Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my resume...

A few months ago, I was searching for a new career that would either: 1) allow me to move back to Atlanta or 2) at least present me with a better opportunity. When consulting various manuals about cover letter writing, I noticed that all references stated that the cover letter should be addressed, by name, to the person doing the hiring, period. O.K., so let’s consider reality for a second. Most phone contacts (receptionists or administrative assistants) at the companies I sent resumes to would have rather mailed me vital organs than disclose the oh-so-precious name of the personnel representative. Getting to the point, what is the proper opening for a cover letter when you don’t have the name (and can’t get the name) of a specific hiring representative? I prefer objective answers here (i.e. answers tied to some sort of reference) although opinions of H.R. representatives are quite welcome. I always use “Dear Sir or Madam:” Other possiblities could be:

“To whom it may concern:”


“Dear oh mighty powerful one who holds the precious key that is so vital to my future success and happiness:”

“I wept because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet. So I took his shoes” - Dave Barry

“To whom it may concern” works but is a bit stuffy.

You could always try:
ATTN: Personnel Director

To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

I have always used Dear Madam or Sir.

Insist on that name and FedEx it to their house or even to their branch office in Brazil, where that person will be for 2 days.Call that secretary every single day till they give in.

Now you’re gettin’ there.
Bowing down and paying respect is always appropriate when dealing with the Godfather.

In person.
But you ain’t visiting in person.
Nonetheless, pretend you are.
Skip the regular formalities, and cut to the chase. The regular formalities already been heard, ad nauseum. <- Latin for, don’t bore me, get to the story.

I’m movin’ to NewYawk, I can do this/these kinda jobs. You got something for me?
Keep it simple, and tell 'em what you can do for them. Don’t make 'em guess and try to find some bogus job title for you.

The proper form of address is always willingness to work to benefit the company.
(You can always sell out later, or be loyal!, who knows?)

I still think an in person interview, is better than a resume. No matter what form.

A name is always much preferrable to a generic greeting. How large is the company you are applying to? If it’s large enough to have a “Personnel Director”, chances are there is a front desk receptionist or switchboard operator. Either of these will probably be willing to give you a name. If this is not successful, and you are unable to track down a name from any other source, I would recommend the previously mentioned “Attn: Personnel Director” under the address, followed by a “Dear Sir or Madam,” in the greeting.

Keep in mind that most companies regard resumes as almost a last resort in looking for prospective employees. You really need to make some personal contacts if you want a good chance at getting hired.

Finally, find a copy of What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles. It is an annually updated guide to job hunting. It will give you a good idea about what employers like and dislike about prospective employees. (Hint: They like initiative.) It also gives suggestions about interviews, following up, and finding the right job for you. My 1999 edition only cost $17, and it was worth every penny.

“The day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life.” -George Carlin

I once used the “Dear Sir or Madam” salutation and they DIDN’T read my book, even though it took me years to write. They didn’t even take a look…

As far as you’re concerned, the most important person in the whole world is that secretary. That underpaid secretary is between you and the person you really want to get to. Is this not a position of power?
You BET it is!
So treat the secretary with deserved respect.
Explain (briefly) that you’re submitting a resume and you’d really like it to go to the right person. What’s your advice?
People like to be asked for advice.
The worst you can get is “no.” On the other hand you might be surprised at how helpful someone can be if you’re nice to them.

You could always ask that secretary whether to use dear sir or dear madam! It’s one step away from a name. Anyway, they scan your resumes, and the scanner only looks for certain words like experienced. Work the word “experienced” in there, like “You may be looking for a more experienced candidate”, it does not matter much.

PapaBear: You need an agent!With No agent, you are writing for yourself only.

Papa, as one of those people who used to be the dreaded receptionist, I could guarantee you that if you called me every single day like Sunbear suggested, I would get rude and hang up on you. But, of course, I probably would’ve given you the name anyway. What’s the big deal? Receptionists aren’t hired to make hiring decisions.

As someone who just got done getting a job and also filling a vacancy, I always preferred “Sir or Madam”. Doug’s advice on asking the recept/secretary for advice always worked on me ;). Power to the people!

Good Luck!!! The process of finding a new job stinks! I empathize with you and hope you get something great in Atlanta.

Whyever did I think PapaBear started this thread?? Sorry!!! Apologies to all!

Actually, I started a new job a few months ago (still in Arizona). I was asking the question out of curiosity and for future reference. Sounds like the “Sir or Madam” thing is the consensus. I appreciate the tips on how to improve my chances of getting a name, although I swear that some of the receptionists I talked to were instructed not to give out names. I still plan to look for opportunities in Atlanta although my compensation requirements are pretty high. I’m ready to move back, but I’m not desperate. Oh, and it was me who did the OP BunnyGirl. :slight_smile:

“I wept because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet. So I took his shoes” - Dave Barry

Papabear did sing:

I once used the “Dear Sir or Madam” salutation and they DIDN’T read my book, even though it took me years to write. They didn’t even take a look…

If you remember, you also said your effort was “based on a novel by a man named Lear”. Just what they needed: a plagiarism suit. No thank you. Your derivative work does not meet our current needs…

By-the-by, when I was growing up I thought the line “His son is working for the Daily Mail” meant he was a postal worker. I didn’t know the Daily Mail was refering to the London newspaper.

The Daily mail is a newspaper? That song actually makes sense now!

Thanks for getting my lame joke, whitetho.

whitetho said:

Neither did I until I read your post!

BTW I also enjoyed your “lame joke,” PapaBear! My resume is a thousand pages, give or take a few. I’ll be writing more in a week or two. (Sing “Frere Jacque” while reading this.)

“I wept because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet. So I took his shoes” - Dave Barry

PapaBear: I missed it mostly because that happens to be one of 2 songs by the prefab four I won’t listen to (#2 is Mr. Moonlight, I will hit the button in microseconds for that).
If you’d said “years to write will you take a look?” I might have caught it.

How’s your real book coming along?

I don’t know why, but when I was taking secretarial type classes in high school my teacher told us that “To Whom it May Concern” is no longer kosher. She said definitely try to find out the name or at least the gender of the recipient. If all else fails, Dear Sir or Madame is the way to go.

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

I have no problem with using “Dear Sir” but “Dear Madam” sounds like I’m either being patronizing or writing to the proprieter of a house of ill-repute! Any alternative to “madam”?

PapaBear, judging from Merriam-Webster’s, using “madam” should be just fine as long as you don’t accidentally add an “e”:


XYZ Wicket Inc.
Main St., Silo, NE
Dear Human Resources representative:
Please inform me of your gender so that I may address my letter properly.

Generic Applicant.
San Diego, CA