Address a Cover Letter
A cover letter is a written explanation of the qualifications and accomplishments that make you an ideal candidate for a job. It expands on the details in a resume, encouraging the company to look deeper into your experience. You will want to make sure your cover letter gets to the right person, so you need to track down the hiring manager’s name. When writing email or mailed cover letters, the more personal the address line, the better.
Getting the Right Name
- Read the job advertisement. Most job ads will include direct instructions on how to apply. For example, near the bottom of some job postings, it will say "Apply to the attention of...” and then give a name.
- Search the company’s website. If the hiring manager’s name is not available in the ad, check the company’s website. Tracking down a name will make your letter more personal, which stands out in the applicant pile. It also shows your willingness to do research, a good sign for a future employer.
- While the advertisement may not have a direct name, it will have some contact information, perhaps an email address or phone number. Use those when searching the company directory to see whose name comes up, and address your letter to that person. Many companies will list hiring managers and department heads on their website.
- If you have a specific name to search for, but no contact information, examine the way the company lays out its email addresses. Most businesses will use a set convention, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Searching for a specific address written in the company’s preferred style will likely turn up additional information you need. Finding addresses like this can also be a method for cold-contacting managers higher in the company. This can be a good way to build connections, but will be less helpful if you try asking directly for a job.
- If searching for an email or phone number doesn’t turn up a specific name, look for the person you would be reporting to, a manager or department head.
- Use your network connections. Chances are you won’t be approaching this company blindly. You will be able to get some information about the business and its employees through a variety of additional means beyond the business itself.
- If you are applying on the recommendation of someone else, ask that person who will be handling your letter.
- Track down people in the business through a social site like LinkedIn. You can search the site for people with particular titles or positions within the company used its advanced search functions.
- A site like LinkedIn also allows you to ask your connections to introduce you to their connections. This is helpful if they know people in the company you are applying to, especially if it is the hiring manager. Send the person a note asking for the introduction, making sure to include why you want the introduction.
- Call the company. If the name is not available in the advertisement, and you cannot get anything from a company directory, call the company directly. When you talk to someone there, be sure to ask directly for the name of the person to whom you should be addressing your letter.
- Make sure you know the title of the position you are applying for, and any other information like a search number, to help the person on the other end get the right name.
- Look for titles. However you find the hiring manager’s name, make sure you also find out any titles he or she uses. You need this to address your letter properly, and you don’t want to refer to a “he” as a “she.”
- Take note of special titles like “Dr.” or “Your Honor” (for a judge), or political titles like “Senator” or “Assemblymen.”
Submitting a Strong Cover Letter
- Use a formal salutation. This is your introduction to the company, so you should be as professional as possible. Use the hiring managers first and last name, and include the title “Mr.” or “Ms.” You can use additional titles such as “Dr.” if appropriate.
- If you cannot determine the appropriate gender, and don’t have a more neutral title like “Dr.” available, drop the title.
- If you cannot find an individual name, you may address a group of people, such as “Hiring Professionals” or “Selection Committee.”
- There are an increasing number of companies that are more informal, and it might be more in keeping with their culture to use first name only. If you are familiar with the company’s practices, and know this would be acceptable, go ahead and use the first name only. Of course, if you aren’t sure, it is always best to stay professional.
- Proofread your letter. For the purposes of addressing the letter, pay special attention to spelling the hiring manager’s name properly. It will be one of the first things they notice, and misspelling the manager’s name will not help you stand out in a good way. It will appear careless and sloppy right away, not the image you want to project.
- Keep it short. Your cover letter is only meant to be an introduction, not a complete work history (that’s what your resume is for). Your cover letter shouldn’t be any longer than a page, and if you can make it even shorter, that’s a good idea.
- Use the right format. Check the job ad to see what format to use for your letter. If the ad asks for a PDF, you don’t want to submit a Word Document. If you are working in the incorrect format, make sure you convert the file before submitting your application.
- Avoid addressing your letter with generic or archaic phrases like “Dear HR professional,” “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “To whom it may concern.” These can appear overly formal and vague, reflecting your lack of knowledge about the company.
- Don’t use slang terms such as “Hi.” Keep your language slightly more formal by beginning your address with “Dear” or “Hello.”
- Never forget to include your contact information. If you are sending a cover letter by mail, include your contact information at the top. If you are sending your application by email, put it in the signature area at the end.
- Write a Cover Letter
- Address a Resume Envelope
- Write a Cover Letter to Human Resources
- Write a Job Interest Letter
Sources and Citations