‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is a formal way to address a recipient whose name, gender, or title you don’t know. And although ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is formal and courteous, it isn’t the best choice when starting a cover letter or an email.
Below, we explain why you should avoid using ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ when writing a cover letter or an email and provide 17 other professional greetings you can use instead.
Should I use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in an email or a cover letter?
No, you shouldn’t use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in an email or a cover letter.
The salutation ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is inappropriate to use when writing an email or a cover letter for the following reasons:
Greetings like ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’ used to be common in business letter writing etiquette. However, as times have changed, using this salutation may cause employers to think you’re not up-to-date with modern job search practices.
Sending generic cover letters or emails for each role appears lazy and tells employers you’re sending out multiple applications without researching any of the companies.
Instead, employers prefer their job applicants to personalise their application for the role by searching online to find out their target contact person’s surname. You can also contact the company directly to get more information about who’s involved in their hiring process.
Certain employers such as non-binary individuals may not identify with gendered terms such as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Assuming someone’s gender might offend an employer and even lead to them rejecting your application.
Instead, try using the employer’s surname or the gender-neutral salutation [Mx] to start a cover letter or an email.
Modern alternatives for cover letters and emails instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
If you’re searching for different ways to address your cover letter or email and encourage employers to continue reading your application, look no further.
Below are 10 alternative greetings to help you start your cover letter smoothly and appropriately address a company’s contact person.
- Dear [Mr/Ms/Mx] [Contact Person’s Surname],
- Dear [Job Title],
- Dear [Department Name],
- Dear Recruiter,
- Dear Recruiting Team,
- Dear Recruitment Manager,
- Dear Human Resources Director,
- Dear [Position You Want] Hiring Team,
- Dear Head of [Team],
- Dear [Committee Name],
3 good examples of cover letter and email alternatives instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
Winning an employer’s approval isn’t easy, but greeting them correctly helps them remember your application and see you’re a detail-oriented professional.
Below are three examples of email and cover letter introductions that use alternative greetings instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
1. First, have a look at this email cover letter example for a UX researcher role:
2. Here’s another example of a cover letter greeting that directly addresses the contact person using the gender-neutral title [Mx] along with their surname:
3. This applicant below politely greets the entire recruitment team:
Using professional or academic titles instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
If the person you’re addressing in your cover letter or email holds a professional or academic title such as ‘Prof’ (short for ‘Professor’) or Dr (short for ‘Doctor), use Google or LinkedIn to search for their contact details and ensure they’re currently still using the same title.
This is how to address an employer with an academic or professional title:
Dear Prof. Levitt,
Dear Dr Mischenko,
Using ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Dame’
Although this situation isn’t as common, the only time you should use ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Dame’ on a cover letter or an email is when you’re addressing a recipient with a knighthood or a damehood.
Certain people are awarded knighthoods or damehoods for their skills and positive contributions to society. And receiving a knighthood or damehood means these individuals can add the honorific title ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ in front of their name (such as Sir Elton John or Dame Julie Andrews).
If ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ frequently appears before an employer’s first and last name as you’re looking up their contact details, chances are they have a knighthood or a damehood. So include their title on your document to show you’re respectful towards their contributions.
Here’s how to address someone with a knighthood or a damehood:
Dear Sir Max,
Dear Dame Tanya,
How to use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ properly
Although we don’t recommend you use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ in your cover letter or email, here’s how to use this greeting correctly if you decide to include it:
- Capitalise ‘Dear’, ‘Sir’, and ‘Madam’.
- Insert a comma at the end of your greeting.
- Add a line between your greeting and the body of your email or cover letter.
This is what a correctly formatted ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ greeting looks like:
Dear Sir or Madam,
How to professionally end a cover letter or email
Now that you understand how to start your cover letter appropriately, remember to also use modern cover letter etiquette when closing your cover letter or email.
Closing your cover letter correctly is essential because it further highlights your professionalism and ends your application on a positive note.
Here’s how to end a cover letter or email:
If your cover letter starts with ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’, ‘To Whom It May Concern,’ or any opening that doesn’t have a person’s name, then end your cover letter or email with ‘Yours faithfully’.
If your cover letter begins with a person’s name, then end your letter or email with ‘Yours sincerely’.