How to properly use salutations in an email

Figuring out how to begin an email can be difficult. Deciding how to begin an email to a complete stranger who may potentially hire you? That’s even more difficult. Using correct salutations in an email is extremely important, yet many job seekers are not sure how to begin.

Knowing the best greetings to use when crafting an email can elicit a positive or poor first impression. When used properly, salutations can help you stand out from the overflowing inbox of other applicants. Although it seems confusing and maybe a bit overwhelming, there are ways to properly greet a potential employer or hiring manager over email. Below are some tips to help you craft the perfect email.

Keep it simple yet professional

The first email you send to an employer – or anyone – can set the tone of the recipient’s first impression of you. “If you offend someone in the salutation, that person may not read any further. It may also affect that person’s opinion of you,” said business-etiquette expert Barbara Pachter to Business Insider. So then, what is the correct greeting to be non-offensive, friendly and engaging? Let’s go over the different salutations and when they should (or shouldn’t) be applied to your emails.

Proper Greetings


This is a clear, straightforward way of offering a professional and friendly greeting. You can also replace “Hi” with “Hello”, followed by the person’s name. This is one of the best ways to start an email.

“Dear ___,”

I have read mixed reviews about this in other articles. Some people believe “Dear” is too fluffy or antiquated. However, many think it is a formal and acceptable way of addressing someone. This greeting is also very acceptable for a formal cover letter.

Avoid these Greetings…Always

“Hey there!” Or “What’s Up!”

These don’t need much explanation. If you want to be professional or taken seriously, do not start an email with these greetings. It also shows that you don’t know (or didn’t take the time) to look up the person’s name that you are emailing. Not only are these greetings unprofessional, but the recipient may take offense to the fact that you don’t know their name!

“To Whom it May Concern”

This is a tricky one. Personally, I believe it’s ok to start a cover letter with this if you truly don’t know who the email will be read by. Another alternative is to put the company’s name. If possible, try to find the hiring manager’s name or who the email is going to. It will seem more personal and professional.

“Dear Sir or Madame”

Please never use this to address a job recruiter. Actually, don’t use it to address anyone! It makes the reader feel old and it is way too formal. Let’s leave this phrase in the 17th century.

Exclamation Points

Using exclamation points in an email, resume or cover letter is always most definitely a no. It’s ok to show your enthusiasm for the job and may throw in one at the end of your email. However, starting a salutation with a bunch of exclamation points reads as unprofessional, slightly immature and too eager.

Misspelled Names

Always double check your email for typos before you send an email. This should just become a habit. Yes, it looks unprofessional if you misspell something in a note, but it’s even more awkward if you misspell the recipient’s name. It comes across as lazy and careless. Why should they hire you if you don’t take the time to make sure their name is correct?

Salutations can help or hurt you. First impressions, especially through an email, are extremely important. It sets the tone for what the recipient will think about you — or if you ever get a response back. Choose your words wisely.