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Addressing Your Cover Letter When You’re Not Sure

By Bonnie Johnson, AgCareers.com

 

When applying online, it’s difficult to determine who you’re communicating with, and therefore, how to address a cover letter. Most job postings on AgCareers.com do not list the employer’s contact person.

You’re tempted to just say forget it and skip the cover letter altogether. However, this can be a mistake. Even though the electronic systems and recruiters may not evaluate the cover letter, the hiring managers will take notice. Addressing it to the wrong person is an even bigger snafu.

Contact Information Available?

Even though most jobs do not list a contact, read over the posting again to make sure. You don’t want to miss that little detail if it lists an actual contact name.

If you don’t see a contact on the posting, you can call the company, or search online, the company website, or LinkedIn.

When you find a contact, use the full, formal name, such as Ms. Johnson or Bonnie Johnson. Address it to Mr. for men and Ms. for women (skip the Mrs. or Miss unless specified). If you are unsure of the gender, use the full name (first, last/family name) with no title. If the contact has a professional title, use it out of respect, such as Dr. or Professor. Most importantly, double-check spelling.

Help, I can’t find any contact information!

You are not alone; this is a very common occurrence. There are some simple, yet effective ways to greet an unknown employer contact in your cover letter.

AVOID

“To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”

Many hiring managers consider these outdated and overly formal. I must admit I’ve seen more than my fair share of communications directed to solely, “Dear Sir.” This makes me cringe every time not only because it’s outdated, but also gender-specific (and in my case, incorrect).

Instead, USE

“Dear Hiring Manager”

Research has found that employers prefer “Dear Hiring Manager” when candidates are addressing a cover letter and do not know who to contact.

Beyond “Dear Hiring Manager” here are a few more suggested greetings:

  • Dear Hiring Team
  • Dear Human Resources Director
  • Dear ____________ Department (for example, sales, engineering, etc)
  • To the ___________ Department
  • Dear Recruiting Manager
  • Dear [Company Name] Team
  • [Job Title] Hiring Manager
  • [Job Title] Search Committee

To be more formal, remove dear. You can also replace it with “Hello.” To be super-simplified and neutral, simply use the word “Greetings” alone.

Do you know who the position will report to? If so, use it. Some job postings will list this information, such as “reports to Director of Operations.” In this situation your cover letter could be addressed “To the Director of Operations.”

Depending on your style, finish up your salutation with a colon or comma, then start your cover letter text to impress!

Did you know you can upload multiple cover letters and resumes to your AgCareers.com job seeker account? Set one up now, or login.

Need more employment advice for your career in agriculture? Check out the AgCareers.com Career Cultivation blog.