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How to Address a Cover Letter & Who to Address It To

How to Address a Cover Letter & Who to Address It To

Don’t know how to address a cover letter? Stuck using stale salutations? Learn how to do it right and you’ll never have to use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ again.

Letter writing is a lost art, it’s true, and writing a cover letter is one of the few times in today’s world that we need to rediscover it. Addressing a cover letter is one of the very first things you do, but it’s also one of the trickiest to get right. 


How do you address a cover letter with no name or gender? What’s the right cover letter salutation to use? Get the answers to those questions and more. You’ll learn how to set the stage for the rest of your cover letter, demonstrating your professionalism and attention to detail.


As the great philosopher, Plato said ‘The beginning is the most important part of the work’.


Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your CV. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.


Create your cover letter now


Sample Cover Letter for a CV—See more cover letter examples and create your cover letter here.


Once you’ve written a perfectly addressed cover letter, make sure you create a perfectly written CV. Check out our guides.


How to Address a Cover Letter


When addressing a cover letter follow the standard rules of UK business letter formatting. First list your own contact details, right-aligned on the page. Leave a space then write the date, correctly formatted, e.g. 21st February 2020. Then another space, left-align and enter the employer’s contact details.


Here’s a cover letter address template:


[Your First & Last Names]

[Your Postal Address]

[Your Phone Number]

[Your Email Address]


[Date of Writing]


[Manager’s Name]

[Manager’s Job Title]

[Company’s Name]

[Company’s Postal Address]


So far, so good. Onto your salutation.

You’ve just learned where to start, but when to stop? Get your cover letter length right: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be? [Ideal Length]

Who to Address Your Cover Letter To


To write your cover letter salutation with a name simply write e.g. Dear Harriet. It’s very easy to get right but equally easy to get wrong. The worst thing you can do is fall back on dated, anonymous greetings. And if you mess up your cover letter opening what chance does the rest of your cover letter have?


Look at these two examples:


Addressing a Cover Letter—Salutation



Dear Lucy,


To Whom It May Concern


By all means, go ahead and use the wrong example. If you want to seem like a minor character in Downton Abbey that is. It’s as old-fashioned and stuffy as an Edwardian Dowager Duchess. Today you should always try to address the cover letter directly to the hiring manager. 


Science has proven that seeing your own name has a powerful effect on the brain, so take advantage of that and powerfully activate the recruiter’s attention.


Here’s how you discover who to address a cover letter to:

  • Check out the job advert, you might be lucky enough to find a named email address. 
  • But what if the address doesn’t give a full name? Take me as an example. For you’d Google “J Buffett” and “Zety” to discover my full name. No prizes for getting it right sorry
  • Check LinkedIn. A LinkedIn job posting will often list who posted the advert. Also use LinkedIn to check the company’s page or do a company search.
  • Check the company’s corporate website. If there’s a staff page, chances are it’ll list the manager of each team.
  • As a fallback, phone the receptionist and ask who your cover letter should be sent to.


But what if you still can’t discover who to address your cover letter to?

Don’t stop with the address, make sure the rest of your cover letter is perfectly written too. Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter: Complete Guide

How to Address a Cover Letter With No Name


To address a cover letter without a name you’ll need to use a generic salutation. But never resort to To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir/Madam. Even without a name you can still create a bit of targeted personalisation. Go for ‘Dear XYZ Team Manager’ or just ‘Dear Hiring Manager’. In fact a survey revealed ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ to be a favourite of employers when you don’t know who you’re sending it to.


Examples of generic salutations:

  • Dear Marketing Team Hiring Manager
  • Dear Head of IT
  • Dear Customer Service Manager
  • Dear Company ABC Recruiter
  • Dear Company XYZ Team
  • To the Sales Department


But even if you do have the name you’ve got to take care.


How to Address a Cover Letter With a Name


Addressing a cover letter with a name requires caution. Speaking from personal experience, people can and do assume your gender and get it wrong. I’ve had people assume my first name is female, only to meet me and get a bit of a surprise. I’ve always taken it with a good sense of humour, but don’t risk causing offence. 


If you’re unsure of the person’s gender then you could just state their full name, without any title. For example.


  • Dear Alex Ronson
  • Dear Taylor Lambert


That lets you err on the side of caution and not make assumptions. So that’s gender sorted, what next?


What Title to Use


Even when you’ve got a name and a gender you still need to use the right personal title to address your cover letter. Does the addressee have a Ph.D.? Then you may want to address the letter to ‘Dr. Surname’. There are also academic, military and religious titles to consider. Do some digging online or contact the company directly. The extra care and attention you took to correctly address your cover letter to The Very Reverend A B Smith will be noted! 


Lastly, when addressing a cover letter to a woman, always use the title ‘Ms’. unless you know with absolute certainty that she prefers ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’. Getting this wrong can, quite rightly, cause offence.


How to Address an Email Cover Letter


The rules above apply if you’re addressing a cover letter and sending it as a stand-alone document. To address an email cover letter, as the body of an email, rather than a file attachment, here’s what you need to do.

  • Write a clear and professional subject line: Hiring managers receive around 118 applications for every job. So make sure they can easily see who you are and what you’re applying for. Simply state your name and the job you’re applying for e.g. ‘Application for Business Analyst Position—Olivia Richards’.
  • Move your contact info: Emails shouldn’t start with contact details. Move them to be in your signature below your complimentary close.
  • Remove the addressee’s contact info and the date: This information isn’t necessary for an email.
  • Do still greet the hiring manager by name: And use the same rules for salutations as in a stand-alone cover letter.

Want to learn even more about cover letter formatting? Find out here: How to Format a Cover Letter [Step-By-Step Guide]

Key Takeaway


Knowing how to address a cover letter is just as important as filling it with job-winning content. 


Here’s what to remember:

  • Write the cover letter address in standard UK business letter format.
  • Always try to discover the name of the hiring manager, but—
  • To address a cover letter without a name, use a variation of, ‘Dear XYZ Team Hiring Manager." Or if the addressee is completely unknown, use ‘Dear Hiring Manager’.
  • Take care with gender and the use of titles.
  • Adapt your format accordingly for an email cover letter.


Thanks for reading. Have you got any concerns you wish to address? But seriously, do use the comments section for any questions or feedback, I’d love to start a discussion.

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Jacques Buffett, CPRW
Jacques, a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), is a career expert who has published almost 200 articles on Zety. His insights and advice have been published by LinkedIn, Forbes, MSN, Yahoo!, Business Insider, AOL, U.S. News, and other top news outlets. He also has extensive professional experience in people management and recruitment.

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