One way to set yourself apart in your cover letter is to know your audience. In his book, “Gallery of Best Cover Letters,” David Noble, Ph.D., offers strategies for customizing your cover letter.

“The more you know about the reader of your cover letter, the better you can tailor its content to appeal to that person,” Noble says. “Researching the industry, company and target position through online resources or networking contacts is a great help in this regard.”

Here are Noble’s tips for targeting your audience:

• “Address the letter to a specific person and use this person’s name in the salutation. Avoid using such general salutations as Dear Sir or Madam, To Whom It May Concern, Dear Administrator, Dear Prospective Employer or Dear Committee. If you have not been able to make a personal contact, at least do everything possible to find out the name of the person who will read your letter and resume, and then address the letter to that person.”

• “If you are replying to an ad without a person’s name and have no way to learn it, consider omitting the salutation and varying the subject line.”

• “If the intended reader of your resume suggested that you send it, or if you have recently spoken with the person, say so in the first sentence of your cover letter. Indicating the resume was requested helps to get your resume past any ‘gatekeeper’ — the person who opens the mail and makes preliminary routing decisions — and into the hands of the appropriate reader.”

• “Similarly, if a third party has suggested that you submit your resume to the reader, mention that at or near the beginning of your cover letter.

• “Research the prospective company and show in the letter that you know important information about that company.”

• “Toward the end of the cover letter, consider repeating the recipient’s name to convey friendliness and to provide a personal touch.”

Additional information can be found in “Gallery of Best Cover Letters.” The book is available at major bookstores, and

David F. Noble, Ph.D., has taught English, writing, literature, business communications, technical writing and professional editing at several universities for more than 20 years. He recently retired from the University of Indianapolis.


Do what others fail to do!

Marvin Walberg is a job-search coach based in Birmingham, Ala. For contact information, see

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