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Cover Letter Salutation: Keeping it Formal But Not Stuffy

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Addressing people in business emails and formal letters is already a challenging feat. Sometimes, the lines get blurry, and you don’t know if you’re being professional, crossing boundaries, or acting pompous.

Well, the proper cover letter salutation needs to be formal and as non-offending as possible.

Thankfully, you don’t have to get too creative with it; there are a couple of simple formulas to follow depending on how much you know about the hiring manager.

What is a Cover Letter Salutation?

The salutation is a greeting line at the beginning of a business letter that you send with your resume. It’s usually directed at the hiring manager or recruiter at the company.

Since reflecting professionalism is one of the CV basics, you’ll need to mirror this tone in the cover letter as well. That’s the greeting line shouldn’t be overly friendly and presumptuous.

Should You Say Dear in a Cover Letter?

Yes, using “dear” is perfectly appropriate for any formal business letter. It conveys the greeting sentiment with the right formal tone without sounding too rigid.

While some people find that using “dear” is too intimate for their tastes, it’s still a standard business convention.

Other employees swap “dear” for “hello” in emails, but that’s a different story. Since the cover letter is the first introduction between you and the hiring manager, something more formal is your safest bet.

How to Choose the Right Greeting for Your Cover Letter

Knowing how to address a cover letter depends on whether you have a contact person and know their pronouns.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re writing the greeting line:

When You Have a Contact Person

The best-case scenario is that you already know who you’re addressing in the cover letter.

This way, you can add a formal salutation, like “dear” or “greetings,” followed by the contact person’s name.

  • Dear John Doe
  • Greetings John Doe

When You Don’t Have a Contact Person

Although the previous scenarios cut the hassle out of the equation, you won’t always have a contact person in the company.

In this case, you have two options.

For one, you can try to track down a contact person using social networks, like LinkedIn, or the company’s official site. It’ll take some digging, but addressing someone on the hiring team by their name is worth it!

3 ways to find people on LinkedIn, that most people don’t know

Alternatively, you can use a general job title like “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources Manager.”

When Their Pronouns Are Known

If you know the contact person’s pronouns, you can add a matching prefix before the last name, like the following greetings:

When Their Pronouns Aren’t Known

It’s possible to ditch the prefixes. If you have a person’s name but aren’t sure what their pronouns are, you can use the full name after “dear” and call it a day.

General titles like “hiring manager” or “Dr.” work well if you’re trying to avoid using the wrong pronoun, too.

What to Avoid in a Cover Letter Salutation

It’s okay for you as a job seeker to want to seem friendly and approachable, but you still need to maintain a professional image.

Here are two common mistakes to avoid in your cover letter greeting line:

A Casual Greeting

Starting a cover letter with “dear” can feel monotonous, especially if your job search takes a while.

However, it’s still safer to avoid casual greetings like “hi” and “hello.” Some hiring managers can take offense that you’re being informal in your communication with strangers.

Once you get hired and know your colleagues better, dropping an email with “hello” can be acceptable, but don’t rush the friendly tone during the job application!

A Generic Greeting

Generic openers like “To Whom it May Concern” are a bit dated and impersonal.

Interestingly, one survey found that 83% of recruiters don’t mind receiving formal letters that begin with “To Whom it May Concern.” That said, men were slightly more likely to turn down candidates who used a generic greeting than women. The recruiter’s age also plays a role.

While it shouldn’t be a reason to reject your job application, it’s better to play it safe and avoid generic greetings altogether. The more specific you can be, the better.

How to Choose the Right Sign Off

You need to echo the same formal tone across the cover letter, from greeting to signature.

To do that, opt for timeless sign-offs like:

  • Thank You
  • Best Regards
  • Sincerely

While they could seem boring and devoid of personality, they’re highly unlikely to offend the hiring manager.

The worst sign-offs? Abbreviated words, slang terms, and any closing that looks like something out of a text message are off the table.

How to Write a Cover Letter Salutation

Generally speaking, block format is the best format for a cover letter. It’s all about left-justifying the text (including the greeting line) and avoiding indents.

Here’s how you can use this layout to structure a flawless beginning to your cover letter:

1. Provide Your Contact Information

Regular business letters start with a block of the sender’s address. Yet, some people wonder if it’s necessary to add contact information to the cover letter when you’re going to put them on the resume.

The best practice is to include it. Why? Well, you want to make it easy for the hiring manager to get in touch.

You can do that in one of two ways:

  • Type out your address, email, and phone number, each on a separate line as part of the letter.
  • Use a cover letter template with a header that lets you input your name and contact information on top of the page.

2. Write the Date

Right after your contact info, you can write the date on a new line. Following the block format, it should be left justified and without indents.

To keep the letter visually sleek, use the “Month Day, Year” format, spelling out only the month and leaving the rest as numerals.

3. Write the Company’s Info

Add double spacing after the date line and start a new block for the company’s information.

This block should include the recipient’s name, job title, company’s name, and company’s address. Don’t forget to type each on a separate line with single spacing.

Check the company’s official website if you don’t know the address. In most cases, you’ll find the headquarters and P.O. box information.

4. Start a New Paragraph

Add your chosen greeting in a new paragraph (with double line spacing). Don’t forget to put the comma at the end of the line, not between “Dear” and the name or title!

For instance, you need to type “Dear John Doe,” instead of “Dear, John Doe.”

Then, you’ll be all set to write your catchy opener in a brand-new paragraph with the same block formatting.

Wrapping Up

Using “dear” followed by the hiring manager’s name is the simplest cover letter salutation. However, if you don’t have a contact person (and can’t find any online), using “dear hiring manager” will do the trick.

You’ll also need to steer clear of generic greetings that make the cover letter seem too impersonal. Using overly casual salutes is a major no-no, as well.

Let us know in a comment what is the hardest part about crafting a formal greeting for cover letters!

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