How to open and close your cover letter
On a cover letter, formality is rarely a bad thing.
Write your cover letter opening and closing with these tips.
In a tight job market flooded with resumes and cover letters, it’s a given that your documents and messages need to be error-free. So how else can you distinguish your communications? Appropriate openings and closings that convey professionalism and polish.
Use our tips below on how to start your cover letter with a proper greeting and sign off with a polished signature. And if you need additional writing tips, join Monster today, so the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service can help you impress employers with a high-impact resume and cover letter.
Cover letter openings
Write a formal greeting, such as Dear Ms. Alvis or Dear Mr. Yang. If you're unsure of the person’s gender and can’t find out, write the full name, as in Dear Chu Li or Dear Chris Beltran.
While it is increasingly common to see greetings without the "Dear" in business, it is less formal. When applying for a job, sometimes you want to start off formally, even though you may take a less formal tone in subsequent written exchanges.
If you’re unfamiliar with someone’s name, be sure you don’t confuse the first name with the family name, which can easily happen in today’s global business environment, depending in part on the languages you know. For example, the CEO of Lenovo is Yang Yuanqing. His surname is Yang and his first name is Yuanqing (in Mandarin, the family name is written first), so if you are addressing him, you would write Dear Mr. Yang and not Dear Mr. Yuanqing.
A final comment on people’s names: be sure to spell them correctly. That is one typo no recipient will miss.
What if you cannot track down a contact name for your cover email? Use a generic salutation, such as Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Recruiting Manager or Dear Human Resources Professional. (Avoid To Whom It May Concern; it is antiquated.) Another option is to write Greetings, which is somewhat informal but polite. You could also dispense with the opening greeting altogether and start with your first sentence, although some recipients might find that approach to be abrupt.
In all openings, be sure to capitalize the first letter of every noun and follow your greeting with punctuation. Use either a colon (Dear Mr. Yang:) or a comma (Dear Recruiting Manager,).
Cover letter closings
End your message with a formal closing, such as Sincerely, Regards or Best regards. If your closing contains more than one word, capitalize only the first word, as in Best regards or Sincerely yours. And be sure to put a comma after your closing. A common error in business communications is the omission of that comma.
Your full name goes on the next line. No need for the extra space that used to go on letters for the signature. Write your telephone number and email address on separate lines after your name. Although this contact information is on your resume (and your email address is on your email), including it with your cover message makes life easier for the recipient.
This post is by Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, authors of The Business Style Handbook, An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job
Even in the age of digital communication, you still need a cover letter when you send along your resume for a job. The cover letter introduces you to the company. It also gives you an opportunity to explain your skills and why you think you are a match for the position. The salutation in a cover letter, if done correctly, shows that you are polite and considerate and really interested in the job.
Dear Mr. or Ms.
Unless the person is a doctor or has another title, use "Mr." for men and "Ms." for women. Try to avoid using "Miss" or "Mrs." for women to avoid any offense. Always use the name of the person to whom you should address the cover letter. Knowing the name of the person shows that you have taken the initiative to learn more about the company. Double check the spelling of the person's name before you send off the letter. If the person has a first name that could be the name of a man or a woman, use his or her full name in the salutation, for example "Dear Terry Smith."
Finding the Name
Some job postings include the name of the person to address the cover letter to. If you cannot find the name in the posting or by searching the company's website, contact the company, either by phone or email. You only need to reach a receptionist or administrative assistant to discover the person's name. It's best to always avoid using a generic salutation such as "To Whom It May Concern," "Dear Madam or Sir" or "Dear Hiring Manager."
A cover letter needs to be formal. Use a colon at the end of the salutation to show that you are writing a professional letter. Also use "Dear" instead of any other greeting. A greeting such as "Good Day" or "Hello" is not formal enough for a business letter. Save those salutations for personal emails or letters to people who are not in a position to hire you.
How you close the letter is as important as how you open it. "Sincerely," followed by a few spaces and your full name, is a fool-proof way to close the letter. Sincerely is formal but not too stuffy. Before you type the closing, you may wish to write a sentence thanking the person for her time, such as "Thank you for your consideration." Other appropriate closings include "Kind regards" or "Best wishes." Closings such as "Yours truly" are usually too personal for a professional cover letter.
About the Author
Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.
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