How To Know Who To Address Cover Letter To?

Christina J Colclough

By Christina Colclough

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How to address someone in a cover letter seems trivial in the grand scheme of things. Yet, it isn’t as simple as you might think, given how most job seekers know little to nothing about the person on the receiving end. Hopefully, my article can give you some helpful pointers for a perfect cover letter.

Who To Address Cover Letter

To Whom Do You Address A Cover Letter?

In most cases, it’s best to address your cover letter to the hiring manager or department director for the specific position you’re applying for. However, having screened thousands of cover letters, I’ve encountered cases where addressing the letter to someone else in the company or department might be acceptable.

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For instance, if you have a strong internal referral or recommendation from someone within the company, you can address your cover letter to the hiring manager and your contact person

Or, suppose you’ve exhausted all efforts to find the hiring manager’s name and have multiple potential contacts within the department; in that case, consider addressing the entire team (e.g., Dear [Department’s Name] Team). I will return to this issue later.

How To Find Who To Address Application Letter

Company Website

The Company Careers page is where you find who you should address the cover letter to. Look for sections titled “Careers,” “Jobs,” “Openings,” or “Work With Us,” which often contain information about the company’s structure and departments. 

Some companies even have dedicated “Team” pages showcasing their employees and respective roles! Scanning news and press releases is also an option since recent articles might mention new hires or team expansions. 

Job Posting

Job postings usually list a specific contact person or email address for inquiries. Common keywords: “This role reports to the Head of…” or “This position is part of the [Department Name] team.”

Social Media

Does the company have any social media profiles, like LinkedIn or Facebook? You will likely find information about the team and department leaders here. 

If the official pages reveal little, consider searching for the profiles of the company employees or recruiters instead. Pay more attention to people with titles relevant to the position you’re applying for or those in leadership roles within the department. 

Contacting HR (Last resort)

When none of the above sources bring any results, you can call the company’s HR department and politely inquire about the hiring manager’s name for the specific position you’re interested in. However, as HR departments receive hundreds of emails and calls a day, do not expect instant responses or callbacks.

3 Rules Of How To Address A Cover Letter

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When You Know Their Full Name: Use Formal Cover Letter Salutation

As long as you have their full names, there are quite a few options for a successful cover letter greeting:

  • Mr./Ms./Mx. [Last Name]: This is the most common and universally appropriate salutation.
  • Dr. [Last Name]: If you know the hiring manager holds a doctorate, use Dr. instead of Mr./Ms./Mx.

Some examples:

  • Dear Mr. Jones,
  • Dear Ms. Smith,
  • Dear Mx. Lee (if unsure of the hiring manager’s gender identity or preferred pronoun)
  • Dear Dr. Garcia (if the hiring manager has a degree or professional title)

Unless the job posting or another source specifically mentions that the hiring manager wants to be addressed by first name (e.g., John), you should avoid using them entirely. 

When You Can’t Find Their Full Name

1. Make An Educated Guess

If you have really exhausted all resources but can’t find their name, the best bet is to focus on the department or team most relevant to the position you’re applying for. Consider using the title of the department head or team lead, followed by their last name, such as:

  • Dear [Department Name] Director [Last Name]
  • Dear [Team Name] Lead [Last Name]

What if the department structure is unclear, and you still cannot determine who to address application letter? A safe, generic greeting like “Dear [Department] hiring manager” would be acceptable in that case.

Some examples:

  • Dear Marketing Director Lee (if you know the Marketing Director’s last name)
  • Dear Sales Team Lead (if the job posting mentions a Sales team)
  • Dear Customer Service Hiring Manager

2. Try Your Best To Be Specific

Analyze the job description carefully, and look for keywords or details that might hint at the department responsible for the hiring process. An example: “This role reports to the Head of Marketing”. 

Still cannot pinpoint the exact department? Consider the broader function. For instance, for a marketing role, you could address it to the “Marketing Department” or “Marketing & Communications Team.” 

Some examples:

  • Dear Marketing & Communications Team: (Assuming the job description mentions communication-related tasks)
  • Dear [Product Name] Development Team: (If the job title or description mentions a specific product)
  • Dear [XYZ Company] Human Resources Department, (If the department structure remains entirely unclear)

As I said earlier, you can always count on a generic title like “Hiring manager” as a last resort. If necessary, write a brief explanation (one or two sentences should do) mentioning your additional efforts to find the specific contact person.

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A generic cover letter greeting won’t necessarily harm your career opportunities, especially if the company has a very limited online presence. 

However, as a rule of thumb, being specific about whom to address in a cover letter helps you leave a stronger impression. So, make sure you only resort to “Dear hiring manager” or similar phrases when you’ve really run out of options.

Write to me if you need more advice on cover letters or sample cover letters!

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Christina J Colclough

Christina J. Colclough

Dr Christina J. Colclough is an expert on The Future World of Work and the politics of digital technology advocating globally for the importance of the workers’ voice. She has extensive regional and global labour movement experience, is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach, and strategist advising progressive governments and worker organisations.

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