When submitting a cover letter as part of an online application (via a job board or a company's web site), what is the current standard preferred opening? Is it "Dear Sirs"?  "Dear Sir/Madam"?  "To Whom It May Concern?" Or something else?

Also, in one of the Career Tools interviewing podcasts, Mark mentions the importance of the applicant including in the closing paragraph of the cover letter a promise to follow-up with the hiring manager. Is this relevant/necessary when you submit a cover letter as part of your application through a company's job web site? In other words, you don't know the name or title of the person who is going to read your cover letter, so how can you offer to follow up?



bug_girl's picture

Don't ever use Dear Sir unless you are 100% sure that it's a sir you're writing to. 

I really, really hate being dear sir-ed. Usually those go directly to the bottom of the applicant pile, since it's someone who doesn't display awareness of current workplace gender diversity.

I wouldn't use "to whom it may concern", because that is an easy way for your document to be passed around until someone finally decides they're really, really not concerned, and trashes it.

Dear Hiring manager, etc. is an ok substitute; a lot of people have told me that if you can't find a name to use on the letter, your network isn't strong enough to apply for the job.  (I think that's a bit extreme, IMHO!)

jhbchina's picture

A long time ago one member wrote that he send out 700 applications on line. I know these are tough times, though you will not have a competitive advantage working the job boards or the company website.

Use linkedIN, learn about the company, find out the hiring manager, and make sure you are a match to their needs. Then give the resume roulette a whirl.

Sorry for not being more positive, I just think they don't work well.

JHB  "00"

bflynn's picture


Personally, I tend to use "Dear Hiring Manager", although I'm not really happy with it.  I'd love to hear a better suggestion.

I think the advice of using your network to find out about the job is a good in a small industry - you should know everyone.  But if your industry is huge and spans thousands of companies (example IT), it's impossible to know everyone.  Or even to know someone who knows someone.  Even on LinkedIn, i frequently find that I've got no "in network" contacts at a company in my geographic region.


JHB is right - it's not really effective to go through the job boards.  You could send 700 submissions and miss on every single one.

ken_wills's picture

Just to be clear, we're talking about the "salutation" - not the opening.  The "Dear Sir" is the salutation - the "opening" is your first sentence, )one that you've written expressly for this opportunity).


That said, consider omitting the salutation when you're submitting on line.  It's useless.  It adds no value because it's not personalized.  So - it's expendable.  Instead, just lead with your opening sentence.


Caveat:  This ONLY applies to cover letters you're submitting online, to jobs you've found on the job boards, for which you have no network to get you information about who the hiring manager is.  Everything everyone said previously about how low percentage a shot this is applies.  Eliminating a generic "Dear Hiring Manager" won't affect your outcome.


Good luck!

jhbchina's picture

Dear Edelis01,

First here is another discussion on MT about cover letters and job searching,

Second, I highly recommend you read " Don't send a Resume" Here is a link to a book review on it.

I agree with the review, it is a quick read. I did it in 1.5 hours. I went to Barnes and Nobles, bought a coffee and read it there! ;-) I also feel that the concepts in the book align with the MT style of doing a job search and doing your homework.

Researching companies can never hurt, it will make you more aware of what is happening in your industry as well. Who knows you might find a great stock pick too!

JHB  "00"

acao162's picture

We're a very small organization & a simple search of our website would reveal who you might address a cover letter to.  For instance, in the advertisement, you are offered the option of submitting by email to admin_at_company.  Check the site & you'll see that address listed next to the person.  So, it's a no-brainer here - send to Ms.Smith

When we advertise online, we use my address michelle_at_company.  (It helps us determine where you saw our ad). I can't tell you how many I got addressed "Dear Michelle,"

I find that rude.  We are not friends & I don't know you.  Please, be formal.  And yes, my name, first and last, is listed on our company website.  Same google search will get you that information.

FWIW, we hired the candidate who, among her other accomplishments, took the time to print off most of our website, bring to the interview & reference it when asked what she knows about us.  Blew the hiring committee away. 

Do your research.