A CareerBeacon reader asked us about a job application dilemma she was having. She wants to personalize her cover letter for the specific employer – but she doesn’t have the person’s name to address it.
Hey, CareerBeacon. I’ve found a job I really want. The trouble is, I’ve been told that I need to address my cover letter to the actual hiring manager for the position – and that “To Whom It May Concern” is passé – but the ad doesn’t give me the manager’s name. What should I do?
– Eleanor C.
You’re right, Eleanor. Avoid using “To Whom It May Concern” at all costs. That’s over.
Even if the hiring manager’s name is not mentioned in the job posting that you are applying for, there are still a few ways that you can find out who is doing the hiring.
Some job ads will ask you to send your application directly to an email address, particularly for smaller companies. Sometimes that address alone can reveal the hiring manager’s name. If you’re emailing your resume to [email protected], you can safely assume that the recipient’s last name is Smith, and their first name begins with B. Google ‘Smith Acme’ and see what you find. Look at the companies ‘Our Team’ page or LinkedIn profile for employees named B. Smith.
Often job descriptions will contain a sentence such as… “Reporting to the Director of Communications, the new hire will be responsible for…” Okay. Now you know who you’ll be reporting to. Again, go to the company’s website and social networks and lookup who the Director of Communications is.
You know what department you are applying to, right? Whether you’re in IT, Sales, or Accounting, there will be a head of that department, and the odds are that person is the decision-maker in your hiring. A Google search, LinkedIn scan, or examination of the company’s corporate site should turn up the department head’s name you’re looking for. If the company is so small that you will be the only sales rep, accountant, or IT professional, you’re applying to the owner or general manager. Look up who that person is.
Wherever you found the job posting (it was here on CareerBeacon, of course), Google the job title and company name, and Google a particular phrase from the job description, see where else the job might be posted. Sometimes the hiring manager will post the job on their social networks and personal sites to reach out to their friends and followers, and finding who has shared the job online could lead you to the name you need.
If you’ve done all of this research and still cannot find the name of the hiring manager, then you’ll have to improvise. They can’t hold it against you for not using a specific name if that name is not available, even after a diligent search for it. It can be harder to find detailed information about large enterprise corporations.
You still shouldn’t say, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Try something such as “Dear Acme,” “Hello Communications Director,” or “Hi Sales Hiring Committee.”
The address doesn’t have to be a big deal, and most readers will gloss over it to get to the content of your letter. The more personal and specific it is, the better, and you don’t want it to stand out in an obviously generic or outdated way.
For more cover letter tips, check these out:
How to write a cover letter in six sentences
How to optimize your resume for the job you really want