General Question

rss's avatar

How to address a cover letter when the addressee's gender is unknown?

Asked by rss (962 points ) April 16th, 2008

Occasionally, when addressing cover letters, I will have a person’s name which is not gender specific (i.e. Pat, Leslie, Kim). Is there a standard way to avoid putting the wrong title (Mr. v Ms.)?

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21 Answers

wildflower's avatar

“Dear Sirs” or “To whom it may concern” would be the standard greetings when the receiver is not identified.

Alternatively, use “Dear J. Smith” – i.e. without salutation as this would be prefereable to “Mr/Ms” which seems too generic and not tailored to this specific use.

sccrowell's avatar

Dear Sir or Madam,

wildflower's avatar

I would be careful with a non-standard, non-tailored greeting like Dear Sir or Madame, it could indicate you’re sending a standardised letter that you’re hoping will appear tailored. I know as a hiring manager, I would not read an application I don’t believe was written specifically for this opportunity. I see it as not-quite-but-almost-spam.

Another suggestion would be to address it to the function, i.e. Dear Hiring Manager at [org. name]

jonno's avatar

I would probably just address it without the title, so just “Dear Pat Smith” or “Dear Kim Smith”.

Perhaps you could make contact with the person (as long as you have a valid reason to talk to them) – so maybe try ringing the company and asking to speak to whoever it is. Hopefully you will be able to figure out if you’re speaking to a man or a woman.

If all else fails, “Dear Sir/Madam” or as wildflower suggests “Dear Hiring Manager at [org. name]” would do. Although it’s always best to personalise cover letters.

DeezerQueue's avatar

It would be best to place a call to find out their gender. Should you get them on the line, don’t be embarrassed, they will be impressed that you’re taking the time in being accurate, and second, that you’ve taken the time to find out. It will show some level of ambition on your part. If you do not know, then do not place their name and it could then be addressed in several ways, “Gentlemen,” “Dear Sirs” or “Dear sir or madam.”

sccrowell's avatar

Since @rss did not state that it would in fact be following a “resume,” I believe it to appropriate. Either that, or as @jonno also stated, “Dear Kim Jones” if she has a name and gender unknown.

gorillapaws's avatar

Go with Dr. it’s gender neutral and they’ll be flattered (and likely too embarassed to say anything about it).

Randy's avatar

How about just simply “Dear Friend”. It says what needs to be said while, at the same time is gender neutral.

gailcalled's avatar

The Quaker way is, as many of you suggested, to always use first and last names; Dear Ben Finkel;

DeezerQueue's avatar

Professionally you need to come across as though you know what you’re doing. Do you want to sound as though you’re not interested? Do you want to sound as though you’re too informal even though you haven’t met anyone? If not, then go the extra mile, make the phone call to find out. It’s just good business sense and etiquette. We’re starting to trade professionalism for laziness these days, it seems.

You also have the Internet at your fingertips, do some poking around to see if they’re on LinkedIn or just Google them. I cannot emphasize enough, it is your first impression upon someone. Make it a good one.

Babo's avatar

I use, “Greetings!”

gorillapaws's avatar

hello earthling,

gailcalled's avatar

Whenever I get a letter with the salutation, ”
greetings” I toss it w/o reading another word.

Babo's avatar

Oh no! Gailcalled, you haven’t read any of my letters?!!

Seriously, thanks for the input!

gailcalled's avatar

@Babo: Isn’t how the Draft Board used to start their “Come to Camp Army” letters?

Greetings, Uncle Sam wants you.

rss's avatar

Thanks guys! I’ve been googling when I can, and otherwise just leaving out the title – but I feel better including one since these are formal letters. (I was talking generally about the job application process, so cover letter + resume; often they say “no phone calls” or I don’t want to spend 3 hours calling an agency and trying to get to the right person when a phone number is not listed).

But it would be nice to have a gender-neutral title, no? Not that I can think of a good one.

wildflower's avatar

President? Manager? Director? Doctor? ...........Glorious Leader :)

rss's avatar

true, those are gender-neutral, but they only work if you KNOW that is the title. What would be nice is a gender-neutral equivalent for “Mr/Mrs” or “Sir or Madam” for when the person does NOT have another formal title, or when their title is unknown.

Maybe “Sirdam” or “Mi.” or “GL” (for glorious leader). :)

wildflower's avatar

well, I’m only a regular manager, but I’d probably read on with a smile if I got an application addressed to glorious leader – but then, not everyone will have the twisted sense of humour I have ;)

DeezerQueue's avatar

Your only other option is this:

Name, Function

When you place them on the same line, you can dispense with the title. However, if you place them on separate lines, you should use one, as in the following:

[Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr.] Samantha Jones
Human Resources Manager

Good luck with your project.

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