Starting a cover letter can be the hardest part.

Uncertain how to start a cover letter? You’re not the only one. In a recent article posted on TopCV, contributor Charlotte Grainger discussed the worst ways to address a cover letter. Among the worst offenders were the casual 'hey', the old-fashioned 'To Whom It May Concern' and the unimaginative 'Dear Recruiter'. This might get you thinking: If these are the absolute worst ways to address your cover letter, then what is the best way?

How to address a cover letter

In a recent article posted on Career Toolbelt, one recruiter claimed that the chance of a recruiter actually reading your cover letter is extremely slim. Due to the large volume of applications they receive, recruiters will generally go straight for the CV and ignore the cover letter altogether. So, if recruiters rarely read cover letters, then who does? 

Simple ‒ the hiring manager. 

By the time an application makes it into the hands of a hiring manager, it's likely already passed the desk of the recruiter or HR contact. As the hiring manager only receives the shortlist of applications, they have more time to spend actually reading each one, which is why it's more likely that the hiring manager will read your cover letter as opposed to the recruiter. 

That leads us to the question you've been waiting for: Who should you address your cover letter to?

Drum roll please...

Answer: the hiring manager.

There really is no better first impression to your application than to address your cover letter directly to the person who is doing the hiring. It shows you've done your research, you have a high attention to detail, and you're prepared to go the extra mile. So, how do you address a cover letter with a name? You will want to keep it professional by using the hiring manager’s full name and adding a formal salutation

How do you find out the name of the hiring manager?

In this wonderful digital age in which we live, there are several ways to learn the name of the hiring manager. Get ready to put on your sleuth hat and start investigating.

The job description

The best place to start is the job listing. Scroll to the bottom and look for the 'Apply Now' section. Some job ads will mention the name and email address of the hiring manager in this section. For example: ‘Please send your CV and cover letter to Jane Doe at jane@company.com.’

If the advertisement doesn't mention a name and the email address is generic, the next place to look is within the description itself. Often, a job listing will mention who the role reports to. For example: ‘You will report directly to the marketing manager.’ Once you have the job title of the hiring manager, you're halfway there. 

The company website

If you haven't had any luck finding a name via the job description, the next point of call is the company's website. Smaller companies will often have a 'Meet the Team' page which will give you the name and job title of each staff member. Alternatively, look for an 'About' page, a company directory or a contact page that might give you an insight to the company structure, relevant job titles or hiring manager's name. 

Head to LinkedIn 

When in doubt, LinkedIn is your best friend. Log into your account and search for the company to find their page. Once on the company page, click on 'See all employees' and scroll down the list to find the name of the relevant department manager, hiring manager or an HR contact. 

Call the company

If you want to be 100 percent certain, there is no harm in calling the company and asking the receptionist. Simply mention that you are putting together your application for the vacant position and would like to address it to the correct person. Nine times out of 10, they will be able to assist. 

What do you do if you just can't find a name?

If you're still unsure, Lily Zhang from The Muse recommends that it is always better to aim higher up the food chain than lower. If you're able to find a list of executives, address your cover letter to the head of the department. 

Alternatively, when addressing a cover letter to an unknown person, opt for the most appropriate job title. For example: 'Dear Marketing Manager' or 'Dear Office Manager', depending on the department the position would fall under.

Final thoughts

Unlike your CV, a well-written cover letter gives you the opportunity to address a hiring manager and state why you're the best candidate for the position. It allows you to expand on your CV and shine the light on your most relevant and desirable qualities. If you're prepared to invest the time to write a winning cover letter, then you may as well put in that extra bit of effort to address it to the right person. It may seem like something small, but it can make all the difference in your application. 

Click on the following link for more cover-letter advice.

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