One of our colleagues over at CareerBuilder’s job seeker blog, The Work Buzz, recently wrote about whether writing “To Whom It May Concern” as the salutation to a prospective employer on a cover letter is the kiss of death for a potential employee.
I think what’s most interesting about this question is that, as evidenced in the post’s comments section, both those in the position of hiring and of being hired have quite a varied opinion on which salutations are acceptable on a candidate’s cover letter — and whether it even matters.
For instance, “promytius” said the resourcefulness of finding out the correct person to address a cover letter to can be construed as “nosy,” while “To whom” or “Dear Sir/Madam” reflected respect for the hiring manager and education of the individual who wrote it.
“Denine” made the point that sometimes employers list the company as confidential in their job advertisement — and in that case, it’s not only both undetermined and difficult to find out who the employer is, but it’s a red flag to the candidate that trying to find out and get in touch with a particular person at the company is not welcome.
“Mark” said there’s a reason employers use software applications and why job sites often give employers the ability to make contact information confidential — they don’t want to be directly contacted.
For “Lee,” heading formalities are not the issue, but that his company is really looking for proper spelling, ease of reading and proper grammar. And impressed with a candidate addressing him by name? Not so much: Lee said if a candidate finds out his name, he would assume the candidate knew someone within the company and was getting inside information.
“Dawn” said that oftentimes she feels at a disadvantage, because not only is a phone number or e-mail address not provided, but the company name is also kept private. With no information to go by, what is the correct way to address you, employers (assuming we are talking about situations in which cover letters are part of the application equation)?
With all the disagreement, how are candidates to know the correct way to address a cover letter — and avoid having it tossed into the nearest trash can?
How do you want to be addressed on a cover letter? Is there a difference between “To Whom it May Concern” or a candidate doing his or her research and addressing you by name? And does it even matter, or are you focused on other aspects of the candidate’s credentials?