• Cover Letter

“Dear Sir or Madam”: The wrong way to start a cover letter and your best alternatives

Debbie Bride

As avid fans of The Crown or Downton Abbey can attest, there’s a time and place for addressing certain individuals out of respect as “sir” or “madam.” But the greeting of a cover letter is not one of them, now that we’re well into the third decade of the 21st century. 

No one bats an eye when addressed as “sir” or “ma’am” (the “madam” contraction) by a polite restaurant server, sales clerk, police officer, or youngster. It’s a traditional courtesy for face-to-face stranger interactions that has survived shifting etiquette trends with little objection or suggested substitutes.

But you might expect an eye roll from recruiters on the receiving end of “Dear Sir or Madam” in a job applicant’s cover letter. That’s hardly the kind of first impression you want to make during those critical six or seven seconds that hiring managers normally spend deciding whether to read further. 

How unfortunate to get bumped from the job competition, just because you started your cover letter with the off-putting address “Dear Sir or Madam” — especially if your cover letter is otherwise interview-worthy.  In this blog, we discuss:

Dear Sir or Madam

Is “Dear Sir or Madam” ever appropriate as a cover letter salutation?

The simple answer is no. There aren’t really any instances nowadays where it would be a good idea for job applicants to start a cover letter with “Dear Sir or Madam.” Not even for actors seeking roles in a Jane Austen adaptation!

Stopping short of a crusade for banishment from the HR vocabulary, let’s just say it’s always ill-advised to address your cover letter recipient as “Sir or Madam.” And considering the number of better alternatives, which we’ll look at later on, it’s never necessary.

Some variations you should also avoid:

How did it come to this?

Not too many decades ago, opening any kind of business letter with “Dear Sir or Madam” was de rigueur. Older generations were taught that was the right salutation to use when the recipient’s name, job title, or gender is unknown. Today, “Dear Sir or Madam” can still be an acceptable business letter salutation in extremely limited instances, even if less customary. But for job applications, it’s long fallen out of favor. It sounds old-fashioned, stuffy, impersonal, and strange, thus at odds with the way people normally speak to each other.

Our comments about the archaic connotations of “Dear Sir or Madam” apply only to the “Sir or Madam” part, not “Dear.” “Dear” is still considered timelessly suitable for addressing any cover letter recipient, ideally by name, like this: “Dear Mr. [or Ms. or Dr.] [Surname].”

You’ll never go wrong with a “Dear” greeting. It strikes the right tone in sounding polite and professional, but also personable. There’s little risk of anyone taking offense, as long as you’ve double-checked the gender and name spelling.

As the digital age has found “Dear Sir or Madam” creeping closer to the edge of obsolescence, It’s become far less necessary to use this salutation as a workaround when letter recipients are unknown. Thanks to the internet — notably Google, LinkedIn, and employer websites — it’s much easier to attach a name and job title to the person you are addressing in a cover letter. Rarely will a job applicant’s online quest for this information be in vain.

How to write a cover letter - expert guide [2023]

Here is exactly how you can write a cover letter that will stand out from the crowd, and help you land that interview.

The pitfalls of “Dear Sir or Madam”

On quite a few counts, a “Dear Sir or Madam” cover letter salutation sends the wrong message about your earnestness as a job applicant.

Above all, such a generic greeting comes across as lazy and unmotivated. It suggests you aren’t serious enough about this job to be bothered finding out who’s responsible for hiring decisions at the target organization. In fact, readers might perceive that you’ve made no effort to target the employer at all. Sending the same copied and pasted cover letter with multiple job applications is a readily spotted red flag for recruiters. Even if you’re not guilty of that infraction, “Dear Sir or Madam” could make you a non-starter when the reader is turned off right away.

Failure to tailor a job application to the specific hiring circumstance is a leading reason for recruiters to eliminate you from the candidate pool. Yet, 54% of job applicants do not customize their resume , or presumably their cover letter either.

A personalized cover letter greeting, on the other hand, can earn you instant points for professionalism and attention to detail. You also stand a better chance of a favorable response by addressing your cover letter recipient by name. At the very least, the reader is more inclined to perk up and pay attention to what you’ve written, and perhaps even reply with an acknowledgment.

There’s abundant scientific evidence that hearing or reading your own name has a mood-boosting impact when the brain releases the “feel-good” hormones serotonin and dopamine. 

How could this fail to make a difference when your cover letter salutation addresses someone directly by name?

Here are a few more reasons not to use “Dear Sir or Madam” as your cover letter greeting.

Opening an email message with “Dear Sir or Madam” sounds even worse than starting a cover letter that way. With emails being more informal, this greeting seems all the more out of sync.

“Dear Sir or Madam” alternatives

As emphasized earlier, it’s always preferable to address someone by name in your cover letter greeting. And that should either be the hiring manager, or someone in a closely connected role, perhaps even the person you would report to on the job. When you’ve determined who that person is, it couldn’t be any simpler: “Dear Ms. Black,” “Dear Mr. Green,” or “Dear Dr. White” is the bullet-proof salutation that HR experts recommend.

In cases where someone’s gender is uncertain — perhaps the first name could apply to a male or female, or an initial is used instead — here are some possible salutations: “Dear Robin Gray,” “Dear T.J. Auburn” or even “Dear Mx. Teal.”

In some instances, it may be quite alright to use a less formal “Dear” substitute such as “Hello” or “Greetings.” But tread carefully here and make no assumptions. Unless you’re absolutely certain that the workplace culture is relaxed enough, err on the side of the failsafe “Dear” salutation.

As for using a first-name greeting instead of “Mr./Mrs./Dr. Surname,” it’s generally frowned upon. Keep in mind that a cover letter is still a business letter, however friendly and conversational the tone. Only if you happen to know the recipient personally would a first-name salutation be a good idea.

Also as stated previously, some online sleuthing, a phone call to the company receptionist, or an email to the general information address are your best bets for identifying the person you want to connect with directly.

But suppose you come up empty? Your search for a name, or even a position title, has been fruitless. Is it okay then to use “Dear Sir or Madam” as a last resort? 

Further alternative options

No, it’s still not advisable or necessary to fall back on “Dear Sir or Madam” when you are unable to name your cover letter recipient. The same goes for the equally objectionable “To Whom it May Concern.”

Below are some friendlier and less generic options, adaptable to any situation. There’s room to further personalize by adding the company name, the job title, or a specific department, as applicable.

Cover letter greetings along these lines demonstrate initiative, regard for detail and even creativity.

Key takeaways

Application letter vs. cover letter: pros and cons, tips for job application scenarios

“Dear Sir or Madam”—Learn When to Use It and Some Alternatives

Kimberly Joki

How do you know when to use Dear Sir or Madam or something else? When writing a business letter or email, it can be a real challenge to get the salutation right—especially for someone you don’t know or an organization you’ve never worked with. In such situations, you should err on the side of formality, but even then there are good reasons to avoid Dear Sir or Madam . Luckily, there are a number of alternatives for Dear Sir or Madam that will help you remain professional.

Is Dear Sir or Madam Acceptable?

The short answer is yes but only rarely—though of course, not everyone agrees .

Here’s why:

If you want to write a better cover letter to a prospective employer or an outstanding business letter to a potential client, you want to stand out, right? Likely you want to show how you are already a great fit for the team. Knowing someone’s name, gender, and what they do is a fundamental way to show your investment.

Dear Sir/Madam Cover Letter vs. Dear Sir/Madam Email

You should avoid using Dear Sir/Madam in emails as well as in cover letters.

Cover letters are notably more formal than emails, but some of the same rules apply, especially if you are writing to someone for the first time. Regardless of format, use a formal tone, while—as stated earlier—investing time in researching whom you are writing to.

Dear Sir/Madam Alternatives

Because you should invest some time trying to find out exactly whom you are writing to, the best alternatives to the highly impersonal Dear Sir or Madam include, in order of preference:

A flow chart for deciding which salutation to use for emails, such as "Dear Sir or Madam," "Dear First Name," or "Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name."

Dear Sir/Madam vs. To Whom It May Concern

If, after diligent searching online and off, you are unable to learn the the name, role, or gender of your intended recipient, what should you do? In this (rare) situation, you should use Dear Sir or Madam and not To Whom It May Concern .

dear sir and madam cover letter

Though many people use Dear Sir or Madam interchangeably with To Whom It May Concern , there is a notable difference in meaning that employers or companies in certain formal sectors (academia, law, finance, etc.) will be sensitive to.

To Whom It May Concern implies that the information discussed in the letter can go to any relevant party within the organization.

This salutation should be used for general concerns like support requests or feedback.

Dear Sir or Madam implies that you have one specific person in mind for this letter, but do not know their name, title, or gender.

This salutation should be used for communication regarding specific projects, specific concerns, or employment.

How to Use Dear Sir or Madam Correctly

If you must use Dear Sir or Madam or a variant of it, traditionally this salutation is paired with Yours Faithfully, in the signature. Here is a template of a letter or email which uses Dear Sir or Madam correctly.

Dear Sir or Madam, (or Dear Sir, or Dear Madam,)

Letter text centered vertically on page.

Yours Faithfully,

[your signature when possible]

Your first name and last name Your designation

Dear Sir or Madam or Something Else? Take the Poll!

dear sir and madam cover letter

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Dear Sir or Madam: Is It Appropriate to Use It? Best Alternatives

Dear Sir or Madam: Is It Appropriate to Use It? Best Alternatives

Starting a cover letter with “Dear Sir or Madam” will definitely tell the hiring manager something about you—but nothing good. Learn better alternatives to this letter salutation.

Cory Streiff

As seen in:

Okay, maybe the last time you heard the word “madam” was in your high school production of Hamlet . 

But somewhere along the way you learned that “Dear Sir or Madam” is the way to address a letter formally. And you should use it when you want to sound professional, respectful, and sophisticated.

Well—in reality, if you write “Dear Sir or Madam” on a cover letter or business email, you’re more likely to get an eye roll than a head nod. 

Read this guide to learn:

Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from  20+ professional cover letter templates  that match your resume. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.

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sample cover letter example

Sample cover letter for a resume— See more cover letter samples and create your cover letter here .

Check out these similar guides on writing cover letters:

“Dear Sir or Madam” as a Letter Salutation

“Dear Sir or Madam” is a formal way to address a letter to a specific person whose name, title, or gender is unknown. There are certain situations when this letter salutation can be used, but it’s best to avoid it as it comes off as old-timey, impersonal, and lazy. 

The reason why these generic letter salutations should be avoided is because you’re always better off addressing the letter using the recipient’s name. And with the advent of the internet, there’s almost no excuse for not knowing who you’re writing to. 

But what if you’ve scoured the internet and still came up empty-handed? Can you use “Dear Sir or Madam” then? 

Even in that case, there are better alternatives. Let’s explore what’s wrong with “Dear Sir or Madam” and when to use each alternative.

Is “Dear Sir or Madam” Appropriate for a Cover Letter?

No it isn’t—“Dear Sir/Madam” should be avoided whenever possible; it’s one part of a cover letter that you can feel safe leaving out. While not always inappropriate , there are much better alternatives if you want to give a good impression from the start.

To illustrate why, let’s walk a mile in Mary’s shoes. Who’s Mary? She’s the hiring manager at Acme Co. looking for a new marketing coordinator. Mary is busy at work reviewing candidates when she receives a notification there’s a new applicant. A resume arrives in her inbox with a cover letter attached. The first thing she reads is “Dear Sir or Madam”...

Now—what does that salutation tell Mary? A few things. She automatically knows: (a) the sender is a stranger who didn’t bother to look up her name, and (b) the letter’s contents might be a generic cover letter that’s been copy-pasted a hundred times. Do you think Mary feels inspired to carefully read the letter and give her utmost attention?

Chances are Mary is going to spend a few seconds skimming the letter and go straight to the resume. 

Read more: Perfect Cover Letter: How to Write One?

“Dear Sir or Madam” in Emails

Avoid using “Dear Sir/Madam” in emails as well. Emails are less formal than cover letters, so starting with “Dear Sir or Madam” feels even more out of place. It’s always best to address an email directly to the recipient.

Read more: Email Cover Letter Sample

Why “Dear Sir or Madam” Falls Short

Here’s what the problems with “Dear Sir or Madam” boil down to:

If that’s the case, what would be better than “Dear Sir or Madam” for emails, cover letters, and business letters?

Read more: Great Cover Letter Tips [35+]

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“Dear Sir or Madam” Alternatives

The ideal cover letter uses warm and natural language , and speaks directly to the hiring manager. Essentially the opposite of a phrase like “Dear Sir or Madam” or "To Whom It May Concern”. 

The best cover letter salutation is one that is addressed directly to the hiring manager using their name, such as:

Now, let’s say you’ve looked everywhere. Even if you don’t know the name of who will be reading your resume cover page , you should avoid “Dear Sir/Madam”. If you can’t find their name anywhere or think that multiple people may be reading it, you can use:

Read more: How to Address a Cover Letter

“Dear Sir or Madam” vs “To Whom It May Concern”

“Dear Sir or Madam” shares a lot in common with “To Whom It May Concern” . Both are used to address letters to strangers—and both are considered outdated and old-fashioned. 

However, that doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. “To Whom It May Concern” is suited for situations when you’re not sure who would be responsible for your inquiry. “Dear Sir/Madam” is better for when you are writing to a specific person, you just don’t know their name. 

Read more: Letter of Intent vs Cover Letter: What’s the Difference?

“Dear Sir or Madam” Punctuation and Capitalization

Poor grammar is one of the primary reasons that cover letters are rejected. So if you are going to buck the trend and use “Dear Sir or Madam” anyways, here’s how to use it correctly.

The proper punctuation is to capitalize each letter except in the word “or”, as in:

Dear Sir or Madam,

First paragraph of the cover letter

Using a colon after salutations is acceptable in formal situations, so you can also write “Dear Sir or Madam” with a colon:

Dear Sir or Madam:

You might be wondering if you can switch the order and write “Dear Madam or Sir”, but this would likely turn heads. It’s best to catch the hiring manager’s attention with the body of your cover letter rather than the greeting. Just make sure the rest of your cover letter is formatted correctly .

Read more: The Best Way to Start a Cover Letter

Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here.  Here's what it may look like:

matching set of resume and cover letter

See more cover letter templates and start writing.

Key Takeaway

While figuring out how to address a cover letter can be tough when you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, here are some tips:

There you go! Now you can get on to writing the rest of your cover letter!

Thanks for reading! Do you have any other questions about “Dear Sir or Madam”? What are your thoughts? Do you see “Dear Sir/Madam” making a comeback? Let’s discuss in the comment section!

Cory Streiff

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Best Alternatives to "Dear Sir or Madam"

Ida Pettersson

Not sure if starting your cover letter with “Dear Sir or Madam” is still acceptable, or what greeting to use instead? Check out our helpful guide for answers and a list of alternative salutations to choose from.

“Dear Sir or Madam” is one of the most common greetings used in business correspondence. It’s respectful, professional, and widely applicable.

But, is it the best choice for addressing emails and cover letters? Keep reading to learn if you should use “Dear Sir or Madam” or go for a different alternative.

Is “Dear Sir or Madam” still appropriate?

While hiring managers are unlikely to reject your application simply because you use “Dear Sir or Madam” to start your cover letter or email, there are several reasons why you should choose a different salutation.

Here’s why you shouldn’t use “Dear Sir or Madam” when reaching out to hiring managers:

1. It’s generic

One of the most common mistakes job seekers make is to send out the same generic application to numerous companies, believing that sending out more applications increases their chances of landing an interview.

While this is true to an extent, what’s more important is the quality of your resume and cover letter.

To get the attention of the hiring manager, you should always address your cover letter to the hiring manager by name (if possible).

Starting off with a generic greeting like “Dear Sir or Madam” instead of addressing your email or cover letter to a specific individual is a missed opportunity to show hiring managers that you’ve done your research on the company.

2. It’s outdated

Do you ever encounter the phrases “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam” in your day-to-day life, except for in written form? Probably not, and that’s because this way of speaking is outdated.

Letter writing etiquette changes over time, as do the standards for business correspondence.

While “Dear Sir or Madam” or “ To Whom It May Concern ” used to be the recommended way to address a letter or email when you didn’t know the name or gender of the recipient, it’s considered overly formal today.

3. It’s not all-inclusive

Not everyone appreciates being greeted with gendered terms. For example, if the hiring manager of a company is non-binary, they likely wouldn’t want to be addressed as either “sir” or “madam”.

Just to be safe, it’s better to use a cover letter introduction that’s gender-neutral.

4. It looks like spam

If you check your spam folder, you’ll notice that many generic sales emails contain the greeting “Dear Sir or Madam”.

Spam filters are designed to spot emails that contain certain words and phrases that frequently appear in unsolicited bulk emails, and “Dear Sir or Madam” is one of them .

To prevent your email cover letter from getting sent to the hiring manager’s spam folder, it’s better to go for a different salutation.

Alternatives to using “Dear Sir or Madam”

The best way to address someone in a cover letter or business email is by their full name, or by their title followed by their last name.

However, if you’re unable to locate the name of the of the person you’re trying to reach by looking at the company website or searching LinkedIn, here are some acceptable alternatives:

Alternatives to “Dear Sir or Madam” for cover letters

Use one of the following salutations to start your cover letter:

This is what a greeting on a cover letter should look like:

Alternatives to “Dear Sir or Madam” for emails

Here are a few good alternatives to using “Dear Sir or Madam” when you send a business email or if you email your resume and don’t know who to address:

Here’s an example of how to correctly address an email:

Gender-neutral alternatives to ”Dear Sir or Madam”

The use of gender-neutral titles in professional settings is becoming increasingly common. If in previous correspondence with a hiring manager or colleague they have signed off with “Mx.” or another gender-neutral title, avoid addressing them as either “Sir” or “Madam” and use their preferred title instead.

Here are some gender-neutral titles you might come across:

The most commonly used gender-neutral title is “Mx.” (pronounced “mix”), which can be used in any situation when you don’t know someone’s gender or which title they prefer. Here’s an example of how to use it in a formal greeting in a follow-up email after an interview :

How to use “Dear Sir/Madam” correctly

If you decide to use “Dear Sir or Madam”, follow these steps to do it correctly:

Here’s a good example of what this looks like in action:

Click to rate this article

Ida Pettersson

Written by Ida Pettersson

Ida is a Content Writer at Resume Genius, where she assists job seekers as they plan their next career moves. She graduated from New College of Florida with a double major... more

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Should You Use "Dear Sir or Madam" on Your Cover Letter?

dear sir or madam on cover letter.jpg

In conclusion

Offering the best career advice means equipping you with best tools, tips, and tricks that you can't easily find on the internet.

For example, even though some experts may assure you that for an IT startup initiating your cover letter with "Hi (First name) ", we strongly advise against that.

"Dear (First name)" is a million times better alternative. Plus, you will have a chance to infuse your cover letter with your vibrant personality, demonstrating to HR that you are a pure organizational fit without having to address them like they are just one of your friends.

Similar to "Hi (First name) " is “Dear Sir or Madam” - even if you read somewhere that using it is still acceptable, don't bite that poisonous apple.

In this blog post, you will learn:

Why you shouldn’t use “Dear Sir or Madam” to start your cover letter.

In 2023, writing “Dear Sir or Madam” as the salutation of your application letter isn’t just old fashioned – it’s archaic. The salutation was a safe bet a couple of decades ago when you couldn’t easily find the hiring manager on LinkedIn and there was no way you could find our who’s desk your application will end up on.

Back then, of course, it was totally okay to use it.

On the contrary, today, almost any company, big or small, has a good social media presence. Corporate HRs can very well be more popular than their respective CEOs. Recruiters are the face of the organization, hence it’s easier than ever to find out the name of any HR.

Hence, if the information is just a few clicks away, it is not acceptable to send an impersonalized cover letter, starting with "Dear Sir or Madam." Doing so, you risk leaving the impression that you are a bit lazy, careless, or not so interested in the position.

How to nail the proper cover letter salutation .

Moreover, we live in a dynamic, diverse, and disruptive world. Opening your cover letter with an old-school salutation like "Dear Sir or Madam," you may sound not progressive enough. Instead, consider several inclusive and imaginative alternatives, which we’ll discuss later.

Avoid these other equally bad salutations.

While with the “Dear Sir or Madam” salutation, you would teleport the recruiter 30 years back in time, if you used “ To whom it may concern ”, they are going back to the 70s.

Even worse, such an opening will immediately diminish the power of your cover letter. These are by far the worst and most dangerous openings.

Further down the rabbit hole are expressions like:

They break the standards of proper business communication.

Dozens of ways to substitute “Dear Sir or Madam” for success.

Let's look at how you can avoid the dreaded outdated cover letter salutations but still convey your value proposition respectfully and reasonably. As a general rule, if in doubt, always refer back to the precise business communication rules. Better to stay more official than inappropriately casual.

Need to read more PRO tips on how exactly to write a cover letter that recruiters will talk about long after? Check our article How to Write a Cover Letter – Writing Guide + Examples & Downloadable Templates .

Here are a dozen backup options to completely eradicate from your Cover letter the “Dear Sir or Madam” in various scenarios:

When you know the name of the recruiter,

Using the above alternatives, you show up from the start as a considerate, respectful individual with all the right know-how on proper business communication.

When you don't know and can't find the name of the recruiter.

No name? No problem. Check out how you can navigate that situation with class.

When you are addressing a whole HR team.

There are also these situations when you apply to a big multinational corporate organization or via a Recruitment agency. Typically, you would not be communicating with only one particular HR responsible for the position, but often with the whole Recruitment team. So then, the smart go-to approach is to be inclusive and address the entire group with one of the below options:

Now you have 12 savvy salutations for any Cover letter at your immediate disposal. Which one will you choose to open the door to the HR's heart? Head over to our cover letter builder and start enchanting from “hello”.

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Dear Sir Or Madam: When To Use It And Alternatives

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What to Use on Cover Letter vs. Email

“dear sir or madam” vs. “to whom it may concern”, when to use something else, “dear sir or madam” formatting rules, why “dear sir or madam” isn’t a good salutation, how to find the hiring manager and avoid using “dear sir or madam”, “dear sir or madam faq”.

Summary. Saying “Dear Sir or Madam” is still acceptable but it should be avoided because it can make you look lazy and make it sound generic. You should try to find the recipients name using the company website or job listing. If you can’t find their name, use their job title or department name in the greeting. One of the trickiest and most powerful nuance is your salutation. It sets the tone for the rest of your letter and can create a strong first impression, or it can make it difficult for you to win the reader over with the rest of your letter. So, how do you know which one to use? Should you put “Dear Sir or Madam,” “ To Whom It May Concern ,” or the person’s name? In this article, you’ll learn how to think this through so that you can decide what is most appropriate for your situation. Key Takeaways: Having a grasp on the connotations of different formats, greetings, and sign-offs involved in professional correspondence can help you make the best impression possible, especially when you’re writing a cover letter to go with your resume . Try finding the name of the person you are addressing before using “dear sir or madam” otherwise it could make you look lazy and that you are sending the same cover letter to everyone. When searching to the hiring managers name look at the job posting, the companies website, or even try calling and asking someone for their name. Is “Dear Sir or Madam” Acceptable?

While the classic greeting, “Dear Sir or Madam,” is still acceptable, it should be used with caution. Because it is an old standard, it can sound stuffy, and those who don’t conform to binary genders may be offended by this salutation — not the way you want to start off your first interaction with a potential employer.

Using this greeting can make you look lazy. It’s usually possible to find the recipient’s name by looking in the company’s online directory or by doing a quick LinkedIn search.

Even if you can’t find a name (and some companies like to keep this information private to protect their hiring managers from overenthusiastic applicants), you should be able to at least find a department or position name that you can address.

It sounds like it’s the same cover letter that you sent to five other companies. This can not only make you sound insincere, but it can also raise red flags and make the recipient think that you don’t truly care about getting the position.

If you’ve done your research and feel as though you know enough about your audience to be able to avoid these pitfalls, this greeting can be an acceptable way to open your letter if you have little to no information about your recipient. You’ll just have to spend some extra effort in the body of your letter to show that you did your research on the company and position.

If you weren’t given a name, try looking it up on the company’s website or searching for the position on LinkedIn. To make a great impression, you can even call the company to ask who your letter should be addressed to. This will show that you care and that you are someone who goes above and beyond to get results and build relationships.

Email. Because “Dear Sir or Madam” is so formal, it’s usually inappropriate to use in an informal email. If you can, try to use the email address you’re sending your message to create a more personalized greeting.

For example, if the email address is [email protected], you could say, “Dear Recruitment Team.” Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, you can also keep it short and sweet stick to a less formal greeting like “Hello.”

Since email is less formal, here are some additional greetings that are appropriate to use there:

Hello, [Team or Department Name]

Hello, [Company Name]

Good morning

I hope this email finds you well

Cover Letter. A cover letter is more formal than an email, but you should still use “Dear Sir or Madam” sparingly. As with an email, make every effort to be as specific as possible. If you do find that you need to use this greeting, make sure you use the body of your letter to show that you’ve done your research on the company and position.

In fact, we recommend never using “Dear Sir or Madam” to start your cover letter. Any of its alternatives makes for a stronger choice.

If you still can’t find a name, here are some other alternatives you can use for your cover letter:

Dear [Position Title]

Dear Hiring Manager

Dear Recruiter

Dear [Department Name] Team

Dear Search Committee

Dear [Potential Future Boss’s Title]

Dear [Department Name] Manager

Be careful when using “Hello” instead of “Dear,” as it is significantly less formal. Know your audience and stick to the classic “Dear” for companies that might appreciate the added professionalism.

If you’re applying for a job with a super trendy tech company, though, “Hello” will probably suffice. You can also always use the greetings that you would use in a cover letter.

Even though they sound interchangeable, there are some differences between “Dear Sir or Madam” and “To Whom It May Concern.” If you do decide that a generic greeting like this is best for your letter or email, you should know which one is most appropriate for your particular use.

“Dear Sir or Madam.” Use this when you know that you are writing to an individual (or a small group of individuals) but don’t know their name or gender. This makes it the best choice for a cover letter or email that you’re sending with your resume as a part of a job application, as you know you’re addressing a specific hiring manager or team or recruiters.

“To Whom It May Concern.” If the concerns in your letter or email could be addressed by a wide variety of people or if you don’t know who it should go to, use this. This is appropriate to use when you’re asking general support questions or looking for information rather than applying for a specific position.

As with “Dear Sir or Madam,” you should always try to find an individual’s name or department name, but if you can’t, this is a good way to cover your bases and address the organization as a whole.

When you’re deciding how to open your letter or email that is going to a specific individual or small group, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

If you do know the recipient’s name, ask yourself:

Do I have a strong relationship with the recipient?

If yes: Use “Dear” or “Hello,” followed by their first name.

If no: Use “Dear” followed by their first and last name or “Dear Ms./Mr. [Last Name].”

If you don’t know the recipient’s name and can’t find it:

Do you know their job title?

If yes: Use “Dear [Job Title]”

If no: If you know their gender, use “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam.” If you don’t know their gender or have any doubts, use the most specific team or organization name that you can.

No matter what salutation you choose to use, the most important thing is to make sure the rest of your letter is professional, friendly, and memorable.

Start building a relationship from your first line. Show that you’ve done your homework and know about the company and the position you’re applying for, and explain why you would love to be a part of it.

Make yourself seem human and create an impression by including anecdotes about your interactions with the company as well as about your skills and qualifications that would make you a valuable asset to them. Demonstrate your professionalism by using correct grammar and punctuation — have someone else proofread it for you, if need be.

Correct grammar should begin with your greeting, so be sure you check it thoroughly. Here are some tips that you should use to make sure you’re punctuating it correctly:

Capitalize every word in “Dear Sir or Madam” except for “or”

Use a comma or colon at the end of your salutation. A colon is typically more formal than a comma, but both are acceptable and professional.

Add an extra line space between your greeting and the first line of your letter or email.

The same rules apply to “To Whom It May Concern,” except you should capitalize every word in that phrase. It’s also more common to follow it with a colon as opposed to a comma.

Do your best to be respectful and show that you truly want to build a relationship with the recipient and the organization. Use your gut and your knowledge of the industry to decide what tone you should use, beginning with your salutation and ending with your sign-off.

If you can, ask other experienced professionals what they would want to see in a letter and to give you feedback. Take care with every piece of correspondence you send out, as this is how you are building a picture of yourself for the organization.

At the end of the day, this is what will make a good impression that could get you an interview.

In summary, using “Dear Sir or Madam” is almost never a good choice.

Using “Dear Sir or Madam:”

Appears lazy. It’s almost always possible to find the name of your letter’s recipient. Even if it isn’t, you can still find out more details about the recipient, like their job title or the department name.

Seems outdated. Nobody speaks this way anymore, and using this phrase will make you appear formal to the point of absurdity.

Isn’t gender-inclusive. There’s a chance that your recipient isn’t a Sir or a Madam, in which case you’ve just gotten off on a very bad foot with a potential employer.

Makes your correspondence seem generic. Failing to address your letter to a specific person or at least attempt to direct it to the correct department will make the recipient think you don’t care very much about the opportunity. They’ll think you’ve sent the same letter to countless other hiring managers and recruiters.

Hinders relationship-building. When you start your letter with “Dear Sir or Madam,” you’re admitting that you’re a total stranger. You want to become familiar with your letter’s recipient to make a good impression . It’s hard to be personable when you kick things off with such a cold and distant greeting.

We’ve briefly touched on how to find the hiring manager or recruiter’s name to avoid using outdated greetings like “Dear Sir or Madam” and “To Whom It May Concern.”

Here are some steps you can take to find the recipient’s name:

Check the job posting. Job postings won’t always include the hiring manager’s name, but sometimes you can figure it out from the email address they list (e.g., [email protected]).

Look at the company’s website. Some companies have directories of their staff available online. There you might be able to find the name of a department head or hiring manager for your desired position.

Try LinkedIn. Look around the company’s LinkedIn page and even consider reaching out to some employees who may know who you should address your letter to.

Call and ask. If all else fails, you can always call the company and get directed to someone who knows the name of the hiring manager for a given position.

What can I say instead of “Sir or Madam?”

You should always try to address the specific person by name before saying “Sir or Madam.” You can find the persons name by looking at the company website or the job posting. If you are unable to find their name, alternative things to use include:

Dear hiring manager

Dear search committee

Dear [department name] manager

Is saying “Dear Sir or Madam” still acceptable?

You should avoid using “Dear Sir or Madam” whenever possible but it is still acceptable to use. You should avoid using it because it can make you look lazy and make it sound like it’s a generic cover letter sent to other companies. If you do a little research, you should be able to find the persons name, but if you cannot find it, use their job title as a greeting instead.

What is a proper greeting for a cover letter?

A proper greeting for a cover letter would be “Dear” or “Hello” followed by the persons first name if you have a strong relationship with the recipient. If you do not have a strong relationship with them, you should say “Dear Ms./Mr.” followed by their last name.

Broad Institute – Cover Letter for a Job

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Abby is a writer who is passionate about the power of story. Whether it’s communicating complicated topics in a clear way or helping readers connect with another person or place from the comfort of their couch. Abby attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in writing with concentrations in journalism and business.

Matt Warzel a President of a resume writing firm (MJW Careers, LLC) with 15+ years of recruitment, outplacement, career coaching and resume writing experience. Matt is also a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR) with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Marketing Focus) from John Carroll University.

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Topics: Cover Letter , Cover Letter Examples

Is Dear Sir/Madam Appropriate for Cover Letters?

dear sir and madam cover letter

Have you ever wondered if using ‘Dear Madam/Sir’ is the right greeting for your cover letter?  

Why does it matter?  

Cover letters are an essential part of any job interview process which is why they must be written with due diligence from beginning to end.  

Setting a formal tone by making sure that you address the recipient with respect & using the right words is extremely crucial. Using appropriate salutations makes a strong first impression - it is indicative of a sense of professionalism & good communication skills.  

Omitting a greeting sounds informal & rude. Beginning a cover letter with a salutation is fundamental as it sets a tone for the rest of the content. 

Let us answer whether the ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ approach still works for cover letters.  

Well, it works in some cases . But here’s the thing: Dear Sir/Madam can sound very outdated at the first glance. While it still works, it is not recommended to go by this approach. Instead, make sure to personalize the cover letter & address the recruiter/hiring manager directly. 

Why should Dear sir/madam NOT be used in cover letters? 

What are the alternatives for using Dear Sir/Madam? 

Using Dear Sir/Madam might make the recipient feel that they are reading a scripted greeting card & it might seem strange & offensive to many. Identifying a person by his/her name is more respectful which can impact the overall perception of the content of the cover letter in a positive manner. For this reason, it is recommended to be proactive, searching for the recipient on Google, LinkedIn or the organization’s website than addressing him/her incorrectly. 

Well, fortunately, there are many alternatives in such situations, let’s see how to create a better beginning for your cover letter. 

Here are some alternative greetings for your cover letters. These are examples of general salutations that can be used instead of using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’: 

Try to answer these few questions before you make a decision on the appropriate salutation to be used in your cover letters:  

Dear Sir/Madam should be avoided not only in cover letters but also in e-mails. There are a number of handy options that can be used in place of Sir/Madam & still make it sound professional. In today’s world, there are no excuses for not knowing the person you are writing to. Knowing the person’s name & gender is fundamental to showing a sense of professionalism.  

Writing a powerful cover letter salutation is important as it sets the tone & can go a long way in setting a good first impression on the recipient. A cover letter to a prospective employer should be written notably. 

How do you address your cover letters? 

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The Do's and Don'ts of Cover Letter Salutations

TopResume Editor

Greet your future employer the proper way with these cover letter do's and don'ts.

When you're applying for a job, the best-case scenario is that you know who is supposed to receive and review your application. If that's the case, you should always address your cover letter to that individual by full name, first and last. You don't need to add in a relevant title if that's the case. "Dear John Doe," is just fine. Indeed, it's better to leave out titles in your cover letter salutations since you don't want to make assumptions about gender. The name "Terry" could refer easily to a man or a woman, for example. What if you don't know the person's name though? How should you address your letter and ensure that it is polite and gets to the right person?

There are several acceptable greetings you can use. The majority of people use "Dear Hiring Manager." This is a good salutation for a couple of reasons. It isn't gender-specific, which eliminates that issue, and it also doesn't sound awkward. It's a simple, clear phrase. It also makes it obvious who you're trying to reach. You're looking to get your letter to the person who can give you a job. It clarifies the letter's purpose right off the top.

Another phrase that is commonly used is "To whom it may concern." There's nothing wrong with this phrase, although it is somewhat inferior to "Dear Hiring Manager." Why is it inferior? It's an awkward greeting. For one thing, while "whom" may be grammatically proper, how many of us actually use the word "whom" in conversation? For another thing, it isn't clear about your purpose. When you write "Dear Hiring Manager," in your cover letter salutations, that shows that you believe the Hiring Manager should be concerned about your letter. If you write "To whom it may concern," you're inviting ambiguity. What if it doesn't concern anybody? You've hardly made a case for anyone bothering with your letter. These are all subtle nuances. Again, you can use this phrase. It's just better to use "Dear Hiring Manager."

One more acceptable phrase to use in your cover letter salutations is "Dear Sir or Madam." This phrase accounts for either gender, which is good, although it does sound awkward since it makes a big affair out of doing so. "Dear Hiring Manager" is a bit less ungainly in this sense. There is also something old fashioned sounding about saying "Dear Sir or Madam." You could look at this as a good thing (it shows you have proper manners and respect) or a bad thing (it could imply you're a bit outmoded). It's again a fine greeting, but you can see how "Dear Hiring Manager" might still be the better choice.

In terms of punctuation, it doesn't really matter what you use in your cover letter salutations. A comma, a semi-colon or a colon is just fine; this bit is pretty irrelevant. With several good greetings to choose from, don't leave your greeting line blank. A blank greeting line communicates nothing, though it may make a hiring manager think that you're lazy, rude, or simply incompetent. If you can't make up your mind, always just default to "Dear Hiring Manager."

Follow these cover letter do's and don'ts and you'll set yourself up for greater success in landing an interview.

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Home » Cover Letter Help » Dear Sir or Madam

Dear Sir or Madam: Should You Use It & Alternative Greetings?

Seb Morgan

Wondering if ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is still acceptable for a cover letter or email salutation? Our explanation and lists of alternative greetings will help you make a positive first impression on employers so they consider you for interviews.

A person's hand holding a cover letter with the greeting dear sir or madam highlighted in black font and outlined with an orange box

‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is a formal way to address a recipient whose name, gender, or title you don’t know. Although ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is formal and courteous, you should avoid using it to start a cover letter , business letter, or email.

Below, we explain why you shouldn’t use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ and offer some alternative greetings that will help you communicate more effectively.

Should I use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in a cover letter or email?

No, you shouldn’t use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in an email or a cover letter.

The greeting ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is inappropriate to use when writing an email or a cover letter for the following reasons:

1. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ shows a lack of effort

Traditionally, you’d use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ to address a contact person whose name, gender, and title you didn’t know.

But Google and social media have made it much easier to find out who the contact person is before you write. The greeting ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ makes it sound like you haven’t bothered to do your research.

And if you’re writing a cover letter for a job, using ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ may suggest to employers that you’re sending out the same application to multiple positions.

2. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is outdated and overly formal

Greetings like ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’ are rarely used in business letters today, so using this salutation makes your writing appear awkward and may cause employers to think you’re not up-to-date with modern job search practices.

3. ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ isn’t gender-inclusive

Not all contact people identify with the gendered terms ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Assuming someone’s gender might cause offence and make a bad first impression.

Using a gendered greeting on your cover letter might even hurt your chances of getting the job.

Instead, try starting a cover letter or email with the gender-neutral salutation [Mx] followed by their given name or surname.

Dear Sir or Madam Alternatives for a Cover Letter

If you’re wondering how to address a cover letter or email in a way that encourages employers to continue reading your application, look no further.

Here are some alternative greetings to help you learn how to write a cover letter smoothly and appropriately address a company’s contact person:

Remember that generic greetings like Dear Recruiter, Dear Hiring Manager, or Dear Recruiting Team may still come across as impersonal, though they are less awkward than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

Dear Sir/Madam Alternatives for a Business Letter or Email

If you’re looking for a professional greeting to start a business letter or email, you can address the contact person in one of these ways:

Always use ‘Dear’ if you are writing a cover letter or email cover letter — even if you are writing a cover letter for an internal position .

‘Hello’ is slightly more casual, but it’s acceptable as a greeting for other professional purposes if you want to start a letter without ‘Dear’:

Using professional or academic titles instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’

If the person you’re addressing in your cover letter or email holds a professional or academic title such as ‘Prof.’ (short for ‘Professor’) or Dr (short for ‘Doctor), use Google or LinkedIn to search for their contact details and ensure they’re currently still using the same title.

This is how to address an employer with an academic or professional title:

Dear Prof. Levitt, Dear Dr Mischenko,

4 good example cover letters and emails that start without Dear Sir/Madam’

Whether you’re applying for a job or contacting a potential business partner or customer,  greeting them correctly will make a better first impression and encourage them to read your letter or email more carefully.

Below are four examples of email and cover letter introductions that use alternative greetings instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

1. First, have a look at this email cover letter example for a UX researcher role:

An example of an alternative cover letter greeting instead of dear sir or madam to show a candidate applying for a UX researcher role

2. Here’s another example of a cover letter greeting that directly addresses the contact person using the gender-neutral title [Mx] along with their surname:

An alternative cover letter greeting instead of dear sir or madam for a primary school teacher role

3. This applicant below politely greets the entire recruitment team:

A librarian applicant's alternative cover letter greeting instead of using dear sir or madam

4. In this example, the applicant addresses the hiring team by the position they are hiring for:

An example of a 'Dear Sir or Madam' alternative greeting for a cover letter in which a job applicant addresses the hiring team by the job they are applying for

How to professionally end a cover letter or email

Now that you understand how to start your cover letter appropriately, remember to also use traditional cover letter etiquette when closing your cover letter or email.

Closing your cover letter correctly is essential because it highlights your professionalism, shows you pay attention to detail, and ends your application positively.

Here’s how to end a cover letter or email:

Ending a cover letter with 'Yours faithfully'

If your cover letter starts with any opening that doesn’t feature the person’s name (e.g., Dear Hiring Manager), then end your cover letter or email with ‘Yours faithfully’.

Ending a cover letter with 'Yours sincerely'

If your cover letter begins with a person’s name, then end your letter or email with ‘Yours sincerely’.

Seb Morgan

Written by Seb Morgan

Seb is a careers expert and digital content writer at CV Genius, where he writes about all things employment and productivity. Since leaving his native Britain, he’s helped... more

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