The Little Cover Letter Mistake That Will Get Your Resume Ignored

A common cover letter mistake to avoid.

by Donna Svei on August 22, 2013

I can’t tell you how many times I have received cover letters and resumes that were addressed to a different person at a different company. No, I’m not kidding. Lots. Every search I’ve ever done. Even for the “big” jobs. Bit of an epidemic you might say. Really. 

I can’t think of a single time that I then interviewed the sender. Rather, I just wondered:

  1. If their resume and cover letter were meant for me?
  2. If their resume and cover letter were meant for the addressee and never found their way to that person?

Please, double check your cover letter addressee and the email address you are sending to before you hit send! If it isn’t headed to the right place, it’s unlikely that you will get an interview.

Note: Updated from original post published in 2010.

I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Get hired. Please email me at or call me at (208) 721-0131.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tricia in GB (UK) September 27, 2010 at 03:07

Now there’s a coincidence. Just last week I sent a cover letter, and it took me AGES to find the guy’s name, searching various online documents until I found it in the company accounts. Just hope I got the right name.

Ed Han September 27, 2010 at 08:30

I’m astonished it’s this common! I was expecting the “Dear Sir or Madam” gaffe to be it.

Donna Svei September 27, 2010 at 10:14

Hi Tricia,

I hope so too!


Donna Svei September 27, 2010 at 10:15


Can you say more? Do you mean “make the effort as Tricia did to address your cover letter to a person?”



Kimba Green September 27, 2010 at 13:37

On LinkedIn when you apply for a job it automatically populates your cover letter with the last cover letter you sent out. I thought it was a good idea at first because I could use some of the same wording from my last cover letter. But….I forgot to change a name and I did not catch it until a few days later. I was horrified! The worst part was I really was interested in the job! Painful! Now every time it auto populates I cringe!

Donna Svei September 27, 2010 at 14:25

Hi Kimba,

That’s good to know — and to watch out for. Thank you for sharing.



Rick Saia September 28, 2010 at 07:01

Of all the potential mistakes one could make on the cover letter, this one is THE cardinal sin. I mean, spelling or grammatical errors are bad enough.

Yu Yu Din September 28, 2010 at 21:43

It’s the “template mentality” — there’s no one size fits all solution to cover letters, that’s why they’re included with the resume. Cover letters should be tailored to the specific post, company, and the person who’s going to hire you. You should be answering what the person has questions about, and how you’ve met challenges etc. Sometimes, it’s the cover letter that makes a difference when it comes to hiring decisions.

Tricia in GB (Uk) November 29, 2010 at 04:14

The couple of templates I have saved for cover letters I put
Dear (your name here)

Then when I read through before sending, it becomes obvious if I haven’t filled this in.

Donna Svei aka AvidCareerist November 29, 2010 at 09:13

Yuyu and Tricia,

Thank you for the additional insight on templates. Handy but dangerous tools!


John Burbridge June 10, 2011 at 11:24

Hi Tricia,

What are your suggestions for those of us sending coverletters to an unknown reviewer in HR. Is “To Whom it May Concern, Dear Sirs, Dear Sir or Madam, etc” acceptable?



Donna Svei June 10, 2011 at 12:28

Hi John,

I like “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Dear Recruiter.”

If there’s a search committee, then “Dear Search Committee.”

“To Whom it May Concern” is a little too anonymous.

Hope this is helpful,


Lydalyn September 30, 2013 at 07:06

Hi Donna,
I’ve addressed the cover letter and been interviewed by someone completely different. I apply to same place a year later and their HR changes. I believe that sometimes when there is no number to call and to inquire on the HR name one should use a general name ( Dear Talent Team) but some have many people in HR too. It’s a team and it really depends on situation. The trick is being noticed and being called for the interview and than shining above all the rest. It’s hard I know one day I’ll get hired!

Hi Lydalyn,

All good info. Unfortunately, I often get letters addressed to a specific person at an entirely different company! Thank you for helping me clarify

Kind regards,


Vivek Patel March 2, 2015 at 02:21

I always try not to make this mistake. Even forwarding any Email I always update the name and cross check before sending. Due to this reason I have never make this mistake. Sometimes I catch the mistake while cross checking…

Good advice. Thank you Vivek.

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