The "hiring manager" is generally the actual person to whom one will report if hired. You may not have much luck sussing out that person, so you will likely have to address your cover letter to HR. Not only that, the actual hiring manager may simply kick your letter downstairs to HR (who will kick it back up to him/her if your quals are attractive). Yeah, it's stupid.
IMO using "Dear Human Resources" or "Dear XYZ Company" does not stand out. It's really better, again, IMO, to address a cover letter to a person by name, and especially considering the name can be found with little effort.
Look for the name of the director of HR on the company's website. Or search LinkedIn. Or simply call the company and ask the receptionist for the name of the person who receives resumes. Verify the spelling of the person's name and his/her title. Then have at it with your cover letter.
For a large company the actual director of HR may never see your letter. FWIW at least you will know you will have properly directed your letter to a person by name.
If you're sending your resume and a cover letter to a company and you don't know the name of a person to whom you can address the letter, take some time to find out who the right contact is before you use a generic salutation. Addressing the letter to a generic person can leave an unfavorable impression of you. It's often not very difficult to discover the name of the hiring manager or the HR recruiter for a particular position.
Avoid Using a Generic Address
Using a generic address or salutation can leave a bad impression on people at the company to which you're sending your resume. To some, it implies that you are either not really very interested in the position, too lazy or not resourceful enough to discover who the hiring manager or HR recruiter is for the role. When you address the letter to a person, it immediately puts your resume in the hands of an appropriate contact, rather than in a stack of other unsolicited resumes.
Call and Ask
Call the company and ask for the Human Resource department. Explain to an HR representative that you don't want to send your cover letter without a specific name and ask if you can have the name of the hiring manager or the HR recruiter for the position. Introduce yourself and get the name of the person with whom you speak. Because you've been introduced over the phone, the person may be a good contact to use when following up on the status of your resume or application.
Ask Friends and Colleagues
Determine if you have friends or colleagues who work at the company to which you're sending your resume. Join or log in to LinkedIn (see website in Resources) or another business social networking site and run a search for the company name in your network. Ask a friend or colleague who works at the company if she can discover the name of the hiring manager or recruiter for the position. You may want to suggest that your friend submit your resume on your behalf if the company has an employee referral program that pays a bonus when employee-recommended candidates are hired.
If you cannot find a person to whom you can address the letter, be specific in your generic address and salutation. Address the letter either to the hiring manger or recruiter for the position and include the name of the position so it's immediately apparent what job you're applying for when someone opens the mail and reviews your cover letter. For example, use "Hiring Manager for ABC Position" or "HR Recruiter for XYZ Position" to help get your resume and cover letter directed to the right person as quickly as possible.
About the Author
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.
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