When applying for a job or even just asking clarifications on something, I have often found problems when starting the email, which might seem like a secondary problem but it does present some important issues.

If writing to a person, I'd probably start "Dear Professor Smith" or something similar, but when writing to a company that has listed its email on the site, how do you start? Writing "Dear company X" kind of sends chills down my spine and I don't see it as an appropriate start.

I might start right away with "My name is..." and rely on a good email subject to fix the situation but I wanted to get some confirmation on this.

So my questions is: how do you properly start an email to a company/agency without having a single person to write to?

I'm Italian, but I'm asking for the English language. Furthermore, the name of the person is not in the email address in my case.


4 Answers 4


If a phone call will get you the name of the person you're writing to, that's best. It also shows you're willing to put in a little effort (it doesn't look like part of a resume-blast to all and sundry). But this is not always possible.

I have used "Dear (company name) team" successfully. I have also just used "Hello" or "Greetings".

I have received applications with all sorts of salutations, from "Dear Sir/Madam" to none at all.1 It didn't really make a difference to me, but I'm a technical person, not an HR person, and they might behave differently. Or not; they're people too. :-)

1: I'm talking here about applications that came via email; for a paper application letter, I would always use some sort of greeting.


It depends a bit on customs wherever you are. I would follow whatever I would do in a normal letter.

In the UK, "Dear Sir/Madam" would be the most common approach, I think.

"To whom it may concern" is a more formal approach, perhaps too formal for a job application. Depends on the company.

Another approach is to call the company and ask if they have an HR department or who does the hiring for a given role. Or even simply who sees the emails sent to the address you have.

Depending on what I know about the culture of the company I'm writing to, I've even been known to go with a generic "Hi" or "Hi there".

  • Sorry, I failed to mention some things. I'm Italian yes, but I was asking for English. :) Furthermore, the name of the person is not in the email, just the company's.
    – Alenanno
    Oct 21, 2012 at 12:40
  • @Alenanno: Thanks. That information allows me to tidy up my answer a bit :).
    – pdr
    Oct 21, 2012 at 12:56
  • Dear Sirs - is the the prefered UK form
    – Neuro
    Oct 24, 2012 at 9:21
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    @Neuro: In nearly 40 years, I've never seen a mail or email open with "Dear Sirs". I can't help thinking that the small, and entirely unnecessary, risk of offending a female recipient is bad when you're applying for a job.
    – pdr
    Oct 24, 2012 at 9:28
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    @Neuro: If it wasn't clear, I am English. We don't use Madam OR Sir as a verbal salutation (except with a sense of irony). There is a decline in use in the written form too (thankfully!) but, unless we knew the gender of the recipient, we wouldn't use one single-gender greeting without allowing for the possibility that you may be talking to the other ("Sir/Madam"). To use "Sirs" is arguably bowing to the sexist societal attitude of "well, if it's someone in a position of power, the odds are high that they're male."
    – pdr
    Oct 24, 2012 at 9:49

One time I wrote "dear decider of my fate" and got a great response from that (the rest of the letter was equally as playful/irreverent, but also very much about selling myself).

One thing I've learned is that there really isn't a one-size-fits-all for this kind of thing, and unfortunately you won't always know Who your audience is. However, I would recommend being yourself as much as possible when writing an email or a cover letter....actually, I would encourage just being yourself in the whole job getting process, because it helps to ensure that you're a good fit for them as well as assuring they're a good fit for you.

However, like you said the introduction is sort of secondary. You don't want it to be off-putting, so just write whatever feels comfortable to you or nothing at all. A simple "hello" is probably as innocuous as you're going to get. Basically in any of your dealings with a potential employer, you don't want to draw attention to anything that's not about the issue at hand, which in an email cover-letter is all about your interest in the company and how great a fit you would be. Use strong language to convey those parts and downplay the stuff that doesn't matter or that causes friction. In other words you don't want someone to have to think even a little bit about your salutation (unless it is specifically meant to draw them in like I did above, but that's generally a risky thing to do).

  • 1
    Yes that's risky but your salutation made me giggle eheh :D That was a risky thing to do, not because it's bad per se, but because there are some social rules that require you to be serious or at least "sober".
    – Alenanno
    Oct 21, 2012 at 15:03
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    @Alenanno: says who? It depends on the company of course, but generally you don't want to be 1 of the hundreds but stand out in some way. The greeting tjb used is a great way to do that. Oct 21, 2012 at 16:44
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    @AndreasBonini No-one in particular, it's just a general tendency in society.
    – Alenanno
    Oct 22, 2012 at 9:10

I think if you write "Dear "company" representative" would be a good and more formal way than hello or greetings since i can see you are concern about the formality of the e-mail.

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