To Whom It May Concern
With the ease of today’s internet sleuthing and the inability for just about any professional to be invisible online, there really isn’t any excuse for not having researched out who you can address your cover letter to.
I’ve always been a firm advocate that directing a cover letter to any organization stating “To Whom This May Concern”, or some other variety of that sentence, is essentially taking the lazy route and doing more damage than helping.
To state the obvious, it shows recruiters, hiring managers, and potential employers that you’re unwilling to take the 5-minutes out of your day to dig around to find out who to direct your application to. If it even gets this far, they will start wondering what other things you would be unwilling to spend the 5 or 10-minutes out of your day doing if employed by them.
If you’re unsure of how to go about finding this information out, here is an extremely easy, step-by-step guide on how to find this information and one highly-advised option to use if you’re unable to or for organizations that have way too much of a decentralized gate-keeper situation (i.e. governments, Universities, etc.)
How To Find Out Who To Address It To – Step-By-Step.
Step 1: Scan The Job Description.
If you’ve been eating your Lucky Charms, then all the information you need will be right on the job description. It’s not terribly uncommon for organizations to list a contact, a person to send your cover letter to, or be using a job-posting software that shows the contact’s profile on there. If so, then it’s a straightforward path from here!
You may have to dig around the job description a little bit before either finding it or determining that it’s not listed. It’s usually posted near the bottom of the description, but I have seen some organizations post it near the top surrounding the job information.
Now, since not all organizations are kind enough to reward someone reading through their job description with this information, the next step is relatively easy, too.
Step 2: Search Through LinkedIn
Since you’ve scanned the job posting and haven’t found any evidence of who to title/address it to, that’s not a problem. We live in a world where we’re constantly on our computers, phones, tablets, and the great thing about that is it’s relatively easy to find the information you need through LinkedIn.
When you’re searching on LinkedIn, there is a very simple way to filter your searches. You’ll first want to filter based on the organization title. Note: most organizations on LinkedIn are branded with their logo, so if you don’t see it for the organization you’ve typed in, make sure you’re searching on the correct one.
Next, you want to scan through the list of current employees. You can choose to search for both present and past employees, but the latter might only serve to confuse you.
Once you’ve brought up the list of current employees are this organization, you’ll want to look out for certain job titles: “Recruiter”, “HR Coordinator”, “Talent Acquisition”, “People Operations”, and the like. I always advise putting together a couple possible candidates and verifying through the next step.
Step 3: Call The Organization
If you’re still drawing a blank, or want to absolutely confirm that you’re addressing it to the correct person, then you can call the organization directly. You don’t have to speak directly with the HR/Hiring department, but if you can manage to, it’s a great opportunity to connect over the phone.
Now, sometimes you might be told by the Receptionist/Office Manager who to title your cover letter to, and that’s okay. If you’re able to make it through to the HR/Recruitment department, this gives you an opportunity to ask a few QUICK but INSIGHTFUL questions to the hiring manager or someone on their team, before sending your resume and cover letter off with confidence. Remember: you’re not trying to be overbearing or sell yourself over the phone. If you genuinely don’t have any questions, please don’t force it. Grab the information you need, thank them, and be on your way to finishing up your awesome application.
If you’re speaking to the HR department about who to address it to, and you start off by saying “Hi there, I was doing some research on LinkedIn and was wondering if I should direct my cover letter to Sam Quigley, People Operations Director, or if there is someone else responsible?”
If you’re able to make a positive impression in that short time, they may either seek out your application or at least fondly remember your interaction when they come across it during their application review.
Step 4: If All Else Fails, Leave It, Blank
Leave it blank. Yes, this is an option, and if done correctly, can be WAY more effective than writing “To Whom It May Concern”. As well, a small caveat is for large, bureaucratic organizations, where it would their structures can be so convoluted that not even the person posting the job will see the applicants. In those cases (think: government & post-secondary institution jobs).
First off, still include the organization’s information, including department. Then start with your cover letter introduction, like so.
XZY Organization, HR Department
1234 Some Street, City, State.
One of my favourite memories growing up was the first time I “swooshed” a basketball through the hoop. While I never grew above 5-foot-9, I still found ways to stay involved with the sport I love through coaching, running tournaments, and interning with the National Basketball Association….
When you format your letter like above, no one will notice or be offended that you didn’t take the time to address it to someone. Again, I’m not suggesting this as your default, but an option for when all else fails.