Writing A Cover Letter To Unknown Recipient

How to Address a Cover Letter

Addressing a cover letter can be tricky if you are responding to a job listing and either don’t have a contact person’s name or don't know the hiring manager's gender. 

First of all, take the time to try and find out the name and gender of the contact person. Some employers will think poorly of an applicant who does not take the time to find out the hiring manager’s name.

However, if you do some research and are still not sure to whom you are addressing your letter, it's better to be safe and use a generic greeting or none at all.

It's acceptable to start a letter without a greeting.

Read below for advice on how to address a cover letter, and example salutations.

Options for Addressing a Cover Letter

When you're not sure to whom to address your cover letters, you have a few options.

The first is to find out the name of the person you are contacting. If the name is not included on the job listing, you might look up the title of the employer or hiring manager on the company website. If there is a contact number, you might also call and ask an administrative assistant for the name of the hiring manager.

If you cannot discover the name of the contact person at the company, you can either leave off the salutation from your cover letter and start with the first paragraph of your letter, or use a general salutation.

Tips for Using a General Salutation

There a variety of general cover letter salutations you can use to address your letter.

 These general cover letter salutations do not require you to know the name of the hiring manager.

In a survey of more than 2,000 companies, Saddleback College found that employers preferred the following greetings:

  • Dear Hiring Manager (40%)
  • To Whom It May Concern (27%)
  • Dear Sir/Madam (17%)
  • Dear Human Resources Director (6%)

How to Address a Cover Letter for a Non Gender-Specific Name

If you do have a name but aren't sure of the person's gender, one option is to include both the first name and the last name in your salutation, without any sort of title that reveals gender:

  • Dear Sydney Doe
  • Dear Taylor Smith

With these types of gender-ambiguous names, LinkedIn can be a helpful resource. Since many people include a photo with their profile, a simple search of the person's name and company within LinkedIn could potentially turn up the contact's photograph.

Again, you can also check the company website or call the company’s administrative assistant to get more information as well.

What Title to Use

Even if you know the name and gender of the person to whom you are writing, think carefully about what title you will use in your salutation. For example, if the person is a doctor or holds a Ph.D., you might want to address your letter to “Dr. Lastname” rather than “Ms. Lastname” or “Mr. Lastname.” Other titles might be “Prof.,” “Rev.,” or “Sgt.,” among others.

Also, when you address a letter to a female employer, use the title “Ms.” unless you know for certain that she prefers another title (such as Miss or Mrs.).

“Ms.” is a general title that does not denote marital status, so it works for any female employer.

How to Format a Salutation

Once you have chosen a salutation, follow it with a colon or comma, a space, and then start the first paragraph of your letter. For example:

Dear Hiring Manager:

First paragraph of letter.

Spell Check Names

Finally, before sending your cover letter, make absolutely sure that you have spelled the hiring manager’s name correctly. That is the kind of small error that can cost you a job interview.

Cover Letter Examples

Here are examples of cover letters addressed to a hiring manager, cover letters with a contact person, and more samples to review.

How to Write a Cover Letter
This guide to writing cover letters has information on what to include in your cover letter, how to write a cover letter, cover letter format, targeted cover letters, and cover letter samples.

You’ve always been told that you shouldn’t write, “To Whom It May Concern,” on your cover letter. But what should you do when you don’t have the name of the hiring manager?

Related: 11 Tips For Creating Compelling Cover Letters

Here’s today’s Q&A quick tip.

First, Track Down The Name

Obviously, it’s ideal to use the hiring manager’s name in the letter. So, the first thing you should do is try to track down the hiring manager’s name online (i.e. the company website, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.).

You can also call up the company directly to ask for the name. Simply call up the company and say, “Hi, my name is ____ and I’m applying for a position at your company. Would it be possible for me to get the name of the hiring manager so I can address him or her in my cover letter?”

If All Fails, Use ‘Dear Hiring Team’

If the hiring manager’s name is nowhere to be found and the company is unwilling to give you his or her name, you should use “Dear Hiring Team” in your cover letter salutation.

By addressing your cover letter to the hiring team, you increase your chances of getting it in front of the right pair of eyes.

Why Can’t You Use Someone Else’s Name?

But what if you know the name of someone else (not involved with hiring) who works at the company? Can you just address it to them instead?

Absolutely not!

“That person may not be the person that’s hiring, and they could easily throw [your cover letter] in the trash,” said J.T. O’Donnell in a recent episode of Career Q&A. “You don’t know if they’re going to forward it to the right person or not. You DO NOT want to risk that.”

Need more help?

Is every element of your career plan working together to help you get the results you want? Are you confident that the career plan you’ve developed will get you out of your career rut for good? If you’re not getting the results you want out of your career, we can help. Find out how.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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How To Keep Your Cover Letters From Landing In The Trash
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Ariella CoombsAriella is the Content Strategist and Career Coach for Work It Daily. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Follow her @AriellaCoombs or find her on Google+.

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