Should I name drop in a cover letter?
March 28, 2010 4:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm writing a cover letter for a job application at a company. Should I mention in the letter how I found out about the opening?

I heard about this job from a family friend who is high up in the company. All the sample cover letters I've been looking at have the applicants saying where they heard about the job, but it's not usually from another person. I'm used to being in academia where everyone namedrops (your research supervisor probably knows the head of the dept where you are applying, etc). But this job is in industry, so I'm not sure if it's tacky to say the person's name or not. Is it better to just say you read about the job on the company's website? If it matters, the family friend told me to let her know if I apply for the job, so she can put in a good word for me (the company is very large, and she has nothing to do with this particular hiring, although she knows the people who do).
posted by bluefly to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, I would.
posted by rglasmann at 4:29 AM on March 28, 2010

How's about saying something like this: Having been made aware of the position by Ms. Family Friend, I was thrilled to see that my qualifications match those in the job posting on your website.

This way you're mentioning the family friend but also letting them know that you have also read carefully the job posting.
posted by Pineapplicious at 5:02 AM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't see why you even need a standard cover letter in this situation. Ideally it should be your family friend, not you, who submits your resume, and the "cover letter" on the file thereafter will be your friend's positive endorsement of your candidacy. (Even more ideally, your family friend submits it to the hiring manager and not to / through HR.)

If for whatever reason you should directly apply, you should ask the family friend's permission for a more aggressive use of his name.

"Dear Mr./Ms. [Actual name of resume taker]:

"[Family friend] recently let me know about [position] and suggested that I apply. Reading the job description, I agree that it is a job with a good fit for my experience and interests, and would appreciate being considered. [etc.]"

If your family friend can't or won't submit your resume, and can't or won't authorize you to use the kind of language above, then you probably shouldn't mention him at all.
posted by MattD at 5:10 AM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: My friend said she would pass my CV along, but she also suggested I directly apply to "streamline the application process." I was planning on giving her the cover letter along with my CV as well. I thought it would be a good way to introduce myself. Is that not a good idea? I wanted to know if it was ok job etiquette-wise to use her name in the letter before I ask her permission (I don't want her to think I'm unprofessional).
posted by bluefly at 6:06 AM on March 28, 2010

I know that for legal jobs, they say if you know someone who can help you get your foot in the door, mention that they told you about the job ALWAYS in the cover letter. I don't know if that varies by industry, but I think you could mention your family friend without sounding unprofessional. Pineapplicious's suggestion for phrasing is really good. Or why don't you just ask family friend? She works for the company and would know what is appropriate.
posted by ishotjr at 7:23 AM on March 28, 2010

Yes, you definitely should. This is how I've phrased it in the past:

"Dear Soandso,

I'm writing to apply for the position of xxx. I learned of this great opportunity from Joe Friend, who suggested that it perfectly fit my skills and interests." And then the rest of the letter.

Maybe a bit formal, but it gets the job done.
posted by lunasol at 7:47 AM on March 28, 2010

Definitely mention it. This is networking in action.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:45 AM on March 28, 2010

At large companies the major trick is getting your resume past the first level HR folks who's job it is to filter out ... well, pretty much everything and anything unexceptional. Anything you can do to differentiate yourself from the vast herd is a good idea. Be shameless about it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:03 PM on March 28, 2010

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