How to start your cover letter greeting
The most professional salutation for a cover letter is “Dear.” Even an email cover letter should start with “Dear,” followed by the hiring manager’s name and a colon or comma.
Starting a cover letter with “Dear” is polite without being too formal. Casual greetings are inappropriate for a cover letter salutation. So never use the following:
Once you’ve set a professional tone with your cover letter greeting, follow through with proper cover letter formatting.
Leave a blank space above and below the salutation, separating it from the hiring manager’s address and the body of the letter.
When you know the hiring manager’s name
The purpose of a cover letter is to reach and impress the hiring manager. Using their name in your cover letter salutation increases your chances of being invited for an interview, because it shows them you took the time to find their name.
By contrast, a generic greeting sounds impersonal and implies that you haven’t researched the company.
Knowing how to address a cover letter is a vital job search skill that can give you a competitive edge. The following examples will help you stand out.
When their gender is known
If you’re certain of the hiring manager’s gender, use titles (such as Mr. for men) followed by their last name in your cover letter salutation. For women, use Ms. unless the job posting or company website shows another preference. For example:
- “Dear Mr. Franklin,”
- “Dear Ms. Tsai:”
- “Dear Miss Rodriquez,” (only if “Miss” is specified in the job posting)
Some hiring managers may use Mx. as a gender-neutral title, so note such preferences:
- “Dear Mx. Sanders,”
Finally, if the hiring manager has a professional title, use this in your cover letter greeting to show you’ve done your research:
- “Dear Dr. Al-Bassam,”
- “Dear Lieutenant Pritchard,”
When their gender is unknown
While it’s best to use titles in your cover letter salutation, gender-ambiguous names (such as Kerry) make this difficult. In these cases, your cover letter should say their full name:
- “Dear Cameron Hill,”
- “Dear Jay MacBride:”
- “Dear Taylor O’Malley,”
Alternatively, use the gender-neutral pronoun “Mx.”:
- “Dear Mx. Lopez,”
Regardless of gender, never address a hiring manager by their first name only — unless you already know the person. “Dear Jeff” is too casual for a cover letter and shows a lack of respect.
When you don’t know the hiring manager’s name
If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, you can still write an effective salutation for your cover letter. Use information that is specific to the job opening, such as job title and department, to tailor your greeting:
- “Dear Client Services Manager,”
- “Dear Vice President of Business Development,”
- “Dear Sales & Marketing Director:”
If these details are not available, the following generic cover letter greetings are also acceptable:
- “Dear Hiring Manager,”
- “Dear Human Resources Team,”
However, you should always avoid certain cover letter greetings, such as “To whom it may concern.” This expression is impersonal and vague, and tells the hiring manager you haven’t bothered to find relevant company information.
Other examples of cover letter salutations you should avoid are:
- “Dear Sir or Madam:”
- “Dear Chairmen of the Board,”
- “Dear Councilwoman,”
Using “Dear Sir or Madam” is outdated and too formal for a modern cover letter greeting. And gender-specific titles are no longer acceptable in today’s job market.
Knowing how to write a cover letter is a valuable tool for connecting with hiring managers. Opening with a professional cover letter salutation is a good way to begin that connection, and might just help you land your dream job.