Your cover letter opening should directly address the employer or contact person of the company. Using a professional salutation (or greeting) is an easy way to make a positive first impression because it showcases your eye for detail and reveals you’ve researched the company.
How to address a cover letter with a name
A proper cover letter salutation greets the employer with ‘Dear’, and is followed by their title (Mr/Ms/Mx) and their last name. Address the employer using this format:
Dear Mr/Ms/Mx [Contact Person’s Last Name],
Here are some salutation examples:
Dear Ms Ryder,
Dear Mr Johns,
Remember these points when writing a professional salutation:
- ‘Dear‘ is an appropriate way to begin a cover letter opening as you’re writing a formal business letter.
- ‘Hello‘ has become more common in email cover letters, but is still too casual. Even companies with casual workplace cultures appreciate professional greetings from their applicants. You could use ‘Hello’ in follow-up emails though, for example, if the employer is emailing you to organise a time for an interview.
- Avoid using ‘Hi‘ or ‘Hey‘ as these expressions are too informal for a cover letter.
When you know the employer’s gender
If you’re certain of the employer’s gender, use the title ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’ in your greeting, followed by their last name, and then a comma:
Dear Mr Heathrow,
Dear Ms Veitch,
Dear Ms Reedington,
‘Mr’ and ‘Ms’ are neutral titles that don’t have implications about a person’s marital status, so it’s fine to use them.
When addressing a woman, use ‘Ms’ instead of ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ unless they’ve specifically mentioned that they prefer those titles — for example, by using them in the job advert.
When you don’t know the employer’s gender
Some employers have a gender-neutral name or are non-binary individuals. If you’ve done some research and still don’t know what title to use or aren’t certain of their gender, then it’s acceptable to use the title ‘Mx’. Here are some examples:
Dear Mx Mischenko,
Using professional and academic titles on a cover letter
Some employers have specific professional titles, so it’s important to use the right title to show respect for the person’s accomplishments.
Using ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ on a cover letter
Successful business people often receive knighthoods or damehoods as recognition for their skills (think Sir Alan Sugar). Such business people use the titles ‘Sir’ (for men) or ‘Dame’ (for women).
In such cases, write ‘Dear [Sir/Dame] [First Name]’. There’s no need to include their last name. Here are examples for employers with a knighthood:
Dear Sir Rahul,
Note the following examples for women with a damehood:
Dear Dame Judi,
Using medical titles to address a cover letter
If you’re applying for jobs in health care, check whether the contact person uses a specific title. If they use the abbreviation ‘Dr’ in their name, address your cover letter to them as ‘Dear Dr [Contact Person’s Name]’.
Dear Dr Patel,
Using additional titles to start a cover letter
If the contact person holds an academic, military, or religious position, use Google or LinkedIn to see whether they use these titles, and abbreviate them in your greeting.
If the employer is a university professor, use ‘Prof.’ If they’re a lecturer or tutor with a doctorate (for example, a Ph.D), address them as ‘Dr’ along with their name. If they work in some other capacity and don’t have a doctorate, address them as ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’, or ‘Mx’. Here’s how to address a professor:
Dear Prof. Ulridge,
If you’re unsure which titles to include, don’t worry — just use ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’, or ‘Mx’.
How to address a cover letter without a name
You’ll often find jobs adverts that don’t include the contact person’s information. It’s still important to search for the employer’s name. Here are some tips:
1. Search the company website: The ‘Company Directory’ or ‘About Us’ page may contain the employer’s contact details.
2. Do a targeted Google search: Find specific information by doing a Google site search of the company’s website. Add the position title in double quotation marks using this format:
site:companyname.com “job title”
3. Use LinkedIn: Type in the company’s name and change the filters for ‘location’, ‘job title’, and ‘people’ to see if you can find the person who is in charge of the hiring team.
4. Contact the company: Call or email the company and ask for the contact person’s name and work email address. Explain that you’re applying for a position and want to address the cover letter correctly. The company will see that you’ve shown initiative and a genuine interest in the role.
Addressing a cover letter with personalised alternatives
When you’ve done the above research and still can’t find out the employer’s name, here are ways to address your cover letter professionally:
Dear Accounting Department,
Dear Human Resources Director,
Dear Apple Marketing Team,
Dear Head of Public Relations,
Dear Human Resources Manager,
How to address a cover letter using correct formatting
An impactful cover letter requires proper cover letter formatting. Below is the correct method for addressing your cover letter.
How to include contact information and the date
Follow these steps to format the top of your cover letter:
- Single space and right-align your contact information (your name, postal address, email, and phone number).
- Add the date under the header and right-align it.
- Hit ‘Enter’ twice and add a paragraph break.
- List the employer’s contact information and left-align it.
Have a look at how to format the contact information and date at the top of the page:
How to include the cover letter greeting
Here’s how to correctly start your cover letter:
- Add a paragraph break after you finish writing the employer’s contact information and write your greeting.
- Add another paragraph break to begin your introduction paragraph.
Here’s what the paragraph breaks between the employer’s contact information, greeting, and introduction paragraph look like:
To see how cover letter formatting differs by industry, look at industry-specific cover letter samples.