Cover Letters

1.  A Winning Cover Letter.

Ever heard of a Pain Letter?  Now you have.  You’ve just been served.

I’ve written too many cover letters and often times feel that none of them were any good, despite the fact that they generated call backs, job interviews, and jobs.  Well, today, Monday, April 16, 2018, I found something of value . . . or so I think.  A forum member was tasked with writing a cover letter but he didn’t have the addressee’s name.  So he was left to what so many of us do is open the letter with a “To Whom It May Concern.”  After all our 10th grade English teacher told us that is how it is done.  Ah, no it’s not.  There are better alternatives.

What about using the word “Dear” at the start?  I prefer the introduction of “To” but just don’t finish it with “. . . Whom It May Concern.”  The reader might appreciate the capitalization, but it is still cringe-worthy.  You can write something like this, “To the HR Manager” or “Executive Sales / Human Resources.”  Elevate the reader beyond their expectations.  Even if they’re offended by the rhetorical flattery as being insincere, it will work on their imagination.  They’ll even feel disappointment as they work themselves back down to the self-condemning, task-manager that they allow the company to perceive themselves as.   TecBrat writes

I am probably in the minority on this, but I don’t like using the word “Dear” in this context as I think it conveys a level or familiarity.  I prefer “Sir or Ma’am…” Or even “To: Branch Manager”

This was interesting.  The commenter suggests a connection between the salutation and closing.  He writes

The sign-off depends on the salutation. As a broad rule, if you addressed the letter to ‘Dear Mr Debrett’ the sign off is ‘Yours sincerely’. If addressed to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, then ‘Yours faithfully’ is correct.

If you don’t know the name of the person to whom you are writing, start with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ and end with ‘Yours faithfully’. However, I would strongly urge you to find out the name of the HR manager. Individually addressed letters are obviously more personalised and, while it won’t make a huge difference, will appear better than standardised ones.

EDIT (CLARIFICATION): The only traditionally appropriate way to start a letter to an unknown person is ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

I would agree.  It takes only a little effort to phone the company and ask.  You’ll get some customer service number or a general operator who will relay your call to a voicemail more likely, but if you can just as for the person and his name in connection with the job you’re applying for it makes all the follow-up correspondence that much better.

Rules are funny.  Anthony Quinn [not that Anthony Quinn] writes

I was taught a simple way to remember this at school: “never two Ss together”. That is, if you start with “Dear Sir” then you never write “Yours sincerely” (note the S in Sir and sincerely), but instead write “Yours faithfully”. When you write “Dear Mr Smith” you use “Yours faithfully” and not “Yours sincerely”.

This was smart.

Right from the start, your cover letter must convey to your prospective employers that you’re an aggressive, professional, business minded person eager to belong to their company.

And so, I would go for “Dear CityBank Human Resources:” as a sign on, and would sign off with a sober, yet quite effective and professional “Sincerely,“.