How to Choose the Right Cover Letter Greeting
The Appropriate Greeting Makes a Good First Impression
When writing a cover letter, it’s important to use an appropriate greeting. Whether your letter is being sent via post or email, and how well you know the recipient will influence how to choose the right greeting for your cover letter. Your cover letter greeting will also vary depending on whether you are writing a formal job application letter, an email cover letter, or an informal inquiry about opportunities at an acquaintance's company
Why are Cover Letter Greetings Important?
Since the greeting is the first thing the recipient will see when they read your cover letter, it's important that you convey an appropriate level of familiarity and respect. Casual greetings like “Hello”and “Hi” can make your letter seem unprofessional. Likewise, “To Whom It May Concern” is very impersonal and may make it seem as if you didn't care enough to find out whom you should be addressing.
These mistakes can instantly impact your chances of getting an interview, particularly if the other candidates have similar skills and experience. It is essential to put your best foot forward when applying for jobs, and you need to start right at the beginning.
When to Use 'Dear' in a Cover Letter
“Dear” is appropriate in many circumstances, for example, when you know the person well, they are a business acquaintance, or they are a potential employer. If you know the person well, use their first name only.
For a potential employer, use Mr., Ms. or Dr. unless you have been asked to use their first name. Even if you know a woman is married, it is safer to use “Ms.” as opposed to “Mrs.”which has the potential to be offensive in certain circumstances. For a business acquaintance or associate, it will depend on how well you know the person.
If you are on a first name basis, use that. If you aren't sure, use Mr./Ms./Dr. Lastname or Mr./Ms./Dr. Firstname Lastname. If your contact name is gender neutral (i.e.,Taylor Brown) and you are unsure, Dear Taylor Brown is appropriate.
When to Use 'To Whom It May Concern' in a Cover Letter
Use To Whom It May Concern as a cover letter greeting only when you don't have a specific person to whom you are writing. You should first make every effort to find the name of a contact in the specific department that you are interested in. When making an inquiry with a company for unadvertised openings, this greeting may be most appropriate.
When to Use 'Hello' and 'Hi'
Reserve these casual greetings for personal email and refrain from using them in your job search unless you are very familiar with the person you're writing to. They are simply too informal, and it is not the most professional way begin the conversation if your goal is to land a job.
“Hello” is appropriate only in email correspondence. It should be used primarily with people you know well, but can be used in very casual circumstances.
“Hi” is appropriate only in casual email correspondence with people you personally know well. For example, if you're checking in with a close friend to find out if they've heard of a job opening at their company.
Finishing Your Letter
Your letter greeting will set the tone for what follows. Make sure your cover letter maintains a professional appearance, and includes relevant information to enhance your candidacy. Conclude with your thanks for the reader’s time and consideration, and an appropriate closing.
It’s a good time to be a job seeker: U.S. job growth is strong, unemployment is on a steady decline, and openings are at an all-time high.
That doesn’t make the search any less daunting. Differentiating yourself from every other job seeker on the market is no small feat, and the monotony of filling out online applications can make the task downright exhausting. That’s where a killer cover letter comes in.
Done right, a great cover letter is like a secret weapon for catching a hiring manager’s attention. Next to your resume, it’s one of the most important, underutilized tools at your disposal.
Here are some cover letter writing tips, and a free, downloadable template, to make yours stand out.
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to the job you’re applying for — just like your resume. Study the job posting carefully, and make a quick list of any essential qualifications.
“Job seekers really struggle with what to say on a cover letter,” says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, President and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. “Taking a second to think about why you’re applying, and why you’re a good fit for the company, makes the process a lot easier.”
If you’re adding a cover letter to an online application, use a business letter format with a header and contact information. If you’re sending an email, it’s OK to leave out the header, but be sure to provide a phone number (and an attached resume, of course). Make sure you’re clear about the position you’re applying for.
Avoid nameless salutations — it might take a little Google research, and some LinkedIn outreach, but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score you major brownie points. “Do not start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’” Holbrook Hernandez says. “It concerns no one.”
2. Tell a Story
To grab a recruiter’s attention, a good narrative—with a killer opening line—is everything.
“The cover letter is a story,” says Satjot Sawhney, a resume and career strategist with Loft Resumes. “What is the most interesting thing you’re doing that’s relevant to this job?” Use that to guide your letter.
Ideally, the story that drives your resume will focus on a need at the company you’re applying for. If you’re a PR professional, maybe you have a list of clients in an industry the team wants to break into. If you’re in marketing, a successful promotional campaign might be the ticket in. “A hiring manager wants to see results-driven accomplishments with a past employer,” says Holbrook Hernandez. “If you’ve done it before, you can deliver it again.”
If you have a career gap or are switching industries, address it upfront. “If there’s anything unique in your career history, call that out in the beginning,” says professional resume writer Brooke Shipbaugh.
(Here’s a downloadable sample.)
3. Use Bullet Points to Show Impact
Hiring managers are usually slammed with applications, so short, quick cover letters are preferable to bloated ones, says Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of human resources at job site Indeed.
“Make your cover letter a brief, bright reference tool,” he says. “The easier you can make it on the recruiter the better.”
Bullet points are a good tool for pulling out numbers-driven results. Job seekers in creative fields like art and design can use bullets to break down their most successful project. Those in more traditional roles (like the one in the template), can hammer off two or three of their most impressive accomplishments.
4. Highlight Culture Fit
It’s often overlooked, but a major function of the cover letter is to show a company how well you’d mesh with the culture.
As you research a potential employer, look for culture cues on the company website, social media, and review sites like Glassdoor. Oftentimes, employers will nod to culture in a job posting. If the ad mentions a “team environment,” it might be good to play up a recent, successful collaboration. If the company wants a “self-starter,” consider including an achievement that proves you don’t need to be micromanaged.
The tone of your letter can also play to culture. “The cover letter is a great place to show [an employer] how you fit into their world,” Shipbaugh says. “Show some personality.”
5. End with an Ask
The goal of a cover letter is to convince the person reading it to make the next move in the hiring process — with a phone call, interview, or otherwise. Ending on a question opens that door without groveling for it.
“You have to approach this with a non-beggar mentality,” Sawhney says. “Having an ‘ask’ levels the playing field.”
Related: What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2018