I recently received the following letter via LinkedIn. My response follows. The letter-writer asked to remain private, so a different name has been used. I welcome any comments you have about this exchange, and hope to turn it into a future segment on my weekly radio show:
I just read something which disturbed me. Perhaps you were misquoted in a recent article:
“Writing ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ is a clear and quick path to rejection, when you could easily find the name of the hiring manager. Even worse is ‘Dear Sirs.’ In the past two years I’ve had to respond to at least a dozen candidates by telling them they’d just ‘Dear Sir-ed’ their way out of a job,” says Lauren Milligan, a career coach with ResuMAYDAY. She advises that if you can’t find the name of the hiring manager online, use a professional salutation like “Dear Hiring Committee.”
IMHO – You are under an illusion (delusion?) if you believe candidates can find the names of hiring managers these days. Usually jobs listed on sites like Careerbuilder, Yahoo, TheLadders, even LinkedIn have NO reference to the hiring manager; often it’s a company with many HR specialists, so one can’t even know who the internal ‘listing’ HR recruiter is! Even the name of the hiring company itself is often not listed. In short, the candidate is “flying blind” all too often.
When someone’s livelihood and his/her family’s future are at stake, please don’t dismiss them for using “Dear Sir”. I really hope that’s not true. I hope you’ve never experienced what it’s like to have years of professional experience, hard work, good references, and a technical degree from a top school – yet be dismissed repeatedly by companies who won’t interview you beyond their HR department, if at all. (I don’t wish it on anyone except my enemies: it’s demeaning, discouraging, and depressing. If it weren’t for my family, I might have already given up, but I can’t quit with their future at stake.)
BTW – In case you believe the only people ‘still’ unemployed have something ‘wrong’ with them, I disagree: There are still many more good capable people out here wanting jobs than there are positions open.
Please consider this a private communication.
Raymond (name changed)
Let’s not pretend that you think I was misquoted. I stand behind everything I said, and I also appreciate that you took the time to write to me.
As a resume writer and job coach, I don’t form my opinions to feed my own ego; I’m merely sharing the harsh yet truthful information that employers and recruiters won’t ever tell candidates. Dear Sir or Madam is nothing short of antiquated, rude and demeaning. When was the last time you called a woman ‘Madam’ in a professional setting? Let’s leave this to Maitre’Ds and butlers. I’m embarrassed for the candidate who still uses this salutation; that person is clearly out of touch with modern day correspondence. You need to know this because from your very first contact with a potential employer, you are being measured on your ability to properly and effectively communicate with the company’s clients, staff and other stakeholders. As one recruiter said in a closed-door conference, i.e., no job seekers, “When I see Dear Sir or Madam on a cover letter, I have to wonder if a younger person turned on the computer for them”. Is that the impression you want to present?
In regards to my personal response to ‘Dear Sirs’ to my own company, I offer no apology. Companies are very transparent today – and mine, more than most. Me and my woman parts are solely responsible for the hiring decisions of this company – without a man at the helm. My husband is my best supporter, but he’s responsible for his own business, not mine. Any candidate who assumes that a man will be part of decision-making at ResuMAYDAY is displaying an obvious and archaic gender bias. It also tells me the candidate was too lazy to review my website. Based on those two things that I know about the candidate, why should I waste my precious and fleeting time on them?
You wrote: “IMHO – You are under an illusion (delusion?) if you believe candidates can find the names of hiring managers these days…In short, the candidate is “flying blind” all too often.” I clearly stated in that article that I recommend addressing your letter “Dear Hiring Committee”. I care very much about job seekers and wouldn’t insert my opinions if I didn’t also offer a solution. Did you overlook this while still fuming about my earlier comments? I also recommend “Dear Staffing Specialist”. That’s a freebie for you.
You wrote: “When someone’s livelihood and his/her family’s future are at stake, please don’t dismiss them for using “Dear Sir”. When one’s livelihood is at stake, that person should do everything they can to educate themselves on the most modern and correct methods for getting past the gatekeeper. Again, if you insult any person involved in the hiring process, they will assume that at some point, you will also insult a client or colleague. Why not present yourself as a smart, progressive and personable candidate? What could you possibly have to lose? Instead of taking the time to write your lengthy note to me, why not just say, “Hmm…what I’m doing clearly isn’t working, so maybe I’ll give Lauren’s advice a try.” Instead, you chose to defend your old-fashioned values…and alienate 47.4% of the working population (and rising, because the majority of people who have lost their jobs in this recession have been men) in the process.
You wrote: “BTW – In case you believe the only people ‘still’ unemployed have something ‘wrong’ with them, I disagree: There are still many more good capable people out here wanting jobs than there are positions open.” Frankly Raymond, I find this extremely insulting. If you read other articles that I’ve contributed to, or listened to my weekly radio show, or listened as I was a guest on WGN or WLS or other radio shows, or saw me on CLTV, ABC News or other television shows, you would know that I’m appalled at employers and recruiters who will only consider candidates who are currently working. I’m extremely vocal about this, even getting into a heated debate with a recruiter at a networking event over this very subject. Every time I speak at a job club (sometimes once a week and always on a volunteer basis) I feel that I’m in a room full of the best and brightest in Chicago, and it makes me angry that companies hold a person’s unemployment status against them, when it was Corporate America’s horrible decisions that led to the highest unemployment rate in 27 years. Don’t you dare put me in that category, because you are flat out wrong.
It’s your choice. Ignore me. Keep using ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ in your cover letters and we’ll see how that works out for you. I will also share this spoiler alert with you: JR wasn’t actually shot, it was just a dream. Welcome to 2010.
Raymond, I sincerely wish you the best success, but I think that you may experience greater success if you listen to the experts. Out of all the emails that I received about this article, yours was the only dissenting voice. I urge you to open your mind about this.
Respectfully as well,
Readers, it’s your turn. Please post your comments, and we’ll discuss this on my Livin’ the Dream radio show (www.mydreambiz.net).