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 
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?


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.