Weekend Difference: Find a Human

I’ve been telling students for years that it is terribly important to take the time and effort to find a human being’s name before you deem your cover letter complete. Then, I read this headline, “Is ‘To whom it may concern’ the kiss of death?” in an email from CareerBuilder, and I immediately knew what I was blogging about this week!

A quote from the CareerBuilder article I mentioned reads as follows:

Impersonal salutations like “Dir Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern,” show an employer two things. The first is that you lack the initiative to locate the appropriate contact; the second is that you show a disregard for any research needed to be done on your part. In short, employers will think you’re lazy and your cover letter will end up in the trash.

So, from Friday to Monday, I want you to do the following before you submit an application to a job:
  1. Read the job description…scroll down, scroll to the right…it might be listed there! (If the name is gender neutral or the first name isn’t given, you can say, “Dear J. Doe.”)
  2. Call the company/organization and just ask! Seriously…just call. (What’s it going to hurt? Plus who knows…you might end up with an informal phone interview and now you are an individual, not just a sheet of paper/email, they are waiting to hear from.)
  3. Use CareerShift. (We pay lots of money for Auburn students and alumni to have access to this huge database that not only allows you to search for available positions but it also lists the names of people who work in organizations and you can often find phone numbers, email addresses and if they happen to be an Auburn alum!)
  4. Talk to the people you know. (Using your network, whether it’s on Facebook, LinkedIn or your dad’s rolodex, ask people if they know to whom you should address your letter with a given company.)

All this said, sometimes you just aren’t going to locate a name. In that case, CareerBuilder had the following suggestions:

  • Dear Sir/Madam. All-purpose and inoffensive, although it might be perceived as stodgy and old-fashioned.
  • To Whom It May Concern. Another standard; has the downside of being impersonal and old-fashioned.
  • Dear Hiring Executive (or Hiring Committee). Formal, but appropriate.
  • Dear Human Resources (or Human Resources Representative). Acceptable only if you’re writing to a “blind ad” that lists only a P.O. box and you cannot call to get a specific individual’s name.
  • Dear Hiring Authority. Acceptable only if, despite your best efforts, you have been unable to uncover the name of the non-HR person to whom you’re sending your résumé.
  • Good Morning (or Good Day). A bit more up-to-date, but it reminds us of junk-mail greetings that try (unsuccessfully) to be personal.
  • Re: Job Title You’re Applying For (leaving off a specific salutation). A useful method for replying to want ads, when you truly don’t know to whom you are sending your résumé. We think it’s preferable to the “Dear Human Resources” greeting.
  • No Salutation (begin your letter immediately after the inside address). Again, perfectly acceptable for want-ad replies. Might be considered an improvement over old-fashioned, nonspecific greetings.

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