Addressing a Cover Letter

Nancy Anderson
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You found a great job listing and you're ready to apply. You craft the perfectly personalized cover letter to introduce yourself and your resume. All you have to do is fill in the right name for the address at the top before sending it to the hiring manager, but you cannot find that person's name. Here's how to address your correspondence to a generic someone when you don't know a name.

First, you should always try to determine the person's name ahead of addressing your cover letter, even if you have to call the HR department, recruiter or company's administrative assistant. You may even reach out to the hiring manager. If these searches turn up empty, you have a few options.

Generic Salutations

A survey done by Saddleback College talked to more than 2,000 companies. Of those, 40 percent preferred "Dear Hiring Manager" in terms of a generic salutation on a cover letter. A full 27 percent said to use "To Whom It May Concern," while 17 percent favored "Dear Sir/Madam." Try not to say "Hello" or "Hi" because that's too informal for this situation. Another thing to remember is that generic greetings may not be the best choice, so consider leaving the salutation blank and just jump in with your first sentence.


A title represents a good way to formalize your cover letter. If someone has a PhD or an MD for an advanced degree, addressing that person as "Dr." in the salutation is completely appropriate, such as "Dr. Marie Curie." Military ranks, teaching ranks and upper-level company executives also come into play here, including "Sgt. Jane Smith," "Prof. James Moriarty" and "V.P. of Operations Katherine Holmes."

Unsure of Gender

If you're unsure of a person's gender, address the cover letter using a first and last name. For example, "Dear Sam Wheat" or "Dear Chris Brown." The name Sam could mean Samantha or Samuel, while Chris might stand in for Christine or Christopher. It's better to be safe than to make assumptions.

When you know gender and you're addressing a female, strive to use "Ms." instead of "Mrs." or "Miss." Using "Ms." forgoes any notion about a woman's marital status. The exception is if you know how the person wants to be addressed in a letter.

Email or Printed Letter

These salutation suggestions are designated for an email or print letter. Always spellcheck the person's name if you know the name. Proofread your letter for any misspellings and grammatical mistakes, because this letter serves as a first impression with a recruiter or hiring manager. Have a second pair of eyes read your letter and read it out loud. Making one little mistake at this early stage could cost you an interview.

How to address a cover letter depends on several factors. Always err on the side of caution and formality when it comes to crafting the perfect correspondence when you try to land your dream job. How do you handle a generic salutation when you can't find someone's name?

Photo courtesy of Frank Weeks at


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