Picking Your Spots For Job Research

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m writing a cover letter for a position that said, “Send resume to Office Manager, P.O. Box…” How should I address the letter? I know you’re not supposed to use “To Whom It May Concern,” but what alternative is there? — Pat

Dale: Given that the company offered no names, I doubt they’re looking for a pen pal. Thus, responding with a generic “To Whom …” or “Office Manager” isn’t going to be a problem.

J.T.: However, it could be an opportunity lost. With a bit of research, you might be able to get yourself out of the tall stack of mail addressed to Office Manager and into the mail addressed to someone doing the hiring. If the ad/posting included a company name, you can do a Google search on the company and include the words “office manager” to see if you can locate the person’s name. If so, it’s likely he or she has a LinkedIn or some other social media profile where you could confirm his or her position/title. Further, once you’re doing your research, you may be able to find a contact who knows someone who can get you an introduction.

Dale: Although with each posting, I think it’s fair to ask yourself if it’s worth a full-out investigative/networking effort. At the mediation company I help run, we recently ran an ad for an opening, listing very specific job requirements, and we still got a hundred inquiries. Most of them did not match what we needed. Some of these people had spent hours researching the company online, finding our phone number and making inquiries. That effort would have helped their chances … IF they’d met the basic requirements. Instead of being impressed by the effort they put in, it was merely sad, knowing that they had wasted hours applying for a job for which they had no chance. I’m a great believer in all-out effort for the right openings, but you have to pick your spots.

J.T.: And the spots to pick are those where you are looking to stand out from the dozens or hundreds of equally well-qualified applicants. Each time you do the research and craft a custom cover letter, you get better at it — and faster. Which takes us nicely to the next question…

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, jtodonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at www.jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2010 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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