Cover letters should always be addressed to a person. They are more personal, show that you have taken the time to find out the name of the person hiring, and make more impact in a sea of “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom it May Concern” letters.
It’s not difficult to find out the person’s name, you just have to spend a little time to get the information. So how do you do it?
First of all, call the company. Simply ask the receptionist for the name of the person who is responsible for recruiting that position. No need to be a super-sleuth, tell her you are going to apply and you want a name so that can personalise your application. More often than not, a name will be given.
If you try that and the person says, ‘Just follow the instructions in the advert’, hang up and later on call again. This time, ask for the name of the person who is responsible for hiring staff – don’t specify a position, just staff. Once you have the name ask if that person is responsible for hiring X position.
If you have tried to call and have had no luck, it’s time to jump on line and do some detective work. Start with the company website – does it list key personnel? If not try LinkedIn, my personal favourite for finding key people in an organisation.
Found a name but not sure if that person does hiring? Call the company but this time say, ‘I want to confirm that PERSON’S NAME is the person I should be addressing correspondence in regard to hiring XYZ positions; is that correct?’ Sometimes if you have a name already the person assumes you are not cold calling and will be more forthcoming with the information.
If you have a name of someone in the company but are not sure if they are doing the hiring – for example you’ve got a manager’s name but don’t know if they have a HR manager – try sending two applications, one to the person whose name you found and the other addressed according to the advertised instructions. Tell the manager you have sent an application as instructed in the advert but you wanted to provide a copy to him/her as well. Always best not to bypass HR so including them in the process works best.
It’s not the end of the world if you can’t find out the name of the person, but it certainly makes an impact and shows a great deal of initiative if you do. It impresses. If 200 people apply and you are one of only four who’ve found a name and addressed the letter personally, it’s not difficult to see that your application stands out even before the employer has read a word of your resume.
With so much to gain and nothing to lose except a bit of time searching for a name, you’d be mad not to have a go.
Consider this the next time you go to address your cover to Dear Sir/Madam.