A cover letter only needs to include a few paragraphs and it should act as a complementary document to the resume, it should not duplicate the information. It is good practice to include a cover letter as part of your application, even if you are not specifically asked for one.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this blog:
- Heading a cover letter
- Why it is important to get the greeting right
- How to address a cover letter without a name
- Cover letter addresses to avoid
Why is a cover letter important?
There are various reasons why you should include a cover letter in your application. Firstly, it allows you to introduce yourself to the hiring manager. You can also highlight your key skills and experience, which will hopefully encourage the manager to read your resume and learn more. If there are any anomalies on your resume, this is the place to inform the hiring manager. For instance, if you have a gap in experience on your resume because you were traveling, you can highlight it on your cover letter.
If you feel that your resume is not quite enough to entice the hiring manager, you can also use this to encourage them and perhaps, highlight any key achievements. You can take a look at our simple cover letter templates for extra guidance on what the cover letter may look like.
The cover letter greeting
When writing your cover letter, it is always best to address someone by name, rather than just making it generic. It can enable you to build an instant rapport with the recruiter or hiring manager.
Some job adverts will state the name of the recruiter or hiring manager but what happens if this information is missing from the advert? It takes little effort to write “Dear Hiring Manager or Recruitment Team,” but it shows much more effort if you have conducted some research to find the contact. There are various ways you can find the name of the contact when addressing a cover letter.
LinkedIn is one of the best resources you can use to find the name of the hiring manager. Firstly, find out what department the role will be based in. For instance, if it’s the accounting department, you can search specifically for the department and find out who the head of the team will be.
Meet the Team
You may be able to track down the correct person by searching on the “meet the team” or “About” section of the website.
Google is another useful resource for finding this sort of information. Just search for the title and department, and you may be able to track down the right person.
Addressing a cover letter with the hiring manager’s name
If the name of the hiring manager is on the job advert or you have managed to find it, the next step is knowing how to address it using the name. Some acceptable ways to address the cover letter include Dear [Name] or Dear [Mr/Mrs. Name.] You should never assume a gender if the name is gender-neutral or assume someone is a Mrs or Miss. If you are unsure, just use ‘Ms’. You should always opt for the last name, as only using the first name may come across as impersonal.
- Dear John Smith
- Dear Mr. Smith
- Dear Louise Fox
- Dear Ms. Louise Fox
How to address a cover letter without a name
If you are unable to find the contact name, you may consider using one of the following options:
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear Recruitment Manager
- Dear Head of Civil Engineering
- Dear Recruitment Team
- Dear Sir/Madam
Using one of these won’t hinder your application, however it is best to be as targeted as possible by directing your cover letter to the department manager, for example.
Cover letter greetings to avoid
There are some cover letter addresses that you should avoid using. For example, “Hi” or “Hello” may be appropriate when emailing a cover letter but it is not acceptable for a format application. Casual greetings may come off as unprofessional. Although we have mentioned the greeting “Dear Sir/Madam,” this should only be used as a last resort.
To whom it may concern is also a big no-no when it comes to making a personal connection. To whom it may concern can come across as cold and outdated, so it’s much better to use one of the generic greetings in the preceding chapter.
Subject line on a cover letter
Make sure you use a cover letter subject that explains what you are applying for. The hiring manager will then know the purpose of the contact quite quickly. The subject line should include the role you are applying for and your name. For example, ‘Joe Long - Application for Office Manager.’
Cover letter greeting: mistakes to avoid
These are some aspects you want to avoid when writing a cover letter:
- Informal tone – always ensure that, no matter how you address your cover letter, that you are portraying yourself as professional. You are not addressing a friend or family member and you should be wary of this at all times. Re-check your cover letter before sending it, as you might be too casual without realizing it.
- Spelling mistakes – addressing your cover letter to the right contact is key, but don’t forget to check the spelling of their name before you hit the send button! A spelling error will not create a good first impression.
- Making it too long - as a rule of thumb, your cover letter should be between 200-400 words.
- A cover letter is a way to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, you should include it in your application, regardless of whether you are asked for it.
- The key for addressing a cover letter is to try and personalize it, as this will help you build an instant rapport with the hiring manager. However, that is not always possible but try your best to get the contact before you use something more generic.
- Always ensure your cover letter address is formal and error-free. You want to come across as a professional and re-checking your cover letter is vital.
- If you're searching for more inspiration please consult our cover letter templates, cover letter examples and our easy-to-use cover letter builder tool.