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I am trying to get my first full time permanent job with my degree, Computer Science. I have received a lot of contradictory information on the formalities of resumes and cover letters. Should cover letters have as much contact information of the job being applied to as possible?

Usually my cover letter just has "dear hiring manager" and the job title. Someone suggested I search on sites like LinkedIn to find the name of the person who hires, and add the companies address and phone number. Is this a good idea? Some companies have multiple offices and knowing which contact info to use would be hard.

Aside: At one of the co-op work terms I did in school, my manager said the company proactively hides public facing information (for example they do not have a sign saying e.g. Microsoft Office here). Is this true for a lot of tech companies, that they try to limit how accessible they are to the public? Maybe it works differently in other industries but some ideas like walking into the office with my resume I don't think would work.

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    Like many things related to job applications, this will vary depending on country. Perhaps you might add this information to your question? – Mick Jul 5 at 7:35
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    @Mick this is in Canada – userskoup Jul 6 at 21:06
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Usually my cover letter just has "dear hiring manager" and the job title. Someone suggested I search on sites like LinkedIn to find the name of the person who hires, and add the companies address and phone number. Is this a good idea?

No. This is bordering on cyber stalking and I wouldn’t recommend it. LinkedIn is a service meant to help individuals promote their personal brand. It's not a company directory.

Some companies have multiple offices and knowing which contact info to use would be hard.

Exactly. So why even try? Better to leave it as “Dear hiring manager” or “to whom it may concern” than to waste time trying to track down contact info for individual people within the company only to have your application delayed or ignored because you accidentally looked up the wrong person. They have people whose job it is to make sure your application gets into the right hands. It’s not something you need to be concerned about.

At one of the co-op work terms I did in school, my manager said the company proactively hides public facing information (for example they do not have a sign saying e.g. Microsoft Office here). Is this true for a lot of tech companies, that they try to limit how accessible they are to the public?

People who don’t have public-facing roles don’t have much reason to publicly list their contact info and doing so opens us up to a lot of unnecessary solicitation and other forms of harassment.

Companies tend to have systems in place to ensure that inquiries get routed to the proper individual in the proper manner. This allows people to focus on their jobs without being bombarded by emails, letters, phone calls, people showing up at their offices, etc. Could you imagine if anyone with a complaint about Excel was able to access the lead developer’s direct phone line? It would be a disaster. No one would get any work done.

I’m really glad you asked this question because there seems to be a rapidly growing idea among new job seekers that directly contacting people they think might have a say in hiring decisions over social media is a good way to help land their first gig. I find this to be very presumptuous and a bit disrespectful to those who put time and effort into developing neutral, unbiased hiring processes. Maybe this is the way things work in certain industries but I don’t think it’s a winning strategy when it comes to entry level tech jobs.

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    Agreed. As a hiring manager, unless you've expressly been given names of people to contact, keep it generic. – AdzzzUK Jul 5 at 8:48
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You should definitely do research on the company and that research should be reflected in the cover letter. However that should NOT be personal information like names or job titles of people that work there. The only exception would be people you already know that work at the company and have actively agreed act as a reference. Example: "I've previously worked with John Doe who is currently a dog wrangler at your company. Feel free to contact him for his input on my skills and experiences".

To recap the role of the cover letter: Your resume describes your background, skills, education, achievement and experiences. It's the same for each job you apply. Your cover letter is specific to the job you are applying and it connects your resume and the job description. It should contain

  1. Why you feel you are a good fit for the job and how you stack up against the specific requirements
  2. Why the company is a good fit for your interests, career & passions.
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Your cover letter and resume should be specific to each job that you submit an application for. The header for your letter should be as specific as you can make it (company, name, address). Additionally, you should include a discussion of the particular role you're applying for - avoid using a generic cover letter across multiple applications, doing so is impersonal and obvious.

To address your letter use the information in the job posting or received directly from the company. Don't guess at who the hiring manager or recruiter might be - just address the letter to the company if you have no other information.

Your cover letter should follow normal conventions for letters. In order, the header should include:

  1. Your name, address, and relevant contact info
  2. The date the letter is submitted
  3. The recipient's name and address
  4. A salutation, addressed to an individual if possible

Example cover letter formatting

Good luck with the job hunt!

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There should be a job posting number. That is the most important information to include. It's a good idea to include it in not only in your cover letter but also in the subject line in your email. And yes, you should be emailing it, not trying to hand deliver it. The company should have a system in place for routing the applications to the appropriate hiring manager based on that number, and including the name of the person you think it will be going to is likely redundant or possibly wrong. If the company has its act together, including extra information such as which location is not needed.

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