Your greeting plays a big role in your cover letter, since it tells your potential employer a bit about you. For example, If the interviewer's name wasn't listed on the job posting and you get it anyway, that shows you're resourceful. But if his name was listed and you spell it wrong, it shows you don't pay attention to detail. Each part of your cover letter -- no matter how small -- should be a positive indicator of your professionalism and work ethic.
Do Your Homework
Before you write your cover letter, research the company to which you’re applying; find out the name of the person you should address your letter to. If the contact person’s name isn’t included on the job listing, look up the company website on the Internet. Perhaps the recruiter for your position will be listed, or maybe you’ll have to call and do some digging. If calling or looking at the company site doesn’t yield a name, put the company name into Facebook or LinkedIn to see what comes up. Maybe the recruiter has a social or professional networking page, or perhaps there’s a company page with more contact info than the website. If the information you get is more than six months old, call the company again to make sure you have the right person.
Address your cover letter specifically to your contact person, if possible. Cover letters are more effective when you can make a personal connection with the person who may (or may not) hire you. If you don’t have an existing rapport with your contact person, use the salutation “Dear, “ followed by a first and last name. There are variations to this rule -- you can also use Mr., Ms. or Mrs., followed by the last name, but only if the name is not ambiguous (like Pat, Kelly or Dana) and you’re sure of the recruiter’s gender. This can be tricky with women, because even if you’re sure your contact is a female, it's impossible to tell whether she’s a Ms. or a Mrs. without prior knowledge. If you’re already on friendly terms, use “Dear” followed by the first name only. Use discernment though; be positive you’re on a first name basis before using a familiar salutation.
If you’re unable to get a name, use a professional, nonspecific salutation like, “Dear Sir or Madam," or “Ladies and Gentlemen.” You can also use salutations specific to your needs, such as “Dear Hiring Manager,” "Dear Human Resources Manager," “Dear Recruiter” or “Dear Employer.” You can also address the department directly to which you're applying, for example,"Dear Information Technology Department."
First Paragraph Tips
Use your first paragraph to get right to the point. Explain why you’re writing and which position you’re seeking. Immediately follow this information with a quick fact about why you’re perfect for the job. For example, “I recently saw an ad in the Chicago Sentinel indicating you’re hiring for a sales representative. I’d like to apply for the position; I’ve always wanted to work for your company, and with 15 years in both retail and business to business sales, I’m highly qualified."
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.