Another great way to make a good first impression in your resume or cover letter is to address the hiring manager directly. While it is considered proper business letter format to use “To whom it may concern”, a much better choice is to use the name of the person who will be reading the letter. It shows a more personal touch, and proves that you didn’t just spam a cookie-cutter letter to a thousand companies.
Determining what name to address the cover letter to might take some research. In the easiest-case scenario, the name of the hiring manager might be mentioned in the job advertisement, in the form of a reply-to notice. However, more digging might be required. Many companies have a website in which a “meet the team” section or “who are we” section might be featured. If the hiring manager or head of the department for which you’ll be applying is listed, then it might be safe to use that name.
The best way to determine who will be reading your cover letter is to directly contact someone who works at the company, preferably in the department you’re targeting. If you know someone who works at the company, get them to find out the name of the person who will end up reading your resume. Better still, get them to put in a good word for you. A personal reference from someone already at the company you are looking at will probably do more good than any other single thing.
Learning the name of the hiring manager is not the only homework you should do when submitting a resume. Do some digging, and find out what the company does, and what its goals are. If possible, figure out what problems it is or will be facing in your area of expertise. When interview time comes, you’ll be able to shine by selling yourself as the answer to the company’s problems. Think about the interview from the interviewer’s perspective. He or she is looking for someone to solve some problem in the company – either too much work, or a different kind of work, or a lack of new ideas. By aligning yourself with the company’s goals and with the hiring manager’s goals before even interviewing, you increase the effectiveness of your resume and interview.
Good places to find information about a company include that company’s website, current and former employees of the company and sometimes competitors’ websites. Competitors’ sites can be good for gaining knowledge of the industry, from a different perspective than the company you’re targeting.