Cover letters can make the difference between getting an interview or getting overlooked. They fill in the gaps and add context to your resume. A great cover letter can lead to an interview when your resume isn’t good enough 83% of the time.
Applicants should use cover letters to explain their motivation to join the company, describe career objectives or reasons for changing careers, explain employment gaps, and highlight professional achievements.
Most companies receive over 250 applications per job posting. Less than half of the applicants include a cover letter. You have a better chance of making to the top of the stack, whether your cover letter is read or not, just by having one.
Start your cover letter with an appropriate greeting. “To whom it may concern” will send your cover letter to the circular file and bring your resume along with it. Show the company you did your homework by finding the appropriate person to address your cover letter to.
Here are a few tricks of how to find who to address cover letter to.
- Search the company website. Look for pages titled About Us, Our Team, Management Team or Who We Are. Look for the human resources director. Can’t find the human resources director? Check the job posting. The job posting often states who the position reports to, such as Director of Finance. Search for that job title on the company website to find out who the Director of Finance is. You’re better off addressing the letter to who you will report to over to whom it may concern – even if they’re not the first person to read your cover letter.
- Do a comprehensive internet search. Search by company name and title: “Great Company Director of Finance.” This is more of a long shot, but you won’t know if you don’t try. If you do find a person’s name, be sure to do a little digging on LinkedIn to make sure the person still works at the company where you’re applying.
- Search LinkedIn. Use the dropdown menu in the search function to select “Companies”. Once you’ve found the company, open the “People” tab and search for the human resources director. A little more investigating of that person’s profile will tell you whether you have the right person as well as offer some insight into how to address your cover letter.
- Pick up the phone. It’s old fashion but effective. Call the company and ask who to address your cover letter to. Let whoever answers the phone know what position you’re applying for and ask who the hiring manger is by name. Ask for their contact information and how they should be addressed.
Still can’t find a name for who to address your cover letter? Don’t worry. If you’ve done an exhaustive search with no luck, chances are the company is private or maintains a level of privacy among its employees. They know this! Be specific in addressing your cover letter over generically: “To whom it may concern.” Use the job title or the title of the person the position reports to: “Director of Finance” or “[position] Search Committee.” Show the company that your letter is directed to a specific audience related to the position.
While cover letters may become extinct like landlines, CDs, and video stores, they’re still necessary for now. According to a Career Builder survey, 84% of job seekers don’t take the time to personalize their cover letter. Think about this for a minute. That same survey found that only 45% of applicants send a cover letter. Of those, only 16% take the time to appropriately address the cover letter.
Not sending a correctly addressed cover letter is a job seeking pitfall – second to customizing your resume.