Skip to content

5 Ways To Find The Name Of The Person To Address Your Cover Letter To

Written By: Gemma Paech, PhD

I would spend hours trying to write the perfect cover letter.

Making sure to highlight my transferable skills.

Addressing all the criteria and using the exact wording, as outlined in the job posting.

Writing and rewriting to make sure it included all the relevant information in a concise manner.

And then, I would address my cover letter, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”.

What an absolute waste of time.

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I never heard anything back.

I may as well have been sending a spam email to the hiring manager or recruiter.

Hiring managers get hundreds of emails and applications for any given job posting.

To a hiring manager, receiving an application that is not addressed to them is similar to getting spam emails.

I know that whenever I get an email or letter that is not specifically addressed to me, it usually gets sent straight to the trash folder.

So, it’s not surprising that the hiring manager is unlikely to read a cover letter or application that is not addressed to them.

If the sender cannot be bothered to find out who to address the letter to, why should the receiver read it or respond?

If a computer program can be designed to determine who to address an email to, surely someone with a PhD can do the same?

There was no excuse for my laziness when writing a cover letter.

Now, I make sure I never send a letter that is not addressed to a specific person.

While it can be hard, it is not impossible.

It just takes a little bit of problem-solving.

Since taking this approach, I have had a more positive response rate to my applications, and have even managed to get a few interviews.

If I was still addressing my cover letters, “To Whom It May Concern”, I would probably still be waiting for a response.

Why You Must Personally Address A Cover Letter

With more and more applications being posted on sites such as LinkedIn and indeed.com, there is a tendency for PhDs to complete an application without including a cover letter.

Often, PhDs use the excuse that there wasn’t a place to include it.

So many PhDs think that a cover letter is not important.

However, cover letters still hold a high level of importance in the job application process.

As pointed out in Science, 40% of human resources employees read cover letters regularly, while 60% read them on occasion and think they can be very useful.

While it may not be explicitly stated that you must include a cover letter with an online application, it is still a good idea, and will only improve your application.

A personalized cover letter will allow you to highlight your strengths and accomplishments.

Cover letters provide detail that you wouldn’t always be able to include in a resume.

It also gives you the chance to make a strong argument for why you are the best candidate for the position.

Cover letters can reveal work ethic and attention to detail.

One executive told Business Insider that she only receives a cover letter from 40% of job applicants and that only a quarter of those cover letters are tailored to the job description.

This makes it easy to weed out the lazy job applicants.

A concise but detailed cover letter shows the reader that you have a good understanding of what the job entails.

A well-written cover letter also demonstrates your passion and dedication for the position, and highlights your ability to communicate.

The cover letter is an important step for PhDs to prove that they have more value to offer than other candidates.

5 Ways To Determine Who To Address Your Cover Letter To

You may be tempted to address a cover letter, “To Whom It May Concern”.

But, this tactic will get you nowhere.

Writing a generic cover letter is a waste of time.

You must address your cover letter to the appropriate person.

Networking and getting a job referral will make this an easy task.

But in other situations, it can be hard to determine to whom you should address a cover letter.

Here are 5 ways to figure out who you should address your cover letter to…

1. Call the company.

Picking up the phone and calling the company is the number one way to find out the name of the hiring manager.

It can be easy to rely so much on technology, that we avoid or forget about using the phone.

Make a small effort, pick up the phone, and call the human resources department.

This is a very quick and easy way to determine who to address the cover letter to.

When talking with the HR department, mention the specific job posting, and the job post number if it has one.

This will help the human resources department know whose name to give you.

State who you are and that you are calling about the available position.

Indicate that you would like to confirm who the hiring manager is, and who you should address your cover letter to.

There may be a rare case when the person who you speak with is hesitant to give you this information.

Assure them that you just want their name so that you can address the cover letter appropriately.

Be sure to check the spelling of the name.

Some names can be spelt very differently from how they are pronounced.

The call should be short. You do not want to take up too much time from the person you are calling.

At the end of the call, remember to thank them for their assistance and their time.

Calling is the best and most reliable way to find out whom to address your cover letter.

2. Network with people who work at the company you want to work for.

Before a job you want becomes available, you should identify a few target companies and begin networking with people who work for those companies.

This way, you have a network to call on and ask for a job referral, when a job you want becomes available.

So, if you have been networking effectively, there is a good chance that you will have been referred for the position.

In these instances, you should be able to ask the person who referred you who you should address the cover letter to.

If you don’t already know someone at the company, do a LinkedIn search to see if you have any secondary connections.

In these situations, it is rude to simply ask someone you don’t know to give you information, and it is unlikely that you will get a reply.

Instead, you need to add some value to the conversation before asking for something.

Start out by mentioning the person you have in common and how you know them, and build your professional relationship from there.

This method does take some time, since you need to create a relationship before you can ask for a favor, which is why it is so important to already have a strong network in place.

3. Read the job posting thoroughly.

Unfortunately, a lot of PhDs only skim a job advertisement without carefully reading all the details.

Not reading the job posting thoroughly will set you up for failure.

You will miss vital information about the job description, and you may also miss the contact details of the job poster.

Contact details, such as a name or email, can be hidden at the very end of the posting.

You may find that there is an email, but no actual name.

Most staff email addresses include the person’s name or parts of their name.

A simple search of the first part of the email and the company should give you an indication of who you need to address the cover letter to.

Other information that is usually included in the description, is the person who created the job posting.

This is particularly true for LinkedIn job postings.

If the job posting you have is from another website, look to see if it has also been posted on LinkedIn.

Many companies will post ads across different job search engines to increase their exposure.

If they have created a posting on LinkedIn, there should be a name and profile of the person who posted it.

Be sure to look at their profile first, to make sure they are actually the appropriate person to address a cover letter to.

This can also be a good way to introduce yourself and network with individuals from the company.

4. Find out who your boss or manager would be.

Job postings usually include details about who you would be reporting to in that position.

The job advertisement may say something like, “the successful candidate will report to the director of medical affairs”.

This is your cue to look up who the director of medical affairs is at the company.

There is a good chance that the person you will be reporting to is the same person who you should address the cover letter to.

Do a LinkedIn search of employees at the company who hold that job title.

If the company is especially large, there may be more than one individual with this position title.

You can do some additional research by looking at their profiles to see each person’s area of expertise.

By using your excellent problem-solving skills, you should be able to determine the name of the person who you will be reporting to.

5. Do an online search.

Search online for the company and title of the position you are interested in.

This will show you if the position has been posted somewhere else on the Internet.

Postings on different websites can differ slightly, even if the advertisement is for the same position.

One posting could mention who you would be reporting to, while another may not.

In addition to third-party sites, look on the company website.

Many companies, especially large ones, have a dedicated jobs page.

The job description on the company’s own page can include more detail about who to contact, as well as more information about the position’s description.

More often than not, job postings do not include the name of the person who you should address your cover letter to. And, you may be tempted to address your cover letter, “To Whom It May Concern”. This will set you up to fail. Take the initiative to find out whose name you should put on your cover letter. Always call the company first if you are not sure who to address the cover letter to, and if that doesn’t work, you can try other tactics such as networking, reading the job posting more thoroughly, finding out who your supervisor would be, and searching online. When you do find out who you should address your cover letter to, you will present as a much stronger candidate and will be more likely to succeed in getting an interview.

To learn more about 5 Ways To Find The Name Of The Person To Address Your Cover Letter To, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

Cheeky Scientist Association Learn More

Gemma Paech, Ph.D.

BOOKS

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Learn how to build the perfect LinkedIn profile to attract hiring managers and recruiters. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven ...

Top 40 Networking Scripts For PhDs

Learn how to get replies from top employers and recruiters as a PhD. This eBook will show you the exact words and phrases to use ...

Informational Interviews For PhDs

Learn how to set up and execute informational interviews with PhDs and other professionals working in industry. In this eBook, you will learn exactly which ...

Top 20 Transferable Skills For PhDs

Learn the top 20 transferable skills that industry employers ranked as "most important" for PhDs to include on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. In this ...

Salary Negotiation For PhDs

Learn advanced salary negotiation strategies for PhDs. In this eBook, you will learn how to set your "walkaway number," spot "appeal-to-authority" tactics,  and avoid "muddying ...

Industry Resume Guide For PhDs

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn ...

Top 20 Industry Jobs For PhDs

Learn about the top 20 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, ...

Related Posts You Might Like

Recessions Are Tough – 3 Ways PhDs Can Be Tougher

  Contributing Author: Isaiah Hankel, PhD Let’s talk about frustration.  I’m talking about the frustration of a rejection in your job search.  Many PhDs are ...
Read More
phds networking

5 Smart Moves PhDs Can Make At A Networking Event

Contributing Author: Sarah Smith, PhD It used to paralyze me when I would hear it: How is your networking going? I had some family members ...
Read More

Follow These 5 Resume Rules For A Successful Job Search

Contributing Author: Aditya Sharma, Ph.D. I was unbelievably proud. Finally, I could put those three coveted letters after my name: P-h-D. On my resume, I ...
Read More

3 Secrets To Networking That Don’t Involve Meeting People

Contributing Author: Aditya Sharma, PhD I was finally offered my dream job, and it made me feel miserable. Let’s go back in time a little ...
Read More
Phrases That Ruin Informational Interviews Banner

5 Common Phrases PhDs Say That Will Ruin Informational Interviews

Contributing Author: Jeanette McConnell, PhD I knew that staying in academia just wasn’t for me. But as I was finishing up my PhD I had ...
Read More

Get Hired Without Submitting a Resume – 5 Networking Strategies For PhDs

Contributing Author: Surayya Taranum, PhD As a PhD in academia, I never gave much importance to networking. If I did well, my work was published, ...
Read More