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I'm applying to a job where I, thanks to a referral, already have I contact within the company. However, I'm not at all sure who will be reading my cover letter - my contact is a team lead, but not a hiring manager.

Is it appropriate to include both the contact person and a "catch them all" phrase in the salutation?

For example:

Dear Mr. Smith, dear AwesomeCompany Recruiting Team,

Bonus: I have exchanged a couple of emails with said contact, on a first name basis (as seems customary in the US, at least in the IT sector). Nevertheless, I feel it is inappropriate to address someone by first name in a cover letter. Is that correct? Or should I stick to address this person by first name even in formal writing?

  • Are you sure this person is part of the hiring process? You said they are a team lead, but will they be the team lead for your position? – mhoran_psprep Jul 21 '15 at 10:05
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As a recruiter who sees cover letters every single day I can honestly say it really doesn't matter. I've seen everything from the very formal "To whom it may concern" to a simple "Hi there" to no salutation at all. In your case I would simply address it to your contact since you've already established a relationship with them. Recruiters are used to having referrals sent our way (in good companies referrals make up at least 1/3 of all hires) so we're not going to get our feathers ruffled if you fail to address specifically. Plus the tech industry in particular is rather informal.

Personally I'm really not a fan of "To whom it may concern". It feels overly formal and coldly impersonal. It's the equivalent of a piece of mail addressed "Dear occupant".

One I would definitely avoid is "Dear sir". Beyond being overly formal it runs the risk of offending females - not good since recruiting is an area where women seem to make up the majority of the workforce.

  • Avoiding "Dear Sir" is definitely good advice. "Dear Sir / Madam" used to be a reasonable approach in the UK, at least, but I think it has also fallen out of favour as being overly formal. – Laconic Droid Jul 22 '15 at 19:13
  • One more thing: when trying to decide how to approach a company a good rule of thumb is to take your cues from how they communicate. Go their website and read through the "About us" section. That should give you some indicator of how formal (or not) their culture is. – ChrisL Jul 22 '15 at 20:14
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Dear Mr. Smith, dear AwesomeCompany Recruiting Team

That is just horrible - it shows that you don't know who you should be sending the correspondence to.

The general rule is:

  • if you have been given the name of someone to correspond to, address it to that person;
  • if you have not, then address it To whom it may concern

If you know someone at the company or department, but you're not supposed to be contacting them direct, address it To whom may concern, and possibly mention that you have been in communication with the individual you know - but only if it is directly relevant to your application, otherwise it would come across as name-dropping.

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Dear Mr. Smith, dear AwesomeCompany Recruiting Team

is ok It think. You may want to think on the wording for "AwesomeCompany Recruiting Team" and if you find nothing good and short, leave it out. Why do it like this?

  • You are writing to Mr. Smith, that he will show your letter to someone else is secondary
  • You know others will read the letter, with keeping it formal you are on the safe side. You demonstrate that you are a professional.
  • You will mention that you talked to Mr Smith before in the latter ("Thanks for the great discussion we had at X! Please find my appliction enclosed", just far better) So others who read your letter know that Mr. Smith has a first hand impression of you. Also, it's the polite thing to do.

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