“Barrett” just asked me what I thought was a great question on this post about cover letters, and figured people out there might have a similar one – here’s his Q and my A 

 Barrett Says:
October 11th, 2007 at 7:50 am e

Interesting point regarding cover letters. I admit to having gotten lazy recently. However, it feels like the majority of firms now use some sort of online recruiting system or a generic email address that is just sucking up your information into a black hole. The de-personalization of the process has gone both ways I believe.
Any advice on how to better present yourself in these situations?

Great question, and you’re spot-on about firms using on-line recruiting systems (called an ATS, for Applicant Tracking System).  The trick is to bypass HR – seriously.   Find out who the hiring manager is, or at least your best guess at it, and reach out to them via email with a nice cover & resume.  If you’re interesting – and they’re at all serious about hiring someone – they’ll make sure to call you themselves, or at least make HR reach out to you.  (If anyone in the company’s going to be serious about making a hire, it’ll be the person who’s feeling the most pain, which is usually the manager).  Sooo, how the hell do you figure out who the hiring manager is?  Great, great question.  Use a tool like ZoomInfo (this actually isn’t a shameless plug, just true – I’d be making it no matter who signed my checks).  It’ll cost you about a hundred bucks to sign up for the month, but for the money you get a chance to look into a company and find their execs, VPs, their emails, etc al.  You could also simply call the company, and ask who the manager for the department is.  You’d be surprised how often they’ll tell you.

On the flip side, if you’re applying to a smaller firm (like ours), that has a recruiter on-staff, chances are that person’s pretty engaged in the process and (I’d hope) will be looking at every resume that comes in.  The ATS is meant to be a way to organize and track contacts with applicants, not a way to filter them out – to my mind, anyways.  A good recruiter or HR person’s going to be reading every resume and cover letter, so make sure you put some effort in on your end.  Nothing makes me happier after reading through resumes well past midnight to actually stumble upon a gem of a cover letter.  If it’s good enough, I’m going to do everything I can to justify interviewing the person, even if they’re not a perfect fit.