In the cover letter of an application to an academic job, should we write

Dear Search Committee Members,


Dear Professor A, Chair of the Search Committee Members,


Dear Professor A, Chair of the department

or what else?

In case we don't know who the chair of the Search Committee is, should we write the department to ask?

  • 4
    And remember to close with "Sincerely Yours" if you addressed a specific person, but with "Faithfully Yours" if you did not. Do people still seriously care?
    – Kallus
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 5:19
  • 5
    What about Dear Sir/Madam or To whom it may concern?
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 15:14

3 Answers 3


I address all cover letters, letters of rec, etc. "Dear Committee Members:" Don't waste your time addressing it to an individual. The only thing you can achieve by doing that is embarrassing yourself and giving the search committee the chance to have a good laugh at your expense. If you do it correctly, it doesn't actually achieve anything; why give yourself one more thing to stress about?


The advertisement usually specifies to whom the application should be sent. In such cases, use the name that's listed in the advertisement. If no name is given, then I would vote for the first option, as it is the most inclusive.

  • If they don't have any name in the main part of the advertisement but have name in the further information, what should we do?
    – postdoc
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 0:37
  • The further information is part of the announcement. You should probably go ahead and use that.
    – aeismail
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 4:26
  • 9
    One catch though: sometimes the name in the advertisement is the name of a secretary who is responsible for filing the applications, but has no part in reading them. In that case, having your letter addressed to the secretary would look weird. It's not always easy to tell when this is the case, but one thing you can do is check the department's website and see if the person is listed as faculty or administrator. Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:21
  • 1
    Of course, the committee will be reading so many of these letters that it's doubtful they'll notice the salutation at all. Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:22
  • I was instructed to send my application to [email protected], without any specific name, so I addressed it to the professor I hope to be working with.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 14:29

Following the advises published on How to write a killer cover letter for a postdoctoral application http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/asbmbtoday_article.aspx?id=48927

you should adress your Cover letter to future Principal investigator (PI) of the project:

Start off right. Address your potential future PI properly, as “Dr. (insert surname here).” If you begin your letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern,” your application could be dismissed as generic and untailored for the position. A letter that appears to come off an assembly line is likely to ride directly into the trash bin. If you do not invest the time to learn about the PI and his or her research, then the PI is not likely to invest the time to read your application.

  • In academia, we don't mind, unless it states "to who it may concern", then yeah you're in trouble. (please note the spelling)
    – PatrickT
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 23:21

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