Under no circumstances should you use “To Whom It May Concern” in a cover letter. Ever. It reeks of “form letter” to anyone who reads it.
But that being said, not doing so can leave you in an interesting predicament. How do you personalize a cover letter if no contact information is provided?
This is where The Talent Buzz comes in. I was reading Is “To whom it may concern” the kiss of death? the other day and it’s a great resource for anyone who has run into this problem. The entire article offers tips and advice on what you can do to track down a contact name and what you should resort to if you are unsuccessful.
2. Call the company
If a job posting does not list a contact name, call the company. Yes, it really is that simple. Call the main number listed for the company and ask for the name of its corporate recruiter or hiring manager. Or, call and say you were wondering who manages the position to which you’re applying. That way, your materials get sent directly to the person who needs to see them.
This is a great read for anyone currently looking for work.
Sounds like an interesting idea. If you get in early enough, it may help you stand out from the crowd (before everyone starts doing it).
Does it work? I’d love to hear from someone who has tried this!
Very interesting advice over at Karen Burns, Working Girl. Her post, How NOT To Start Your Cover Letter, describes why you shouldn’t start your cover letter with the following line:
Please accept my resume for consideration of the (XYZ) position within your organization.
She goes on to suggest some alternatives based on the industry you wish to work in.
I think that this is great advice. Any time you can move away from an established norm, while staying within accepted job search boundaries increases your odds of standing out.
Do you have any cover letter intros that work for you? If so, feel free to share on the comment boards!
Always sign your cover letter. Even if you are submitting a digital one, scan in a copy of your signature. This gesture goes a long way when it comes to standing out from the crowd.
While you won’t get hired for your signature, you might just get noticed.
Spelling and grammar problems are the quickest way to derail your job applications. Ensure you proofread each cover letter and resume at least twice before you submit them to an employer. And, whenever possible, have a trusted friend or family member review them as well.
Err on the side of caution to ensure you don’t take yourself out of the running prematurely.
There’s some great information to be found in Don’t Kill Your Resume With Dumb Errors, which was posted recently on Secrets of the Job Hunt.
I’ve read the whole thing a couple of times, and of all of the advice, the following really rings true with me:
Set your materials aside for at least 24 hours.
It is vital to step away from your work after completing it, especially if you are proofreading it yourself. This will provide the distance you need to be totally objective when reviewing it.
Lots of other good advice here. See Don’t Kill Your Resume With Dumb Errors.
Quint Careers has an interesting article up outlining why Cover Letter Success is All About Specifics. And I couldn’t agree more.
Normally when I talk about writing cover letters and resumes, I like to harp on the fact that you need to stand out from the crowd. This, in my opinion, is an absolute must.
But at a higher level, it is important to understand that beyond just standing out from the crowd, sending generalized cover letters is no longer an option. Enough intelligent people are writing personalized cover letters to ensure that your generalized one will be immediately ignored.
Make sure you take some time to explore this article on how to craft a personalized cover letter. It will go a long way towards helping to land an interview.
Interesting post on Evil HR Lady (the blog) the other day. It talks about a letter she received asking her to promote a book. She uses this example to make a great point about why you need to personalize your cover letters.
The main goal of a cover letter is to get you noticed and convince an employer to look at your resume. While personalizing this letter cannot guarantee success, not personalizing it will (almost) guarantee failure.
Check out The Importance of a Individualizing a Cover Letter. It’s a short read, but might help you improve your response rate.
There’s a great post up today on CAREEREALISM about cover letters called 5 Parts to a Cover Letter (a.k.a. How to Write a Good One!).
This is an excellent article for anyone who needs to write a cover letter. While I use a slightly different approach, this just goes to show you that there are many different ways to write an effective cover letter.
Check it out here!
PS. Make sure you read the part about the “Paragraph of Knowledge”. This is where many cover letters fail and is one of the best ways to get noticed.
Interesting post at Secrets of the Job Hunt that brought a NY Times article on Cover Letter Secrets to my attention. Somehow I had missed this article. I really like the part about sending a hard copy, especially with the signed note.
Call me old school, but I still believe that a hard-copy cover letter is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd. This is especially true in the era of job boards and electronic applications. Maybe I’m a relic from days gone by, but if your cover letter is the only one on the recruiters desk, how can this be a bad thing?
It’s a short post, but well worth the read.
The unemployment numbers came back late last week and there is only one word to describe them:
According to the data, 626,000 people made initial jobless claims, which was 35,000 more than the previous month. Not only is that an incredible (and depressing) increase, but it also marks a level of jobless claims not seen since 1982.
So what does this mean for your Entry Level job search? It will mean that you have to work harder and do more to get noticed if you want to land an interview and a job.
Downward pressure can be expected in the job market given the number of newly unemployed people looking for work. This means that you will not be competing for jobs with both new graduates and the recently unemployed.
But keep the faith. So long as you are willing to put in the work, you can find a job in any economy. Interviews, if you put in the effort, can always be had. So what can you do to help yourself along? If I had to sum my advice, I would boil it down to these five things:
- Stand out from the crowd – Make sure you do everything you can before looking for jobs to make yourself appear unique. These can be life experiences, extra curricular activities, or skills that no one else has.
- Network like crazy – Always be looking to meet and mingle with new people. You never know whose company will be looking for its next young superstar!
- Prepare a stellar cover letter/resume - When you do find a job (either through networking or a job posting), have the basics of a great application package ready so you can apply quickly with limited effort.
- Brush up your interview skills – Don’t memorize answers to every interview question you can think of, rather practice responding to questions you might not be ready for. The ability to think on your feet is vital in an interview.
- Follow Up – When you do get a chance to meet someone for an interview, always follow up with a thank you note.
Now I know that this is making it sound far easier than it really is, but you can do this! If you are willing to put in the time and the effort, jobs can be found. Stay positive and good luck!
Interesting article over at Quint Careers on Proactive Cover Letters.
The job candidate is asking whether a direct and proactive closing to your cover letter will help you land an interview. His suggestion was the following:
I will call your office in the next week to schedule an appointment.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t do it for me. While I agree with the author that you need to follow up on your cover letters with some form of contact (usually a phone call), I would prefer the wording to reflect a more conversational approach. I would move towards a line like:
I would appreciate the chance to learn more about the position and I will follow up next week by phone
…or something like that. This way, you appear less clinical and you convey a strong sense in being interested in what you can bring to the company.
But that’s just my opinion.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment!
We have now covered the six steps to finding your first ‘real’ job after school and a brief overview has been provided of each. They are:
- Finding an Opening
- Application (Resume and Cover Letter)
So what happens now? Even though basic information has been provided about how to go about finding a job, I will drill down in each step even further over the coming months to provide information that will help you to find and compete for the jobs that you want.
On the left side of the page you will see the major categories that roughly correlate to the 6 steps that we spoke about earlier. Each post that I write will be included in one of those categories. Feel free to browse through them to find more specific information. And if you can’t find what you are looking for, feel free to suggest a topic, either through the comment section at the bottom of each individual post, or through our contact page.
In addition, please subscribe to our RSS feed. The button is in the upper right corner and will guarantee that you get the latest posts as soon as they arrive.
Finally, if you really want to get ahead, pick up a copy of my book Overcoming Gradversity: How to Break Into The Entry Level Job Market. You can buy it through the banner above this post, or through the link below. Or, feel free to suggest a Gradversity seminar/workshop to your career center manager. Customized programs can be provided. These programs help Gradversity.com stay up and running for the benefit of all new grads.
As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line either through the comment link at the bottom of each post, or through our contact page in the menu bar.