How to Choose the Right Cover Letter Greeting

The Appropriate Greeting Makes a Good First Impression

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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.