Get your cover letter off to a strong start by addressing it appropriately, greeting your reader, and writing a memorable opening sentence.

In this age of digital job postings and applicant tracking systems, many believe that a cover letter is no longer expected or necessary--but thinking this can put your job application at risk. It's imperative to know how to write a cover letter, and how to do it well.

While there are many mixed messages out there about cover letters, one that's well-written can still put you ahead of other job candidates and sometimes be the deciding factor that gets you hired in that it gives the hiring person a good first impression of you. 

In fact, unless the job posting specifically states that no cover letter is required (in which case the posting instructions take precedence), you should always plan to include a cover letter with your application.

What is a well-written cover letter? One that grabs attention right from the start with the correct company name and address, the proper greeting, and a memorable opening sentence.  

Addressing a cover letter (including an email)

Always place the company's name and address just before the greeting. If at all possible, find and include the name of the recruiter or hiring manager. (More on this coming up.) 

Use the same heading, font type, and font size as your resume to create a feeling of organization and flow. 

As for your name and contact information, there are several acceptable options. Remember that your name is the thing that immediately grabs attention, so make sure it's there along with the contact details. 

Option 1:

Add only your name, phone number, and email address just above the company information as shown below. This gives a recruiter two ways to contact you at a glance. Leave a space between the end of your information and the start of the section with the company's details. 

Here is an example of the layout:


[Your Name]

[Contact Phone Number]

[Email Address]


[Name of Recruiter/Hiring Manager]


[Street Address]

[City, State ZIP]

Dear [Name],

Or you can choose to add more information if you like.

Option 2:

Use your name, full address, phone number, and email address in this same space at the top.

[Your Name]

[Your Street Address]

[City, State ZIP]

[Your Contact Phone Number]

[Your Email Address]

[Name of Recruiter/Hiring Manager]


[Street Address]

[City, State ZIP]


Dear [Name],


Option 3:

Use either Option 1 or 2 under your signature line at the bottom of the cover letter.


[Your Name]

[Contact Phone Number]

[Email Address]



[Your Name]

[Your Street Address]

[City, State ZIP]

[Your Contact Phone Number]

[Your Email Address]


When I was a recruiter, I liked having all the candidate's information all  in the same place rather than broken up between the top and bottom of the cover letter, so I suggest choosing one or the other. It just makes life easier for the person (or system) reviewing your cover letter. 


This information would generally be on a separate cover letter attached to an email. In this case, keep your email brief, and simply use a closing (Sincerely) with your first and last name at the end of the email.


However, if the email is actually the cover letter then choose one of the options above and use it in the actual email.

The correct cover letter greeting

Believe it or not, this can be what ends your job prospects with that particular organization. People take pride in their names and in their gender status. Depending on the hiring person, they could feel insulted if you get it wrong, especially because you might have found this information with a little research or didn't opt for something gender neutral.

Use the hiring manager's name

You can find the hiring person's name in any number of places. Here's an excerpt from another TopResume cover letter article with more detailed information.

If you're not given the name of the hiring manager, here are some effective ways to discover their name by using:

The job description: Check this document for the hiring manager's name. While it's not generally listed, you never know. If it's not obvious, there's also a trick to quickly discover an email in the job description that might contain the name; while in the document, press Ctrl +F or run Command + F and search for the @ symbol.

An email address: If you discover an email address, it may not have a full name but rather a first initial and last name or just a first name like or A Google search combining the person's name as shown in the email and the company name might find you the person's full name.

 A LinkedIn post: A name connected to the LinkedIn job posting is probably that of the hiring professional who posted it, so use that name in your greeting.

The supervisor's title: It's more likely that a job description will list who the new hire will report to — such as the director of accounting — without listing a name. In this case, there are several search options:

Search the company's website for listings of staff members by title.

Run an advanced LinkedIn or Google search for all directors of accounting at that specific company.

Check with your network for someone who might know the person's name or search the appropriate professional networking sites.

Contact the company by phone or email. Tell them you're applying for [job title] and want to address your cover letter to the right person.

Use job titles/department names if necessary

When asked about how to address a cover letter effectively, one of our TopResume Writers states, As a general rule, I always stay away from anything approaching 'To Whom it May Concern' (this may be obvious).”

Next, unless you are absolutely sure of the person's gender or gender preference, don't use “Mr.” or “Ms.” in your greeting. I also advise against using “Mrs.” at any time, since you generally can't discern a woman's marital status. 

You can also use the person's job title if you have it along with their last name: 

Hello Director Smith

Greetings Vice President Jones

Hi Accounting Manager Johnson

If you only have the person's job title or their general department from the job description, consider these options:

Dear Head of Design

Hello IT Department

To Company ABC Recruiter/Hiring Professional

Hello Marketing Hiring Team

Greetings Customer Support Hiring Group

Professional titles such as “Professor” or “Dr.” are definitely acceptable as a cover letter salutation and should be used with last names as a sign of respect. Be on the lookout for these and other titles to include.

If after all this you still don't have a name, job title, or department name, simply use Dear Hiring Manager.

Stay Professional

There's another less-common scenario worth mentioning: You already know and are on a first-name basis with the hiring manager. In this situation, I recommend staying with a formal greeting using the person's last name. 

You never know who else is going to see your cover letter, and accusations of potential favoritism (even if false) will hurt both you and the hiring manager. Always be professional in the hiring process.

Never Leave It Blank

All these greeting options may seem awkward, but they are much better than using the wrong name or gender in your greeting, or worse: adding no greeting at all. 

There's no reason to leave the greeting blank when there are so many options that can be used effectively in how you write your cover letter. Including a greeting, even a general one, will impress any hiring professional and greatly improve your chances of moving along in the hiring process.

Punctuate properly

In truth, it doesn't really matter what punctuation you use in your cover letter greeting. Generally a comma or a colon are equally acceptable after the person's name. However, don't include a comma between the words of greeting (Dear/Hello/Greetings) and the person's name and/or title.

This is correct for both a separate cover letter and an email as a cover letter.

Check (and check again) before you hit “send”

As a job applicant, it's generally fine to re-use the same cover letter for similar or even non-similar positions. However, you must make it a habit to review each cover letter thoroughly before you submit it.

Double and triple check that you've used the correct hiring manager name/company in both the address area and the greeting. The minute a recruiter/hiring manager sees a different name and company than their own, the cover letter--along with your resume and hopes for that job--will be thrown in the trash.

Next, be sure the position title matches the company. You might get by with this mistake, but a good recruiter will catch it and potentially toss your application.

Finally, review the body of the letter to know that you've included the right set of experience and skills for that job. The section below offers more details on this.

Crafting a great opening sentence

Your cover letter opening sentence should make it obvious to the reader that you're applying for that company's specific position. 

This means you should include the job title in your first line. “Always include the position you are applying for,” says TopResume writer Brandon C. “Customize this sentence to make the rest of the cover letter feel custom as well - even if there is nothing else that you change as you use it for different applications.” 

If the positions you're after are very similar, there's really no need to change other parts of the letter except the hiring manager name and position title--but it's always in your best interests to make sure.

When cover letter changes matter

Start by reviewing all your job descriptions against each other, looking closely and the skill requirements. If it appears that each job is looking for pretty much the same skills and experience, you can use the one cover letter for each of those applications (remembering to change the specifics mentioned above).

However, if you spot any major difference in what's required for each role you will want to change each cover letter to point out that you possess those specific skills and qualifications. If a company wants product development experience and you don't show them that or show completely unrelated skills from a generic cover letter, you likely won't get the job.

Also, check the education requirements for each role, and adjust that accordingly on your cover letter.

Once you have a basic cover letter, it only takes a few minutes to review and change any parts that show you to be a well-qualified candidate for the job.

Good opening sentence examples 

Here are some additional examples of strong cover letter opening sentences from TopResume writers.

  • I like to begin by introducing the customer as who they are as a professional, including their line of work and a few adjectives. For example: "As an executive product development professional with a passion for transforming new concepts into finalized, breakthrough products and solutions, I am an ideal candidate for your (Job Title) opening."

If someone is a recent grad or new to the workforce, I tend to highlight their recent degree, a few transferable skills, and/or their passion for whatever industry they're trying to tap into.

Niki Beaulieu, Senior Resume Writer

  • I would always recommend something along the lines of, "As a dedicated and established leader in (career field) with a passion for driving (specialty) operations, I eagerly submit the attached resume in hopes of joining your organization as a valuable member of your (specified field) team."

This is of course just one example, and this particular opening could be broken up in a multitude of ways as well.

Brandon C., TopResume Writer

There are a variety of ways to create your opening sentence, but as the above examples show you should include whatever specifics make sense and will get you noticed, including:

  • Your current or desired career field

  • Specific skills applicable to the job

  • Related work experience

  • Related education

  • On-going career goals

And it bears repeating: Always include the correct position title, company name, and greeting.

One final note: Since this article focuses on starting a cover letter, you might want to check out some good sources on how to effectively complete the cover letter, including additional paragraphs and the best way to close your letter. You might also want to review another great article on how to avoid cover letter mistakes.

To sum up, hiring managers do read cover letters, so always plan to include one with your application. It will help you stand out from the crowd and improve your chances of getting hired.

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