Specializing the question Who to address on the cover letter?, let's assume that you apply for a tenure-track position in the US in computer science, that the job announcement has no particular individual listed, and that Google/Bing/Yahoo led you to, say, "recruiting committee" (as opposed to "search team"). Then, which opening would be proper:

To Whom It May Concern


Dear Recruiting Committee


To the Recruiting Committee


Dear Representative of the Recruiting Committee


Dear Ladies and Gentlemen


How about the punctuation after the opening? No punctuation, a comma, or a colon? I.e.:

〈Whatever opening〉

〈Whatever opening〉,

〈Whatever opening〉:

All are o.k. according to the broad English grammar, but, in academia things might be more special.

  • 1
    I used Dear Search Committee, for my US CS TT applications. – Thomas Jan 14 '18 at 0:32
  • @Thomas Have you had luck with such an application? – Hexal Jan 14 '18 at 6:00
  • 1
    @Hexal No one is going to decide whether to hire you based on whether or what salutation you've used in your cover letter. They'll decide based on actual substance, including your CV, LORs, statements, teaching demo and interviews. – Nicole Hamilton Jan 15 '18 at 14:51
  • @Hexal, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it isn’t something ridiculous like yo’ doodz, pls gimme a job. Your success is not gong to come down to the salutation on your cover letter. Also, yes, I’ve gotten several interviews thus far. Thank you for asking and good luck to you. – Thomas Jan 18 '18 at 18:52

Use an inside address and a subject line, then dive into your letter. You can skip the salutation in letters to committees.

Recruiting Committee
University of Whatever
City, State Zip

Request for appointment

I would like to be considered for a full-time appointment as ...

  • 1
    Starting the para with "I"? – Hexal Jan 14 '18 at 6:00
  • @Hexal This is how I've requested my appointments and it seems to work. :) It's direct. – Nicole Hamilton Jan 14 '18 at 6:04
  • Oh, but your profile says you're still a lecturer. So, it worked not for a TT position? – Hexal Jan 15 '18 at 10:02
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    @Hexal Yes, I'm a lecturer. I'm also 67 and on our search committee. There's no difference in the format of a cover letter for a lecturer vs TT position. – Nicole Hamilton Jan 15 '18 at 14:27

"To whom it may concern" is perfectly valid, but you shouldn't capitalise every word as you did in your example.

Instead of "Dear Recruiting Committee" I would write "To the Recruiting Committee". I don't have a good reason for this, it just sounds better to my ear.

I would definitely not use "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen". You're not the ringmaster in a circus. This phrase sounds very odd, especially because you have no idea who is on the committee (there may be no women or no men on it).

Finally, the correct punctuation after all of these (and indeed, any salutation in a letter) is a comma.

  • Thx! I added "To the Recruiting Committee" to the list to let others express their opinion on that. Regarding capitalization, Purdue OWL owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/652 thinks diferently. – Hexal Jan 13 '18 at 23:57
  • @Hexal maybe it's a difference between British and American English. IMO, it's not a title or name and therefore lowercase is correct. (Either way, I doubt it will affect your application. The content of the letter is far more important.) – astronat Jan 14 '18 at 0:25
  • @Hexal yes, but if I, an English person were applying to the US, I wouldn't change how I spell things just to fit American convention. Like I said, I don't think these subtleties really matter. – astronat Jan 14 '18 at 8:42
  • The question is about the US and about the subtleties. – Hexal Jan 15 '18 at 2:36
  • 3
    @Hexal you are overthinking things. – astronat Jan 15 '18 at 8:09

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