How to address a cover letter (With examples)
Updated 5 September 2023
Writing a cover letter is an essential part of the job application process. They're an excellent opportunity for you to show the recruitment manager your genuine interest in the job. They can also allow the recruitment manager to assess your personality and communication skills. It's important that you properly address your cover letter to make a great first impression and make your application stand out.
In this article, we'll discuss why it's important to properly address a cover letter, give some examples of ways to address a cover letter and discuss some things to avoid when addressing a recruitment manager.
Related: How To Write a Cover Letter
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a letter that you attach with your CV and application for a job. Traditionally, it was attached as the front cover of a job application, hence its name. A cover letter is specifically written for the job you're applying for and allows you to highlight to the recruitment manager why you're interested in the job and why you'd be a good fit for the position.
The best cover letter addresses the recruitment manager directly, includes a description of why you're suitable for the job and describes what you can do for the recruitment company. It should be specifically written for each job you apply to. It should also be professionally written and concise. A cover letter is your opportunity to stand out to the recruitment manager, which means you should put effort into every cover letter you write.
Why is it important to properly address a cover letter?
It's important to properly address your cover letter because it lets you give a good first impression to the recruitment manager. By properly addressing it to the right person, you're setting a positive tone for the rest of your cover letter. It also demonstrates to the recruitment manager that you're attentive to detail and can make the effort to research information for your application.
For some positions, the recruitment manager might see a large number of applications. By addressing your cover letter correctly, you're letting them see a strong application from the beginning, which will increase your chances of getting the job.
How to address a cover letter
Properly addressing your cover letter is a straightforward process. If you follow these simple steps, you should be able to address your cover letter correctly:
1. Examine the job description to find out the name of the recruitment manager
The first thing you should do when addressing your cover letter is to refer to the job description. It's common for job descriptions to include a point of contact for the recruitment manager for those looking for further information. This will usually include their name and contact details. It may also include their title(s). Unless specified otherwise, this is the person you should address your cover letter to.
However, be sure to check that the job description was not listed by a recruiter. If so, the contact information provided may be the details of the recruiter, not the recruitment manager of the company you're applying to.
2. Research the company to find the name of the recruitment manager
If it's not listed in the job description, in some cases, you can discover the name of whom to address your cover letter to by performing some simple research on the company and job.
Try to find the recruitment manager by checking on the company website, professional networking sites, and by conducting targeted searches using your preferred search engine. If all else fails, call or email the company and explain that you're applying for a job and would like the contact details of the recruitment manager to properly address your cover letter.
If you have the contact details of the recruiter who listed the job, you may also be able to contact them to enquire about the name of the recruitment manager for the position.
3. If you can't find the recruitment manager's name, use a generic greeting
If the job description doesn't include the right name and your research hasn't turned up anything useful, then you should use a generic, but professional, greeting. The most obvious and straightforward option is to address the recruitment manager directly with 'Dear Recruitment Manager'.
It's always acceptable to use 'Dear Recruitment Manager' in your cover letter, but if you want to be more specific, you could address it to the specific manager of the department you're applying for a job with. You could also just address it to the department in general, like this:
Dear Finance Department
Dear Marketing Manager
To the Customer Services Department
Dear [Company Name] Recruiter
Dear Head of Engineering
4. If you know the recruitment manager's name, address the cover letter to them
If you've managed to learn the name of the recruitment manager through the job description or your own research, then you can begin your cover letter by addressing them directly. In most cases, you should begin with 'Dear' followed by their first and last name. This is a safe option because it doesn't use gender or title. For example:
Dear John Smith
Dear Alicia McDonald
If your contact has a professional or academic title, then it is considered professional and respectful to address them using their title. This is particularly common in academia, where many academic professionals hold Ph.D. or professorial titles. Here are some examples of titles you might come across:
Here are some examples of how to address your cover letter when the recruitment manager has a title:
Related: How to End a Cover Letter
What should you avoid when addressing a cover letter?
When you're addressing your cover letter, there are a few things you want to avoid preventing your cover letter from leaving a bad impression on the recruitment manager. Here are some examples of things to avoid:
Avoid using impersonal, outdated or overly formal greetings
When you're addressing your cover letter, it's best to avoid using impersonal, outdated, or overly formal greetings, as these can leave a negative impression in the mind of the recruitment manager. You should aim for your cover letter to address the recruitment manager in a positive, friendly and professional way. Here are some examples of greetings to avoid:
To Whom It May Concern
Dear Sir or Madam
Greetings Recruitment Manager
If you're ever in doubt as to whether your greeting is too impersonal, outdated or overly formal, then it's best to imagine receiving it yourself in an email or letter. Consider how it would make you feel in a professional context and then adjust your greeting in the cover letter as necessary.
Avoid using gendered titles
If you know the name of the recruitment manager and are considering using a title, it's best to avoid using gendered titles. It's generally considered rude to assume someone's gender, particularly if you're purely basing it off their name as it is becoming increasingly common for people to have gender-neutral names.
If you're not sure, it's best to avoid using a title altogether and stick to something more general like 'Dear [First and last name]'. This way, you avoid the risk of offending the recruitment manager by misgendering them.
Avoid titles that assume the recruitment manager's marital status
If you're certain of the gender of the recruitment manager and want to use a title, then avoid using 'Mrs.' or 'Miss'. This makes assumptions about their marital status which is generally considered rude, particularly if you're wrong. Instead, use either 'Mr.' or 'Ms.' to avoid that assumption. For example:
Dear Ms. Anderson
Dear Mr. Poole
The only exception to this case is if you know the recruitment manager well enough that they have made you aware of their marital status. In this case, it is appropriate to use titles that infer their marital status.
Avoid informal greetings
You should almost always avoid informal greetings like 'Hey' or 'Hi' in your cover letter. Your cover letter is a formal document that is attached as part of your job application. You want to ensure you're coming across as professional to the recruitment manager and greetings like these definitely won't do that.
The exception to this is when the recruitment company has deliberately set an informal tone for your communications. You can usually tell if this is the case by how their job description is written, and how they addressed any of your enquiries about the position. Even if they have used informal language in addressing you during your communications, it's usually best to lean on the side of caution and address your cover letter professionally.
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