Dear [first name / last name]
September 29, 2010 7:18 AM Subscribe
I'm applying to a job where I recently worked for 2 years. In my cover letter and statement of interest, should I refer to my former co-workers (who are much older than me) by first, last, or full name?
posted by jejune to work & money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I know the usual rule for job applications is to use last names. But I Googled for advice on this situation; some websites and books say it's OK to use first names if you are actually on a first-name basis with the people. However, I showed my cover letter and statement of interest to a friend, and she recommended using last names instead.
Here are some more details in case they're relevant (I'm erring on the side of more rather than less detail because I don't even know how much this hinges on the specific situation):
This is a paper application that I'm going to mail. I'm required to write a cover letter (which will be extremely brief) and a separate statement of interest.
The job is quite technical, formal, professional, with essentially no need for creativity or personal expression. Let's say it's a government agency.
The person to whom I'm addressing the cover letter is more-or-less the head of the whole agency. Let's call him Arnold Smith. He did the interview that got me my job there in the first place; I had several long work-related discussions with him during the job; and we would often pass each other in the halls and say "hi" by first name.
There's no question that if I still had the job and were emailing him, I'd start if with "Hi, Arnold." So my inclination is to start the cover letter "Dear Arnold," (with a comma, not a colon). But should I write "Dear Mr. Smith:" (with a colon) just to be all "Look, I'm following the proper rules for a job application"?
Another thing. In my statement of interest, I refer to 3 other people I've worked with. Two of them were my supervisors, with whom I worked very closely during the job and with whom Arnold has worked closely for at least 10 years. ("I have experience in X by doing such-and-such with [name] and [name].") The other is someone I rarely worked with, but who works closely with Arnold and who would be my primary mentor/supervisor if I got this job. I'm basically applying to be #2 to him. ("I look forward to working with [name] on X.") So what should I do here? First names, last names, or full names? This is another situation where I would definitely use just the first names if I were talking in person to Arnold (or anyone who might be on the hiring committee). But I have the same concern about balancing everyday genuineness (which would suggest first names) with job-application propriety (last names).
I'm 29; these people are all in their 40s or 50s.
I don't even know if the answer is totally obvious or if this is a grey area. Advice please?