The number of people who overlook this simple step to making their cover letter so much more effective is amazing. A cover letter is, to state the obvious, a letter. And all letters need to be addressed to a person, or it is simply junk mail.
A friend who is a store manager of a major retail outlet recently received a letter asking for an opportunity to hold a book signing. Evidently, this was actually the second letter the author had sent. In that envelope, the author also included a copy of the first letter. My friend asked if I interested. I was not, and he was not. He threw it away.
The first letter was addressed to, “To whom it May Concern.” The second letter was addressed to, “The Store General Manager.” Both letters went into great detail on who the author was and how she got to be where she was. In many ways, this was a badly written, cover letter applying for an opportunity to conduct a book signing (okay that might be a stretch).
How much more effective would this letter have been had she addressed it to my friend? Could it have been that difficult to find his name? What about a simple phone call?
In the past, I have had no problems calling a company and getting the name of the right person, once I explained what I wanted.
And it is all commonsense. Anyone opening a letter and reading a generic salutation is immediately going into “junk mail” mindset. At best, the reader will briefly skim the letter and might take a quick look at the resume before either tossing it or giving it to someone else.
I suppose some think that the substance of the cover letter or resume is most important. And I would not disagree with that. Nevertheless, to get to that great substance; you must overcome some basic prejudice. And the most basic prejudice is our belief in our self-importance.
To be clear, you do not need to address it, “To His Royal Excellency…,” rather a simple, “Dear Mr. GivemeaJob” should suffice. Using the correct name at the very least demonstrates you have done a bit of research. Will it get you an interview, or a job? It will not do that, but it will at least keep you alive.
In the hyper-competitive job market of today, every little detail comes. And this is actually a pretty big detail. Your cover letter must be addressed to a live, breathing human being.
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