While there a variety of cover letter greetings you can use to address your letter, there are some that simply won’t do, unless your desired destination for your job application is the spam file.
The Absolute Rule Number 1 in cover letter writing
…is to address your letter to the right person. And if you look hard enough, you’ll almost always find it, even if the person’s name isn’t mentioned in the job posting. But most job postings do mention to whom the position reports. For example: “This position reports directly to the Operations Manager.”
So search for the company’s Operations Manager, beginning on their web site, where there’s almost always a page entitled Who We Are, Our Management Team, About Us, or something comparable. You can also check the company’s Press Releases, News, or Media sections of the site for the job title. And of course, there’s LinkedIn. And your old friend, Google.
Still no joy? Go low-tech! Pick up your phone, call the company, and ask for either the name of the person you’re seeking, or if all else fails, the name of the HR Director.
The Indispensable Rule Number 2 in cover letter writing
…is to grab their attention from the very first sentence. Here, for example, is a lead that puts hiring managers into an instant coma: “My name is Horace Flange and I am writing to express my interest in your company.” Really, Horace? Is that all the pizzazz you’ve got? OF course you’re writing! This is a cover letter! And of course you’re interested in our company! You’re applying for a job with us! Tell us something we don’t already know if you really want the job.
How about an opening line like this instead: “As a young boy, my first career choice was to be a basketball star. However, reality (and a lack of the requisite height) intervened. Life went on and I eventually discovered that my true talents (and passion) lie in finance – more specifically, in the field of microcredit. So if a not-very-tall basketball-loving financially-savvy self-starter interests you, I’m your man.”
Now that’s an opening sentence that will get you pushed to the top of the pile. (As for the rest of your letter, remember to talk about why you love their company, and then tell them how you believe you can help their company. And make sure it’s all just as interesting as your opening!)
The Never-To-Be-Forgotten Rule Number 3 in cover letter writing
…is to speak like a regular person. Use a conversational tone. Use ordinary words that aren’t too obscure (no one, and I mean no one, uses “bathetic,” “perspicacious”, or “supernumerary” in everyday conversation. Words like these are great for winning at Scrabble, but they’re terrible for winning over hiring managers.
Equally distasteful is language that’s overly-familiar, dude. No one is going to take you seriously if your writing style sounds like you’re just dashing off a note before heading out for a weekend with your posse. To find the perfect conversational balance between “hangin’ with your peeps” and “partaking of high tea with the Queen of England”, just imagine you’re speaking to the next person you’re hoping to work with every single day. That’s the tone of voice to go for.
One last thing: a super-careful spell check. All good? OK, mail it!