We know it’s frustrating when a job posting doesn’t include the name of the person in charge of the hiring process.
We also know that’s not an excuse to slap any salutation on your cover letter and send your application off.
According to Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, you should always do some research to figure out who exactly the person reading your letter will be.
You can even play it safe by writing at the beginning of your cover letter: “I noticed you’re working in [whatever department] at [whatever company],” so you show that based on your research, it looks like they’re involved in the hiring process.
In the case that you absolutely, positively can’t find a person’s name, Augustine said certain ways of addressing your cover letter are more off-putting than others. For example, “Dear Hiring Manager” and “Dear Recruiter” aren’t great openings, but they’re the best of many bad options.
Here’s the full list of cover-letter openings, ranked in reverse order of egregiousness.
Business Insider staff
P.S. This advice doesn’t apply in the case of an anonymous job posting, when a company is deliberately keeping their name and the names of their employees confidential.
5. “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiter”
The language in your cover letter should be at once professional and conversational, Augustine said. And these openings aren’t overly formal or casual, which is a plus.
But the lack of customisation — you could submit this letter to any company you’re applying to — will still stand out.
“You’re not earning brownie points” with this salutation, Augustine said. “But you’re not putting people off” either.
4. “Dear HR Professional”
Augustine said this opening isn’t necessarily accurate.
The person reading your application might not work in the company’s human resources department, or they might call themselves a recruiter instead of a human resources professional.
3. “Hello” or “Hi”
With “Hello” and no name after it, you’ve gotten the conversational part down, but you’ve still failed to customise your letter.
“Hi” is a double whammy, since not only is it not customised, but it can also be considered slang, Augustine said.
2. “Dear Sir or Madam”
You might think you’re being clever by covering your bases in terms of gender, Augustine said. But you’re actually making a big mistake by being so formal.
If you’re applying to a startup, for example, Augustine said this kind of language probably wouldn’t fit the company culture.
Even if you’re applying to a more traditional company, the fact that your opening isn’t customised at all is a big turn-off.
1. “To Whom It May Concern”
“It’s so incredibly formal in its language,” Augustine said of this opening. “I read that and I think, ‘This person doesn’t care at all.'”
If they did care, they would have tried to figure out who exactly the recruiter or the hiring manager is.
Moreover, “To Whom It May Concern” conveys exactly the opposite impression of professional and conversational that you’re trying to project.
Augustine’s rule of thumb when writing cover letters is to ask yourself: If this letter was coming to me, would I want to read it? Chances are good that, if someone addressed you this way, you wouldn’t be so intrigued.
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If you want to highlight your management experience:
“In total, I manage 14 employees within 4 departments.”
If you need to further explain what type of position:
“My position can best be defined as a District Manager with significant store management responsibility in the flagship location.”
If you want to showcase a relevant academic achievement:
“I was the recipient of the Booker T. Washington Scholarship, which is granted to all graduate students with over a 3.95 GPA.”
If you are describing a territory that demonstrates you can handle a significant sales radius:
“I handle a 15-mile radius of sales territory in my district.”
If you are an educator and wish to show the significant teaching course-load that you are able to handle:
“I teach 15 credits of college English courses to more than 120 students each semester.”
If you want to indicate a degree that is relevant to the position you are applying to:
“Also, I hold an M.S. in Forensic Science”
If you want to indicate a certification that would make you more marketable for the position:
“Finally, I have Massachusetts English Teacher Licensure for grades 5-8 and 9-12.”
If you are describing a dollar amount within your achievement that shows you can make a significant amount of sales on a monthly basis:
“My monthly sales average is 2 million dollars of residential real estate.”
If you are describing a dollar amount that you feel would be noteworthy:
“I also single-handedly increased sales by $40,000 to $50,000 in each of my last three sales positions.”
If you wish to list a publication that demonstrates your scholarly work in your field:
“I am proud to have also published a paper in 2016 in ‘The Philosophical Quarterly’ entitled ‘The Problem of Ethics’.
If you wish to showcase your language skills because the customer base at the company to which you are applying is likely to speak a different language:
“Finally, I am fluent in three languages: Arabic, French, and English.”
If you wish to indicate specialized computer skills that an IT job is seeking:
“I am able to code in SQL, C#, Java, C++, and Python.”
If you wish to show how you saved your company money, thereby demonstrating your efficiency:
“As a final note, I streamlined our company’s supply chain process, resulting in a savings of over $400,000 in three years.”
If you wish to indicate an accolade or honor that differentiates you from others in your field:
“I am also the proud recipient of the 2014 NSPE Distinguished Service Award.”
If you think that your online presence will augment your credibility:
“I have also obtained a four-star rating from Angie’s List.”