Cover Letters: Selecting a Salutation

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Earlier today, I asked Twitter if they had any questions about cover letter writing and @Gamercow had an awesome query:

What is the proper salutation? “To whom it may concern”, “Dear Sir/Madam”, “To the hiring manager” all sound awful.

My answer: so, you’re writing a cover letter (and you should ALWAYS WRITE A COVER LETTER). You’ve got the body written. You’re happy with the content. You’ve carefully addressed all of the applicable points in your prospective employer’s job description… but what salutation should you use?

“To Whom it May Concern” sounds too formal. “Dear Sirs” sounds sexist. “Dear Sirs or Madames” sounds sexist and like you’re writing to a brothel. “To the Hiring Manager” sounds like a form letter… so what should you use?

Do your research. Read the job description again. Does it note who you’re applying to? Does it indicate that you should send your application to a specific person? A specific department? Is there an email address listed for questions? Is it a general address like “info@whatever.com” or “HR@company.this”? If it’s general, try “Dear Bauman Creative’s Marketing Team” or – if you’re a more laid back person – try “Hello, Bauman Creative Editorial Board.”

I always advocate addressing your letter to an entire department because it highlights an investment in your prospective future team. You’re not applying to work for the boss or the HR person, you’re applying to work WITH your team. Subtle, but sends an important message.

If the job description includes an email with a name, use that as your cue and offer your salutations to Jessie, but – keep in mind for the rest of your letter – that this person may not be in charge of hiring you. He could be an admin or secretary, for example, so make sure that – when you offer your closing – you indicate that you’d “love to hear back from you or the team in charge of finding Bauman Creative’s next graphic designer in the near future.”

Any other cover letter questions? Shoot them my way!

Photo credit: Flickr

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