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What’s in a Name?

You’re looking for a job. You need to find an employer – maybe it’s a company, maybe it’s a non-profit organization, maybe it’s the government. You may not care which it is. You just need to connect with an employer. You want someone to hire you.

Notice the shift in the previous paragraph. We went from “finding an employer,” to “someone to hire you.” From an employer, to a someone.

Despite the fact that, in today’s workforce, the overwhelming majority of people work for an employer (some people do work for themselves), it’s just as true that, at the end of the day, people hire people.

Even if you emerge from the gauntlet of automated tracking systems, online applications and HR-driven reviews, it still comes down to: people hire people.

So, how do you win favor with the person who has the final say as to whether or not you get hired? One way is to appeal to a basic human primordial need. People like to be acknowledged. And what better way to do that, regardless of the circumstances, than by addressing them by their names?

You meet someone at a networking event who gives you a name at a company. “Mr. Jones, Mary Lastname suggested that I give you a call.”

You send a cover letter and you address it: “To Whom It May Concern.” Really? Search LinkedIn, look up the company on Glassdoor or one of the many other databases that are out there where people are listed. How about: “Dear Mr. Brown”? Which letter would you read?

Something as simple as referring to people by their names can pay huge, but subtle dividends throughout the job search process. “Thank you for taking time to see me today, Miss Smith.”

Mentioning someone’s name at the beginning of your interaction with them sends a message. Referring to people by their names after the fact – such as a thank you note after an interview – is absolutely critical. At that stage of the game, there is no excuse for not mentioning their names.

We all like to have our existence validated at some point and what better way to do that during the job search process than by taking note of, and referring to all the people you meet along the way by their names?


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