“To Whom It May Concern”: should you still use it? (Plus other options)

In the past, it was common for those who were applying for a job to address the recipient of their letter with the formal business greeting of “To Whom It May Concern.” However, this greeting has become less popular over the years. This is partially due to the fact that the internet allows applicants to research a company and hiring manager prior to sending a cover letter, negating the need for such an impersonal touch. It is also partly because the greeting has become outdated for other reasons.

If you are about to write a cover letter or initial introduction as you apply for a job, you might wonder what greeting is appropriate for your first contact. In this guide, we’ll help you learn more about writing a professional correspondence of this type and what other options you have available.

Why “To Whom It May Concern” might not be your best pick

While “To Whom It May Concern” is a formal business greeting, it isn’t always the best pick for your initial introduction to a company. There are a few reasons why job applicants are moving away from using this greeting, including the following:

  • It feels stiff: Many companies today are interested in finding candidates who have a personality that shines through during the application process. When a letter begins with “To Whom It May Concern,” it immediately comes off as stiff and overly formal. This is particularly true when you are applying to a company that advertises an energetic or informal culture.
  • It shows a lack of initiative: With the amount of information at our fingertips via the internet, relying on “To Whom It May Concern” might indicate that you didn’t take any initiative when applying to a role. Hiring managers want candidates that take the time to research a position before handing in an application. This can play a vital role in helping you stand out from a pile of applicants.
  • It sounds apathetic: Beyond just showcasing that you didn’t take the time to research the company, starting your letter off with “To Whom It May Concern” sounds as if you aren’t entirely enthused about your application. There is no warm or positive energy in this phrase, which results in a lackluster start to your correspondence.

5 steps to ditching “To Whom It May Concern”

Rather than relying on the formal greeting of “To Whom It May Concern,” there are other methods for addressing a cover letter or initial introduction correspondence. If you want to create a positive first impression, try these four steps instead.

#1: Try to find a name

The first goal should be to track down the name of the person to whom you are sending your cover letter or correspondence. If you are applying for a job and you know who the hiring manager is, make sure to greet them in the letter.

If you aren’t sure who is hiring for the role, take a little time to dig into the company’s information. First, carefully review the job description. Often, you’ll find tidbits of information that can help you track down the right contact.

For example, if the job listing states that the job role reports to the Director of Marketing, you can use this information to search for the right contact. Start by heading to online networking platforms and searching for the company’s profile to see if the Director of Marketing is listed. You can also visit the company’s About Us page via their website to see if you can find the manager’s name there.

#2: Look for the recruiting manager

If you can’t determine the name of the person you would be reporting to, you can opt to address your letter to the recruiting or hiring manager instead. To find this person, look up the company website or the company profile on a professional networking site.

Once you find the company’s information, look for the person in charge of recruiting or hiring. Even if they are not the person you would be working for, they might be the first person to see your cover letter.

#3: Search the company website

Often, by searching a company’s website, you can learn more about its organizational structure. This can be helpful when the job listing does not provide you with any information about who your role would report to or who is handling hiring.

If you can’t find the name of someone to address your letter to, you might at least be able to figure out what the company calls its departments. For example, a company might call their customer service department “Customer Happiness Team.”

You can use this information to address your letter to the right department. In this case, you could start your letter with “Greetings Customer Happiness Team.” While this isn’t as personal as a name, it shows that you did your research about the company and how they operate before sending in your cover letter.

#4: Ditch the greeting altogether

Finally, while it may feel counterintuitive, many people simply opt to ditch the formal greeting on a cover letter altogether. Because “To Whom It May Concern” is stiff and provides no additional hook, it might not be worth including it at all. However, if having no greeting doesn’t feel like the right fit for your application, head on to the next section, where you can find other formal business greetings to use instead.

Other formal business greetings you can use instead

If you can’t determine the name of the hiring manager, and you are running to dead ends as you look for information about the hiring department, there are other formal greetings you can use in lieu of “To Whom It May Concern,” which sound less traditional or impersonal. Try one of the following greetings in place of “To Whom It May Concern.”

  • Greetings
  • Hello
  • Dear Recruiter
  • Dear Hiring Manager

How to use “To Whom It May Concern”

In some cases, you might still opt to use “To Whom It May Concern.” If you do decide this is the best greeting for your situation, make sure you follow these three rules:

  1. Capitalize every word in the phrase
  2. Follow the phrase with a colon
  3. Add a space between the greeting and the rest of your business letter

At the end of the day, if you have sent out a cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern,” there is no need to panic. While it might not be the most eye-catching greeting, most hiring managers will look past the first line of a cover letter to discover more of who you are. Instead of worrying too much about a single greeting line, take the time to brush up on your cover letter writing skills with our helpful Cover Letters Resource Center.