How to Address Your Cover Letter and E-Mails to Potential Employers

How many times have you wondered what salutation you should use when addressing your cover letter or e-mail to send to a potential employer? Quite simply, you have a few options that work and many that do not.

To cover all of the ‘do not’s’ will take time as I have heard of many interesting salutations. The ones most often used that shouldn’t be included:

  1. Leaving it blank
  2. To whom it may concern
  3. Dear Sir or Dear Madam
  4. Dear (name) – and you are guessing the person’s name

The first salutation seems straightforward; you should never leave off a salutation on an e-mail or cover letter. Leaving it blank is very impersonal and shows that your communication skills may not be professional. ‘To whom it may concern’ is also not the best option in this day and age purely because it is an antiquated phrase. The third salutation is fine if you specifically know that the person reviewing your application is a male or a female. However, if you are unsure, you are best to write Dear Sir/Madam rather than guessing the sex of the reader. The last thing you want to do is insult the hiring manager and they immediately toss your resume due to your incorrect guess. As with guessing a ‘Dear Sir’ or a ‘Dear Madam’ you do not want to guess the person’s name as you do not want to be wrong.

When addressing a cover letter or e-mail you do have options. The best answer would be to use the person’s name who will be receiving your application. You may find this out by reviewing the job posting and their name may be listed on the posting, or by calling the company and simply asking who to address your application to. Remember, in medium and large companies this may be difficult to narrow down and so in my opinion, this approach works best for small companies. You may, however, be networking within the company and can find out through a close connection who to specifically address the cover letter to and/or who to e-mail.

If you are unable to find the name of the person to address the cover letter to, the next best option is to either address the reader as ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam.’ I always recommend selecting the salutation based on your comfort level and also the feel you get for the company. Some companies come across as more formal and in those instances it may be best to use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ rather than ‘Dear Hiring Manager.’

To play it safe and make sure your salutation is not hindering your chances on a job opportunity, it is best to utilize the salutations ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ and ‘Dear Sir/Madam.’