If you don't send your cover letter to the appropriate person, it may never make its way to the person in charge of hiring. Instead of sending it to a main address, which may receive hundreds or thousands of messages a day, take the time to research who in the company has hiring authority and how you can send your letter directly to him.
Visit the company's website and look for the name and contact information for the person in charge of hiring for the position you want. This person may oversee that department or division, with a title such as "Director of" or "Vice President of." He may also oversee hiring for the entire company and have a title such as "Hiring Manager." If you can't find specific information on the company's website, search the Internet and recent news articles for mentions of company employees whose titles indicate they have hiring authority. In the Businessweek article, "Six Tips for Following Up On Your Resume," former Fortune 500 human resources executive Liz Ryan suggests asking your contacts on social networking sites if they know anything about the company's hiring process or if they can connect you to someone who does.
If you can't find the name and contact information of the person you should send your letter to, call the company and ask for more information. If you can find a phone number for the department you want to work in, call and ask the department secretary or administrative assistant for the name and title of the person in charge of hiring and how you can reach that person. If you can't find contact information for a specific department, call the company's main number. The receptionist may know who you should contact; if not, she should be able to connect you with someone who does.
Default to Job Title
Even if you can't find the name and title of the person in charge of hiring and have to send your letter to a main company address, you can increase the likelihood of it ending up in the hands of the person who can hire you. The TechRepublic article "Create a Cover Letter That Gets Results" suggests using a descriptive title such as "Dear Hiring Manager." Even if a front-office receptionist opens it, she'll know immediately who it's intended for and will know that it's a business letter and not junk mail.
Career coaches recommend following up with an employer after you send a cover letter and resume, and this is even more important if you're not sure who to send it to. Call the company's main number if that's all you can find, and tell the receptionist you recently sent a cover letter and resume and want to verify that the right person received it. She should be able to connect you to someone who can check on the status of your application and let you know if you sent it to the right person and address.