Whenever possible, any cover letter should be sent to a named individual, and with the uninvited letter, this advice is especially true. The largest employer in Central Florida, for instance, throws away any letter that does not address him by name. If you want to get an interview and hence a job, you can forget about using such salutations as “Dear Sir or Madam,” “Gentlemen,” “Dear Human Resources Director,” or “To Whom it May Concern.” Those salutations tell the employer that you were not concerned enough to find out whom it concerns.
The successful job-seeker will persist in following up on the interviews he or she asks for, even when the employer says there are no openings. Will the employer be annoyed with you for persisting in seeking an interview? Probably not — employers admire drive and ambition. Your persistence means you truly want to work for that company. When we were hiring, the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” approach worked on us almost every time — just make sure you don’t overdo it and end up annoying the employer.
The third kind of cover letter is a very close cousin to the uninvited letter. This letter, too, is uninvited but it has an edge. It prominently displays the name of a person your addressee knows. We call this kind of cover letter the referral letter. Referral letters are the product of networking, which many experts say is the most effective method of job-hunting. In its simplest form, networking involves using everyone you know as a resource to finding a new job.
Referral letters can come about from a variety of sources. You might talk with someone at a meeting of a trade association in your field who will tell you of an opening she knows of. An acquaintance at a party might tell you of someone he knows whose company could use an employee with your experience. A friend might tell you about a job she saw through her company’s internal job-posting.