “To Whom It May Concern” is a fast-track path to the rejection pile.

First impressions count! One thing you can do to stand out is address your cover letter to the right person. How do you do this correctly, and what if you don’t know their name? The tips below can help you write an outstanding cover letter. Need further assistance? Contact our resume and cover letter specialists

Use the hiring manager’s name

When the hiring manager is identified in the job post, you will want to use their full name in your greeting. Failure to include it when it’s clearly listed in the job ad will likely result in an automatic rejection since this indicates that you’re lazy and don’t pay attention to detail. It is acceptable to use “Dear” and “Hello” (avoid informal greetings such as “Hi” or “Hey”) before the name, but it is also fine to address the person directly, without a salutation. It’s more succinct and allows you to jump right into the body of the cover letter. 

It is also a good idea to use a title before the name. If you know the person’s gender, go ahead and use “Mr.” or “Ms.” Stay away from using “Mrs.” since you don’t know whether the person is married or not. If you do know that they’re married (because, for example, it says so in their bio on the company website), it’s fine to use “Mrs.” If the person has a specific title, use that as a sign of respect. Often the person has acquired a title after extensive training or long years of education and will appreciate being addressed as such. Possible titles can include “Dr.,” “Rev,” “Prof.,” “Sgt.,” “Principal,” and “Mayor.” Make sure to include such titles if applicable since some people may be offended if theirs is omitted.

What if it is hard to tell the gender of a hiring manager? Oftentimes, names can be ambiguous and make it difficult to know how to address the person. Simply use their full name, honored title (if appropriate), or the gender-neutral “Mx.” If the person has an honored title, that’s definitely what you should go with. You might also be able to do a search and find their name on the company website or LinkedIn. If they have a picture posted and you can clearly tell their gender, or if you find information that clearly refers to them as “he” or “she,”  you can then use “Mr.” or “Ms.”

What if the name isn’t included in the job post? 

You have two options if the name of the hiring manager is not provided. Either do some research and find it or address your letter in another way. Don’t just choose the lazy way out—make an effort to find a specific name. The hiring manager will appreciate your tenacity, especially if you had to work hard to unearth the name.

What can you do to identify the hiring manager? The simplest way is to search the company’s website and social media. If that doesn’t yield results, do some more detective work. Browse the LinkedIn profiles of some employees and do a Google search for company managers. You should be able to discover something if you do this. At the very least, you can find a manager in the department you want a job in. It doesn’t hurt to address your cover letter to someone higher up in the company—this alone shows that you made the effort to learn more about them. Since the name you want isn’t readily available, they won’t be upset that the cover letter isn’t addressed to the hiring manager.

Do you have ties to anyone in the company? You can also reach out to people who work there. Most would be happy to help you out, especially if they are rooting for you to get the job.

If you still have no luck, don’t be afraid to contact the company directly by email or phone. Tell the human resources head what position you’re applying for and ask for the name of the person you should address your cover letter to. Employers are always looking for passionate workers who go above and beyond, so they’d be happy to reward your tenacious research efforts by providing assistance. Persistence is an admirable trait and one that would be welcomed by any company.

If you still come up empty after all this, you can resort to a generic greeting to the company department or its head. While it is important to personalize the letter, there are times when this may be impossible. However, in case you’ve exhausted all your options, you can feel confident in using an impersonal greeting since there’s no way around it. You can then go with “Dear Hiring Manager,” “Dear IT Team,” “Dear Finance Department,” or “Dear Head of Human Resources” (depending on the position you are applying for). Chances are that if you explored the options above and couldn’t find a name, no other applicant could, either. 

Importantly, avoid using “Dear Sir or Madam” and “To Whom It May Concern.” Being too formal and outdated, these greetings will certainly not impress a hiring manager.

Whatever you end up using as your greeting, try to get as close as possible to the hiring manager or the department you hope to work for.

Other tips

Never start your cover letter with a simple “Hello.” If you can’t find a specific name, address the person as “Hiring Manager.” You don’t want to appear impolite or careless to the first individual who might influence your hiring. Don’t forget that they likely have a lot of applications to comb through, and if you give them an excuse to discard yours early on, they’ll take it.

Also, keep in mind that you need to include certain details above your greeting. You should incorporate your important information—name, title, address, phone, and email. Omitting these is like forgetting to write your name on a test at school. It is also wise to include your LinkedIn address if you have a profile on the platform. In addition, add the hiring manager’s name, the company address, and the date.

Lastly, are you sending your cover letter as an email? Make sure you fill in the subject line. Using the job position as a title works fine, but if the job posting instructs you to fill in the subject line in a particular way, do so. You don’t want someone to delete the email because they didn’t know it was a job application or because you can’t follow basic instructions.

Put your best foot forward and demonstrate that you are a serious candidate for the job. The best way to do this is to impress the hiring manager. Crafting a cover letter with a professional, personalized address can help you snatch a coveted position. Do you need help perfecting your cover letter? Reach out to our cover letter experts.

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