An employer will often provide a name and an e-mail address in a job posting, where interested applicants can send resumes and cover letters for consideration. However, some employers fail to provide a name. This only leaves the applicant with an e-mail address or steps to apply using an online application system. If you do not know the name of the recipient or have doubts in regards to the gender, you have a couple of options on how to address the reader.
Do not use a name you found on the company's website, if the employer has not provided a name in the job description posting. You do not know who will be reading and evaluating the job applications. Instead, use a general salutation such as "Dear Ladies and Gentlemen" or "To Whom it May Concern." If you choose to use a gender specific salutation, use "Mr." and "Ms." for American English, rather than "Sir" or "Madam" for British English.
Ms., Miss or Mrs.
The name on the job posting may clearly reveal that the recipient is a woman. Be careful when you address women in a salutation, as the abbreviations for ladies indicate their marital status. For instance, "Mrs." indicates that the recipient is married. "Miss" is used to address a single woman. The term "Ms." is used to address unmarried women, but also used if you do not know whether the woman is married or single. In other words, "Ms." is the default abbreviation for women.
The recipient of all the job applications for a given job opening may have an unusual name that does not indicate whether the recipient is a male or female. Do not guess the gender of the recipient, even if you have a feeling that it is a man or woman. If you guess wrong, it could insult the recipient. Simply write the name as it appears on the job posting following "Dear" or use the "To Whom it May Concern" salutation.
Importance of Proper Salutation
An improper salutation can highly offend the receipt. If the recipient is the business owner and the applications evaluator, you may risk your chance at an interview if he is offended by being called a woman. While some employers place much weight on the professional salutation, others do not see it as an important factor in the application process. However, to avoid risking your spot in the race for the position, use professional and proper salutations.