Friday, December 01, 2006

Confusion Reigns the Job Hunt

I ran into an interesting conundrum in my job search this week. It is often emphasized to us job seekers how important it is to address cover letters by name to a specific person. This isn't always possible, in which case one defaults to "Dear Sir or Madam," the salutation of last resort. The formatting for the greeting on a typical cover letter looks something like this:
          FirstName LastName 
Company/Institution/Organization
Street Address
City, State ZipCode
          Dear Ms./Mr./Dr. LastName,
Filling in the blanks in the above formula is not normally the most difficult part of writing a cover letter. However, I hit a little stumbling block in this case, and I’m actually surprised I haven’t run into this issue before. What is the appropriate title to use for someone with an ambiguously gendered first name? I am not culturally aware enough to be able to distinguish gender for most unfamiliar names. Many non-traditional names are also confusing, both those of the hippie variety like River, and those of the yuppie variety like Taylor.

In the case of the job I applied for this week, the recruiter’s name was Chris LastName. This particular instance is especially frustrating, since “Chris” is a nickname, and being the contact person for a job posting seems to require a little more formality. Christophers seem to shorten their names to Chris more often than Christines, but it is not a fast enough rule to gamble by: I have a college friend named Christine who often went by Chris. And the dilemma is not limited to Chrises. How do you address Pat, or Jody, or Terry, or Sandy, or Jamie?

4 comments:

jo(e) said...

What you see often nowadays is "Dear Chris Lastname:"

It took me awhile to get used to, but I've seen if often enough now that it looks okay to me. And I like it becames it is eliminates the gender confusion.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Yes, I agree with jo(e).

At the MOST, there were several Chrises and most were female but one was male. I know a number of each variety, so I'd clearly write dear firstname lastname.

Sara said...

Thanks, jo(e) and mary. I get to use your advice today, applying for another job. This time the contact person's name is Jamie LastName. When it rains it pours...

Mykal said...

I agree with jo(e). As an ambiguously named person myself I prefer to have no title applied to me rather than a presumptous one. I hate get things sent to Mr. Mykal. I am not a Mister.