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When and How to Name-Drop in Your Cover Letter

All the career pros say "it's not what you know, but who you know." There's no real scientific proof of that concept, but experience tells us they're right. So if you know someone who works for a company you're applying to, don't be afraid to mention their name in your cover letter.

Many businesses actually encourage and reward their employees for referring job candidates. If your contact works for your target organization, find out the proper procedures for an employee referral and follow those carefully.

Here are some other guidelines to being an effective name-dropper:

  1. Make sure your contact knows the hiring manager who will be reviewing cover letters and resumes. It's pretty useless to mention someone the hiring manager has never heard of.
  2. Make sure your contact is on good terms with the hiring manager. If there was some kind of falling out between the two, dropping that name could do more harm than good.
  3. Double-check that your contact is OK with being named. It's in poor taste to reference someone without letting them know you're doing it. Like your references, anyone you would mention in a cover letter deserves a chance to back out if they're not comfortable with it.
  4. Pass a copy of your cover letter on to your contact so they know what you're saying about them. In fact, in some cases, you could even ask them to hand-deliver your cover letter and resume to the hiring manager. However, you should also follow the employer's typical procedures (applying online or by email) so they'll have an electronic version that they can forward to others.

To highlight a contact in your cover letter effectively, do it in the opening paragraph. Here's an example:

Jason Alexander, Product Manager at ABC Productions, suggested I get in touch with you regarding the Associate Product Manager opening. In addition to the background information Jason provided, I've had the pleasure of reviewing ABC Productions’ web site and am very enthusiastic about the opportunity.

Or, you could say something like this:

I would like to express my interest in the Associate Product Manager position at ABC Productions. Jason Alexander, one of your Product Managers, has told me great things about the company ...

If you have the right contact within the company who can vouch for your character and work ethic, you could jump a step ahead of your competition. And as always, keep networking. The broader your network of friends, family, colleagues, and online contacts, the better your chance of having a helpful name to drop.

Have you noticed more success in job hunting when you name-drop? Let us know below.

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