Sara's Career Tip of the Month: Cover Letters!

Image of Sara AyaziHi there! I'm Sara Ayazi. As a career counselor at the Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD), my goal is to help you navigate your career successfully!  Each month, I will be sending UCSF health professional students a career tip. 

This month’s tip is on cover letters/letters of intent (“cover letter”). We recently received the following question from a UCSF health professional student: 

"I am applying to a job that requires a cover letter. Do you have recommendations of who to address the letter to when this information is not included in the job description?"

One of the goals of a cover letter is to demonstrate your interest and knowledge of an employer or residency program. You can accomplish this goal through customizing your cover letter to each position, which includes addressing your letter to the appropriate person. If the name of that person is in the description for the position, then use it in the salutation of your letter (“Dear Dr. Stark:”). But what do you when this information is not located in the description?

You have several options:

  • Online research: The organization’s website and LinkedIn are two great resources to find the name of the hiring contact. 
  • Connect with your network: Do you have a classmate or preceptor who works for, or who has a connection to, the organization where you are applying? If so, they may know the hiring contact.
  • Contact the organization: For some, this process can feel uncomfortable. However, you do not need to give your name when you contact the organization. For example, you can call and say: “Hi! I am applying for XYZ position and I would like to address my cover letter to the right person. Do you know who that would be?

Next month’s tip is on mentorship. If you have a question related to this topic, send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Career Tip of the Month.” Your question may be featured in next month’s Tip of the Month!

Sara Ayazi

Program Manager/Career Counselor, Clinical Careers

Going through these extra steps take time. However, it shows initiative and will set you apart from other applicants.

It is possible that you will go through these additional steps and are still unable to find the name of the hiring contact. In those cases, consider addressing the letter

to “[Name of Position] Hiring Manager” or “[Name of Position] Selection Committee.” We do not recommend using “To Whom it May Concern.” Although this salutation had been used in business correspondence in the past, it is now considered outdated. 

Want more information on cover letters/letters of intent? The Office of Career and Professional Development website has online resources (including samples) to support you. You can also make an appointment with OCPD.

Next month’s tip is on mentorship. If you have a question related to this topic, send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Career Tip of the Month.” Your question may be featured in next month’s Tip of the Month!

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