If your resume is a snapshot of your career and education, your cover letter tells the employer what to look for in that snapshot. It answers the questions: Why this employer? and What can you do for us?

Like its name implies, the cover letter is a letter that is meant to sit on top of your resume (if we were still in the days of printed resumes delivered by mail). Even though resumes are typically delivered via email nowadays, employer will usually request a cover letter with your resume.

This post will cover the first three sections of your cover letter, Employer Information, the Subject Line, and the Greeting:

Employer Information

This goes first on the page. When possible, find the employer’s company name, address, and phone number on their website or elsewhere online. If you know the hiring manager’s name and position, include that as well. Take this information and arrange it at the top of the page, like so:

“Ken Watterson
Regional Manager
ABC Electronics, Inc.
1234 Coolidge Ave
Cumberland, VA 12345
(703) 123-4567”

If you don’t have the hiring manager’s name, just address it to ‘Hiring Manager,’ like this:

“Hiring Manager
ABC Electronics, Inc.
1234 Coolidge Ave
Cumberland, VA 12345
(703) 123-4567”

Subject Line

Next, you will hit ‘enter’ twice to give some space between the employer contact information and the subject. Then, write “Subject:” and the name of the position for which you’re applying, like this:

“Ken Watterson
Regional Manager
ABC Electronics, Inc.
1234 Coolidge Ave
Cumberland, VA 12345
(703) 123-4567

Subject: Plant Manager Position”

This tells the hiring manager, right off the bat, what your cover letter is about and what position it’s for.

Greeting

This part is simple—just address the hiring manager as Mr. or Ms., if you know their name, followed by a comma. This is what this would look like:

“Mr. Watterson,”
“Ms. Garcia,”

Do not use the title ‘Mrs.’ Unless you’re sure that a female hiring manager is indeed married. Even then, many professional women will prefer ‘Ms’. We recommend that you err on the side of caution and use ‘Ms’.

If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, you can use just ‘Hiring Manager’ or the less-personal ‘To Whom It May Concern’.

To continue onto the next part in creating your resume cover letter, go to our post “How to Write Your Resume Cover Letter: Part Two,” where we discuss how to write the first two paragraphs of your cover letter.

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