how to address a cover letter

In our modern age of personalization, To Whom It May Concern is both an antiquated and detached way to address a cover letter. It may also imply that you haven’t researched the company or that you assume the letter can be read by anyone. Below, we’ve put together a few tips to help you personalize your cover letter, whether you know the hiring manager’s name or not.

When it comes to addressing a cover letter, advice columns frequently spotlight these two pitfalls:

  • Mistake 1: Failing to address your cover letter to a specific person
  • Mistake 2: Addressing a cover letter to the wrong person

Most job postings don’t specify who will be reading your cover letter. This puts job seekers in a tricky situation. Fixing the first mistake could cause you to make the second. So what’s the best way to replace “To Whom It May Concern” atop your cover letter?

3 Key Tips for Addressing Your Cover Letter

1) Don’t Address Your Cover Letter to the Recruiter

For many job openings, the first person you need to impress is a corporate recruiter. That doesn’t mean you should address your cover letter to them.

“Recruiters do not read cover letters,” a long-time healthcare recruiter told Jobscan. “Bottom line.”

That might be an overstatement — most don’t, some do — but many recruiters would admit that they aren’t the intended audience of a cover letter. “It’s mostly for the hiring manager,” said a recruiter in the non-profit industry. “For us [recruiters], it’s just an extra step in an already elongated process.”

The healthcare recruiter agreed: “If you’re sending it straight to a hiring manager who’s looking at a much lower number of applicants, they might actually read that.”

2) Search for the Hiring Manager’s Name

The best way to personalize your cover letter is to address the hiring manager by name. However, it can be difficult to identify the hiring manager, and your educated guess could cause you to address your cover letter to the wrong person. Here are some tips for finding the hiring manager.

Search the Company Website

Few job postings list the hiring manager by name but many will tell you the position to which you’d be reporting.

Addressing a cover letter: Use "reports to" to figure out who to address.
Examples of “reports to” mentions in real job postings.

With this information, a little detective work can reveal the name of the hiring manager.

Start off by browsing the company’s website. Look for an about page, company directory, or contact page. These pages are frequently linked at the very bottom of the website. Companies that feature employees on their about page make it much easier to figure out who will be reading your cover letter.

Addressing a cover letter: Find the hiring manager on these types of pages.
A portion of Jobscan’s about page. Not only can you figure out who the hiring manager is from a page like this, you might also learn something about them that could come in handy in your cover letter or interview.

You can also try searching the website. If the website doesn’t have a built in search bar, use this syntax in Google:

“[position you’ll be reporting to]” site:company website

Addressing a cover letter: Use google to search for the hiring manager's name

This will reveal hard-to-find about pages or other mentions of the position in the company’s blog posts, press releases, and other pages.

Search LinkedIn

If a company doesn’t list the hiring manager on their website, LinkedIn is your next best resource.

Start off by searching for the company page on LinkedIn. Once you’re on the company’s LinkedIn page, click “See all X employees on LinkedIn” near the top.

Addressing a cover letter: Find the hiring manager on LinkedIn. See all employees on LinkedIn

Depending on the company size, you can either browse all positions or narrow your results by adding search terms to the search bar (e.g. “Marketing Manager”) and utilizing the “Current companies” filters on the right side of the screen.

Addressing a Cover Letter: Use LinkedIn filters to find the hiring manager's name
On LinkedIn, you can filter your search for anyone currently working at a particular company.

Search for the “reports to” position from the job listing. If it wasn’t provided in the listing, search for keywords related to your prospective department (e.g. “marketing”). If the company uses an intuitive corporate hierarchy you should be able to determine who will be reading the cover letter.

Contact the Company Directly

There is nothing wrong with calling or emailing the company to ask for the name of the hiring manager. Be polite and honest with the administrative assistant or customer service representative. Explain that you’re about to apply for a job and you’d like to know who you should address in your cover letter.

If they aren’t able to provide an answer or transfer you to someone who knows, let it go. The last thing you need is word getting back to the hiring manager that you were pushy with one of their colleagues.

3) Use a More Personalized “To Whom it May Concern” Alternative

You can still personalize your cover letter, even when you don’t know the identity of the hiring manager. Instead of “To Whom It May Concern,” which casts a wide net and is specific to no one, try addressing your cover letter to one specific person.

The most generic version of this is:

Dear Hiring Manager,

But job seekers can often be more specific. Take a look at these examples:

Dear Customer Experience Manager, 

Dear Customer Experience Hiring Team Manager, 

Some other alternatives include addressing your cover letter to an entire department:

Dear Engineering Department,

Dear Engineering Team, 

OR addressing the entire team:

Hi Jobscan Team,

Dear Jobscan Team,

As with many aspects of the job application process, demonstrating that you put in some extra effort can make a difference. Doing some research before addressing a cover letter contributes to a positive first impression.

One Final Important note: Cover letters aren’t what they say they are

Cover letters don’t introduce your resume, they supplement it.

In order to get your cover letter into the hands of a hiring manager who cares, your resume has to get past the recruiter and, in many cases, the applicant tracking system they’re using.

Try analyzing your resume below to receive instant optimization tips and recruiter insights from Jobscan so that the time you spend crafting your cover letter isn’t a waste.

The keyword analysis also shows exactly what to focus on in your cover letter.

Jobscan Premium (one month free) even has a cover letter scan feature.

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