Who do I address this employment coverletter to?
April 16, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to apply for a job that's a great fit for me! But one thing has me stumped. The ad says to send resumes to S_smith@perfectjob.org. The staff directory says S. Smith is the "HR assistant." However, I know the name of the executive director and the person who heads the department I would be working in. Do I address my cover letter to the HR assistant, the executive director, or the department head? (I'm pretty sure I should not direct it generically to "Hiring Manager.")
posted by vespabelle to Work & Money (19 answers total)
If it's an ad you're responding to, just address it to, "To Whom It May Concern."
posted by xingcat at 12:53 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you're sending it to S_Smith, and you address it to the Big Boss, are you sure S_Smith isn't going to feel a bit put out that you went over his/her head?

I would not want to start by insulting the person gathering the resumes.
posted by musofire at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

I generally go with "Dear Human Resources"; "To Whom It May Concern" is awesome but sounds kind of old-fashioned and peculiar to me and you don't want the salutation to take attention away from the cover letter itself.

I think "Dear Human Resources" is formal and appropriate yet generic enough to work and it lets the rest of your letter stand out.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:59 PM on April 16, 2014

You are over thinking it. Nobody is going to care on a blind ad - any of the normal conventions are fine. Personally if I don't have a name I just go with...


Blah, blah, blah....

posted by COD at 1:01 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think this is a thing that seems like a really big deal when you're writing the letter but won't even be on the radar of whomever ends up reading the things. Just write something generic and nobody will be offended.
posted by something something at 1:01 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would send to S_smith@perfectjob.org and address the letter to S. Smith. You're right that it's always best to address it to a specific person whenever possible, but going over S. Smith's head is rude and unnecessary. This person probably has more power than you think - he/she may be the one that weeds out the good apps from the bad ones - and you do not want to get on his/her shit list.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:02 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd follow the protocol of sending S_Smith the cover letter and resume. I would then contact the ED and Department Head and say, "I've submitted my resume and cover letter to S_Smith, for consideration for the X position. I'd love to work with you again." This is if you know these people on a professional basis, or have worked for them in the past. If you know them through networking or something like that, "I'd love to have a chance to discuss this with you off-line, will you be a the Meeting this month?"

If you only have names, unless it's a sales job (where moxie matters) I may only follow up if I didn't hear anything within a few weeks.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:03 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ask the people you know there to ask the HR assistant what they'd prefer you do, assuming you are submitting the resume with those people's active support. If you are not, or if you can't ask them because you don't know them that well, just follow the directions.
posted by davejay at 1:10 PM on April 16, 2014

I literally just write "Hello," as the greeting. Don't overthink it. You're taking the time to write a good cover letter, which is more than 90% of other applicants do.
posted by radioamy at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2014

Also depending on the type of job they may not even read the cover letter in full. I know this is something that varies highly dependent upon industry so YMMV, but I've never seen a cover letter actually being counted for a lot.
posted by Carillon at 1:13 PM on April 16, 2014

Best answer: I read applications a lot. Applications can either go through multiple online sites or be sent to me directly (my name is listed as the contact).

I see all of the below:

To whom it may concern
Dear Ms zizzlelastname
Dr. Zizzlelastname (I am not a doctor of any kind)
Dear Zizzle ' s Boss
To the search committee
Dear zizzle's department

It's honestly irrelevant. No one cares who the letter is addressed to so long as the organization, department, and the position are correctly identified. Number of times someone's been rejected for addressing the letter in any of the ways above? Zero.

I won't say it's the same everywhere, but there is nothing wrong with a simple, generic greeting line if you think it matters to those reviewing your application.

But to me? It's an inconsequential detail.
posted by zizzle at 1:19 PM on April 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're sending it to Smith, address it to Smith.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:53 PM on April 16, 2014

You address it to the hiring manager - they're the person ultimately employing the person. Showing that you know who this is, when that information wasn't provided to you in the advertisement, is also a clear way to demonstrate that you've done your homework about the company and the position, which will put you ahead of other candidates.

Do not ever address a cover letter to "To Whom it May Concern" or "HR Department" or similar. It shows laziness, a lack of effort, and a failure to dig up information beyond what was fed to you in the job description.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:09 PM on April 16, 2014

There are no hiring managers where I work --- and hiring decisions and application reviews are never done by HR --- HR facilitates the online system by which departments review applications, but departments who are hiring go into that system and review all the applications themselves. And depending upon the position, HR doesn't even initiate interview invitations -- that is also the responsibility of the department.

A lot really depends on the kind of organization and the structure therein. While most information is listed on our website, the highest level person in my department may not be the person heading up the applicant search -- it could very well be someone different, and there would be no way to know who that is.

"To Whom It May Concern" is not lazy, and is certainly better than misdirecting an application when the people doing the hiring actually care about it.
posted by zizzle at 2:15 PM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Well, the consensus is different than what I expected! I'm glad I asked! Thanks everyone!
posted by vespabelle at 2:48 PM on April 16, 2014

I'm hiring for a few positions right now. The ad says to email myfirstname@company. Honestly, anyone who addresses their email to Hiring Manager, To Whom It May Concern, the guy who shows up on our domain registry (true story) or (even worse) the company's cofounder (my boss's boss's boss) looks like they haven't paid attention to the details of the ad, or thinks they'll be reporting much higher up the chain.
posted by third word on a random page at 3:18 PM on April 16, 2014

I'd contact the organization and ask them what S. Smith's first name is. Then I'd address the cover letter to Mr or Ms Smith accordingly. (And if the first name is Sam, ask if that's Samantha or Samuel!)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:26 PM on April 16, 2014

There is absolutely nothing wrong with "To whom it may concern." Because as this question and its answers demonstrate, you don't know the name of the person(s) it may concern.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:54 PM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Turns out the job was already filled! At least I am prepared for the next job opportunity.
posted by vespabelle at 9:06 AM on April 17, 2014

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