“To Whom It May Concern” was once a widely accepted salutation. Today, however, it’s often regarded as a bit of a cop-out, as the internet has made finding an individual’s name easier than ever.
And as a job seeker, you’ll want to make every effort to find the name of the person who’ll be reading your letter.
In this article, you’ll learn when to use and when not to use “To Whom It May Concern.” We'll also give you eight alternatives to try.
When writing any sort of business correspondence, a letter salutation, or greeting at the beginning of the letter, is generally expected. This is true when writing a cover letter.
If you don’t know the name of the recipient, you can use “To Whom It May Concern,” but only as a last resort.
In the past, this phrase was used more often, as it wasn’t always as easy as it is today to find the name of a hiring manager.
But with the rise of professional social networks like LinkedIn, finding the name of any individual in a company is easier than ever.
Let’s go over when and when not to use “To Whom It May Concern” and take a look at what to say in its place.
There are certain cases where “To Whom It May Concern” is the right choice. It works well when you’ve had no luck finding the recipient’s name or contact information but still want to come across as respectful.
Aside from that, certain types of letters are better suited for this type of salutation.
If you’re writing a more general business letter, such as a letter of recommendation for a colleague, it’s perfectly fine to use it. Your colleague will probably hand it out to multiple recipients who have different titles, so it could be the best choice.
Other business letters you could use “To Whom It May Concern” on include:
Letters of introduction
Letters of interest
With that said, if you do end up needing to use it as a salutation for a cover letter, don’t fret. A survey shows that 83% of hiring managers won’t discount a candidate because of it.
In most cases, you should make every effort to avoid using “To Whom It May Concern.” It shows a lack of effort on the applicant’s part and may make a poor first impression, as employee names are often readily available online.
There are many ways to discover the names of individuals within a company.
The first thing you can do is take a look at the company’s website. Many organizations have a list of staff members online — take a look at their “Team” and “About Us” sections.
If that doesn’t work, LinkedIn should be your next stop. Most organizations and professionals have profiles on LinkedIn. Navigate to the company’s page and scroll through their employees.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find the name of the recruiter.
As a last resort, you could give the office a call and explain your situation to the receptionist. They may provide you with the name of the individual in charge of hiring, and it shows real initiative.
When you’re writing a cover letter for a job application, we recommend that you take the steps listed above to find a name.
It could be the difference between you and another candidate with similar experience — a good cover letter could help you land an interview, even if your resume is lacking.
When beginning your letter, you may get stuck on the very first word.
Should you open with “Dear” or “To”? Should you skip it altogether and just write a name or title?
Many factors go into figuring out which word to use at the top of your cover letter.
Before you write your letter, take a look at the company’s online persona. Assess how formal the culture is and use that to determine what you should use.
To keep it simple, we’ll be using “Dear” for our examples. Let’s look at eight options of who you could address your letter to:
Sometimes you’ll get lucky, and this information will be readily available. A job listing may include information about who you’ll be reporting to.
For example, if the job description says you’ll be reporting to the office manager, you may be able to find who that is on LinkedIn or the company website.
If you have a connection in the company, your job is that much easier.
If you’ve tried to find a name with little success, do not worry. It’s not always possible to find the name of your to-be boss. You may be able to find the next best thing — the name of the head of the department.
This may end up being your boss’s boss, but you will be working with them all the same. And it shows initiative. You made an effort to find someone to address your letter to, and that is sure to impress.
Unable to find the full name of either of those individuals? In that case, addressing your letter to the name of the department is suitable.
For example, rather than saying “To Whom It May Concern,” you could say “Dear Marketing Department.”
The first person to read your cover letter will likely be the head of recruiting or the talent acquisition specialist. If you want to address your letter to a specific person, the name of the hiring manager is acceptable.
The head of recruitment or growth is usually a prominent role in an organization and may be easier to identify than others.
If you’re unable to find the name of the head of recruitment, you can address your letter more generally to the recruiting department.
Companies often have different names for their recruiting team, so try to determine what the company you’re applying to calls theirs. For example, “Dear Growth Department” or “Dear Talent Acquisition Team.”
You may want to include the name of the company in your salutation, as an example: “Dear Jobcase Recruiting Department.”
This can signal to the recruiter that, at the very least, you’re not sending out the same cover letter to every job posting.
An alternative is to use a more generic greeting when addressing the hiring manager. That is, “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiter.” This is similar to naming the recruitment department and serves the same purpose.
Being specific pays off. Try including the name of the role you’re applying for in your salutation. For example, “Dear Warehouse Supervisor hiring team” or “Dear Sales Associate search committee.”
This shows that you’ve taken the time to customize your cover letter and is usually a better option than a more vague salutation.
You probably don’t want to use this in a cover letter, but for other business correspondences, it could be okay.
Re: means “regarding” or “referencing.” So, a salutation of “Re: your request” translates to “regarding your request.”
It’s not the most formal salutation and is better suited when addressing people who you’ve previously engaged with — not as an introduction.
When you’re applying for jobs, you want to give yourself every advantage. Do your research and try to find the recipient’s name for your cover letter.
If you’re unable to find a name, don’t worry about it too much and try one of our alternatives. The odds are that other applicants are in the same boat.
Looking for more tips on how to find and get a new job? Visit Jobcase’s Getting Hired Resource Center.