It’s best to address a cover letter to the hiring manager by name. But employers rarely give explicit submission instructions, such as: "Email your resume and cover letter to Mr. Manny McManager." Some do, but they’re the exception.
If you have a name, consider yourself lucky, and by all means use it! But if you don’t know the recipient’s name, it shouldn't be too hard to find it.
Many job postings state who the position reports to by job title, not by name. For example: "This position reports directly to the Operations Manager." If that’s the case, follow these instructions. (Not so internet-savvy? Skip to #4 and pick up the phone.)
- Go to the company's web site and look around for a listing of their executives or managers. If you find it, see who holds that job title. (In our example, that would be Operations Manager.) HINT: Look for a page titled Management Team, Who We Are, or something along those lines. It might be part of the About Us or Contact Us section.
- If that doesn’t work, search the Press Releases, News, In the News, or Media section of the web site for the job title.
- If that doesn’t pan out, Google the company name along with the job title (e.g., XYZ Industries Operations Manager) to see if anything comes up indicating the person’s name.
- Still no luck? Time to go low-tech. Pick up the phone and call the company. Be honest. Just say you’re applying for the ___ position and would like to find out the hiring manager's name so you can address your cover letter properly. Best-case scenario, they’ll give it to you! Worst-case scenario, they say no. Oh well.
- Tried everything and just can't find a name? Don’t worry. "To Whom It May Concern" or something equally impersonal is not that terrible. It just doesn’t make you stand out.
At the end of the day, your cover letter greeting won’t make or break your chances, as long as you don’t make a glaring error such as spelling the name wrong or calling someone Mr. instead of Ms. (or vice versa).
The way you address your cover letter is a small detail, but if you can successfully find the hiring manager’s name and use it correctly, you’ve immediately proven your attention to detail is well above average.
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