Please help a cover-letter ignoramus
March 15, 2011 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Two dumb questions about cover letters: 1. If I really do not have the name or title of the person to whom the letter is addressed, what is the preferred salutation? 2. When applying for a part-time job, should I explain in my cover letter that my current job is also part-time, if that's unclear from my resume?

1. Dear Sir or Madam? To Whom It May Concern? I generally try to avoid this, but in this case I really don't have anyone's name and can't get it. Also, it's a very small nonprofit so it's not like they have actual HR people.

2. The advertisement says preference will be given to those who have greater availability. I want to make it clear that my current job is part-time (and somewhat flexible in scheduling), which is not obvious from my resumeĀ alone. But on the other hand, this doesn't seem like the kind of thing that normally goes in a cover letter. Where does one explain something like this?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
1. All of the above are fine. You could even just address it to the organization, so it's Dear Name of Organization.

2. You can mention that, but I don't think it's required. You could make comments on your flexibility and availability briefly since that is something specifically they are looking for. It's certainly not wrong to bring it up since, effectively, they already did.
posted by zizzle at 10:11 AM on March 15, 2011

I'm also applying to small non-profits. I had a professional career counselor person tell me to address any unknown-recipient cover letters to "Dear Hiring Manager." I think it sounds awful, and I told her so. She told me it's the only correct way to do it.

You can do with that information as you please.
posted by phunniemee at 10:16 AM on March 15, 2011

1. To Whom It May Concern or Dear Hiring Manger
2. I don't think it's weird to put it in a cover letter. "In my part-time role as a [job title] for [employer], I [insert awesome credentials and accomplishments here]." But if you really want to highlight your availability, mention that in the cover letter, too. That way they're clear on whether part time means something like, you work nights (and so are available during 9-5 business hours), or your schedule is really flexible (meaning you can move your part-time hours around to suit the non-profit's hours).
posted by neushoorn at 10:17 AM on March 15, 2011

I use "Dear Madam or Sir:"
posted by JanetLand at 10:29 AM on March 15, 2011

1. Call the receptionist at the non-profit and ask who to address your cover letter and resume to. It's worth the extra effort if it gets into the right hands faster.

2. I wouldn't talk about your current job in a cover letter, I would talk about all your assets that aren't immediately obvious when reading your resume, but that make you a great fit for their role. If your schedule is one of them, you could simply say you're available immediately, your schedule is flexible, or whatever the case to make the point that you fit their criteria without bringing up another employer in the process. Kinda like bringing up an ex on a first date: it just doesn't make you more attractive.
posted by nadise at 10:30 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

1. Addressing the letter to "Hiring Manager" is appropriate, especially if there's an HR. Sometimes, depending on your audience, "Ladies & Gentlemen" is suitable, but the former is probably more used.

2. I wouldn't. The purpose of the cover letter is not to get you a job or work out details. It is to sell your resume, which in turn sells the interview. The purpose of the interview is to sell yourself. Once they like you, the part time hours are part of the negotiation for employment terms. I wouldn't mention it until at least the interview, and preferably not until after they've expressed interest. Then you'll know how to paint it (probably flexible). I'd hit at most three points that demonstrate how you'll be a benefit to the company. It's also a good time to show that you've researched the company or the job.

Good luck!
posted by Hylas at 10:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless it's a paper letter I don't put any salutation. If it's email I just start with the body, the email address is the salutation. Otherwise, as above.
posted by rhizome at 10:38 AM on March 15, 2011

Nadise has it. Find out to whom you should address it.
posted by willpie at 11:04 AM on March 15, 2011

If I don't have a name and can't find one, I usually say "Dear Colleague."
posted by anderjen at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2011

As a completely anecdotal data point, I've heard a few hiring managers say they get really pissed off at "Dear Sir or Madam". I think they interpret it as if the applicant is addressing an individual hermaphrodite... or something. I don't personally understand the irrational hatred of "Dear Sir or Madam", but I stopped using it after hearing a second person say she hated the phrase. I instead use "To Whom It May Concern".
posted by lesli212 at 12:09 PM on March 15, 2011

I've always been a fan of "Dear Search Committee" where appropriate.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:11 PM on March 15, 2011

Because I loathe "Dear Sir or Madam" (don't quite know why), I've used "Greetings" ever since I saw it done ten years ago.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:30 PM on March 15, 2011

I've written To Whom It May Concern, Human Resources Manager, Hiring Partner... Dear Sir or Madam sounds odd to me, so I'd go with To Whom It May Concern, but really, I think you're fine no matter what.

I would just put it in your cover letter. I recently put when I was available to start in a cover letter and wound up getting the job -- this is basically the same deal, work availability. I don't see how that could hurt. I'd also find a way to make that clear on your resume.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:12 PM on March 15, 2011

1. Nadise is absolutely correct. This not only gets your resume to the right person, but it also subtly shows initiative. Initiative goes a long way in impressions, in my experience as the hirer/interviewer.

2. Comment on your flexibility, not on any clarification of your current employment, and that it's part-time, but you want to do both together, etc. etc. They likely don't care about scheduling until they get much closer to hiring.

Good luck!
posted by liquado at 9:27 PM on March 15, 2011

As a sometimes hiring manager, I personally hate "To Whom It May Concern", as it reminds me too much of passive-aggressive memos. That may be just me, but whenever I see it at the top of a cover letter I say to myself, "well, I'm not *concerned*".

As a sometimes job applicant, I usually write to the organization, partly because I think it's a little funny to address a corporate entity. Again, probably just me and I'm weird.
posted by fuzzygerdes at 2:16 PM on April 13, 2011

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