A well-written cover letter is essential for ensuring that your job application gets noticed by Australian hiring managers and recruiters.
However, you must address your cover letter correctly – and to the right contact person. Make a misstep here, and you’ll immediately send the wrong message to a potential employer.
Why Is It Important To Address Your Cover Letter Correctly?
A personal, precise greeting tells the hiring manager that you’ve invested time and effort into finding their contact details.
While this may seem like a trivial detail, it kicks off your relationship on the right foot by:
- Building a connection.
- Positioning you as a conscientious candidate with strong attention to detail.
The WRONG Way To Address Your Cover Letter.
Australian employers want to see your personality come through on your cover letter, but not to the point where it looks too casual and/or unprofessional.
Avoid the following, or any variations thereof:
- “Hey, Tom!’
- “Hola, Hiring Manager.”
- “Sup Boss”
Who To Address Your Cover Letter To?
Ideally, you should target your cover letter to the person making the hiring decision.
- In a small business, this may be the Managing Director or owner.
- In a large business, this will probably be the hiring manager or a department head.
- If the business uses an external recruitment firm, you should address the cover letter to the recruiter.
Getting the person’s title and gender is helpful, but the most important detail you need to list is the person’s actual name.
How To Find The Recipient’s Name.
There are a few steps that you can follow to make sure that your cover letter has the correct address at its beginning. If one step doesn’t work, then try the others.
1. Use The Job Description.
Job descriptions frequently – though not always – contain the hiring manager’s or the recruiter’s contact details.
The more senior the role is, the more likely the JD is to include a point of contact.
If all you have is a job ad that’s published by a recruitment firm rather than a company’s internal talent team (logos are a dead giveaway), you can always call the firm’s front desk and find out who on their team specialises in your type of role.
This Seek job ad doesn’t provide a recruiter’s details, but the recruitment firm’s name is clearly visible.
After hopping across into LinkedIn and discovering that Finite IT Recruitment Solutions has 123 employees, I narrowed my focus down to 39 people by filtering in only people with the word “Consultant” in the job title.
Using this method, it’s often possible to narrow your pool of possible targets to 1-3 people.
2. Use The Company Website.
Look for an “About Us” or “Our Team” page, with the names and roles of all their key employees.
Poke around until you understand their organisational structure well enough to find the most appropriate person.
Depending on company size, it will likely be one of the following:
- The solo internal recruiter (e.g., “Recruitment Manager” or “Talent Acquisition Manager”)
- The internal recruiter who specialises in your field (e.g., Recruiter – Sales).
- Head of the department you’re likely applying to (e.g., Head of Sales).
If this approach doesn’t provide enough detail, call the company and ask for clarification. Explain that you’re applying for a role and would like to make a positive first impression by getting the hiring manager’s name right.
3. Use LinkedIn.
Find the company’s LinkedIn page, bring up the full list of its employees, and then use the filters to find either the head of the department you’re applying for, or the internal recruitment professional.
It’s often surprisingly easy to find the right person – even if the company is huge.
For example, if you were applying for a sales role with HubSpot in Australia, a LinkedIn search that filters out everyone except employees with the title “sales” would bring up 25 people.
You’ll need to use common sense and further research to narrow the list down further, but 25 people at a publicly listed global company with 883 million in revenue isn’t a bad starting point.
What If You Can’t Find The Hiring Manager’s Name?
If you have followed my earlier tips and could not find the name of the right person, you have the option of targeting the title.
Depending on the size and structure of the company, you’ll need to aim at either:
1. The Department Head.
Target your future boss or their boss. For example:
- “Dear Head of Marketing”
- “Dear CTO”
- “Dear Sales Director”
2. The Head Of Talent Acquisition.
Companies increasingly roll up their recruitment and HR teams under the overall umbrella of “People and Culture”. Your cover letter could aim at any of the following:
- “Dear Recruitment Manager”
- “Dear Talent Acquisition Manager”
- “Dear Head of People”
Larger companies with multiple departments and complex hierarchies are more challenging to target precisely. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t narrow your options down to one person. As long as you can make an educated guess that makes logical sense, you’ll be fine.
Can I Use The Hiring Manager’s First Name Only?
Yes, but tread with caution. Unless you’re certain that the company’s culture is very informal, it’s probably safer to use the person’s last name.
If you do use the first name only, the traditional approach is to prefix it with a title like “Mr” or “Mrs”, although a simple “Hello” is increasingly common.
Can I Use “To Whom It May Concern”?
Only as the very last resort. It’s distant, impersonal, and hints that you didn’t try to find the hiring manager’s real contact details.
Can I Use “Dear Sir/Madam”?
Same as above.
Can I Use “Dear Hiring Manager”?
Same as above.
Can I Assume Marital Status?
I suggest you don’t. If you do get it wrong, you’ll end up looking unprofessional.
Instead of taking a stab guessing whether your hiring manager is a “Mrs” or a “Miss” Costanza, I suggest you stick to the more general “Ms” for all female recipients.
“Mr” is OK for all men, regardless of marital status.
Using gendered titles is becoming increasingly problematic. Avoid the possibility of misgendering someone by using a simple “Hello Jackie”.
How To Deal With Academic Titles?
Academic titles like “Dr” and “Professor” overrule the traditional “Mr” and “Mrs”. If you’re not sure, search the University’s website for the academic’s profile page.
What Is A Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a targeted career marketing document, which you must tailor to every job that you apply for.
It is a place to demonstrate to the recruiter why you are so interested in this particular role and why you’re a better fit than every other candidate.
While your resume provides an overview of your work history and commercial value, your cover letter is a 10-second elevator pitch that spotlights your most relevant and important accomplishments.
Your cover letter must be written in a professional tone, and be less than 1 page in length.
Cover letters should not be copied and pasted, because they need to be customised to the requirements of each job and each employer.
Do Recruiters And Hiring Managers Even Read Cover Letters?
I conducted a survey, which revealed that about 2/3 of recruiters and hiring managers never read cover letters.
As with most complex issues, the devil is in the details.
See, most cover letters get thrown in the bin not because hiring managers aren’t interested in cover letters per se, but because 90% of cover letters are generic, untargeted and dull.
Hiring managers don’t have an aversion to reading cover letters; rather, they have an aversion to cover letters that don’t reveal anything new, unique or valuable about the candidate.
Now that you know this fact, use it as an opportunity to set yourself apart from other job seekers:
- Write the best cover letter you can
- Target it to each role
- Ensure it’s not a carbon copy of your resume
Which Font Type And Size Should You Use On Your Cover Letter?
The styling of your cover letter should match that of your resume. Start with the following parameters and micro-adjust if necessary:
- Your Name: 32 points, Arial Nova, bold
- Your Title: 13 points, Arial Nova, bold
- Cover Letter Heading: 20 points, Calibri, all caps
- Cover Letter Body: 11 points, Calibri
All the best in your job search!