When to use “To Whom It May Concern”

In day-to-day life, odds are good that you rarely if ever use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern.” In fact, you may have never considered using this phrase until you began a recent job search. During your job search, you might need to reach out to a hiring manager or potential new boss. But how do you greet these unknown people? At this point, you might consider the use of the salutation “To Whom It May Concern.”

Today, we’ll take a look at how to use this salutation as well as better alternatives that can help your correspondence stand out from the rest as you search for your next role.

Common uses for “To Whom It May Concern”

“To Whom It May Concern” is a broad greeting that is used in professional settings to open a letter or email. This introduction to a correspondence precedes the body of the letter. Often, it is used during the early stages of a job search.

For example, when you inquire about an open position, you might send a cover letter to a hiring manager without any insight into who that person is.

In this case, “To Whom It May Concern” is a placeholder for a more personalized greeting, such as “Dear [Name].” The salutation always uses capitalized letters at the start of each word and is followed by a colon: “To Whom It May Concern:”.

Over the years, this greeting has become less popular for professional use. With the advent of the internet, it is easier than ever before to find detailed contact information about a hiring manager prior to applying for a job.

To some, this broad salutation is seen as a lazy method for outreach. In a business world that increasingly embraces a warm, conversational tone, it is often seen as too formal – even stuffy and outdated.

While there might be situations in which this is the only appropriate introduction to a cover letter or other job search material, start by looking for a better, more personalized option.

A finger points to the acronym "TWIMC" - "To Whom It May Concern - and a cut-out figure crosses a cut-out bridge laid across two sets of wooden building blocks.
Formal communication – The easy way from A to B.

Alternatives for “To Whom It May Concern”

If you want to take your job inquiry to the next level, try using one of the following methods for opening your correspondence. This can help your letter stand out when a hiring manager is faced with a vast number of inquiries and cover letters.

1. Use LinkedIn to find up-to-date contact info

Rather than opening your correspondence with a broad salutation, try to find the name of the actual hiring manager or HR representative you are hoping to reach.

For example, if you are sending a cover letter to a hiring manager for an assistant marketing director position at a company, take the time to try and find the marketing director’s name.

One of the best places to find up-to-date information about job roles at a company is through LinkedIn.

How do you find specific contact information on LinkedIn? It’s simple! Follow these steps:

  1. Log into your LinkedIn account.
  2. Type the company’s name into the search bar.
  3. Next, you will see the company’s profile, as well as a section underneath the company titled “People.”
  4. Under the “People” section, tap “See all people results.”
  5. This will produce a list of people associated with the company on LinkedIn.
  6. From here, you can use “All filters” to narrow your search to people working in specific segments of the company. Additionally, under “All filters,” you can search by keywords, including “Title.”
  7. Once you have filtered your results, you should be able to locate the name of the person currently holding a specific job title. By clicking on their profile, you can double-check that they have still listed the company as their current employer under “Experience.”

LinkedIn is a highly effective tool for discovering information about a hiring manager during the earliest stages of the application process. By taking the time to seek out up-to-date contact information, you will showcase your ability to research and take the initiative, which can go a long way in differentiating you from other applicants.

2. Pick up the phone and call

In some cases, a business and/or its employees might not be easy to locate via a LinkedIn search. Another alternative to using this platform to find up-to-date information about an employee is to call the business and inquire about a specific job title.

In many cases, a receptionist or customer service representative will be happy to provide you with the name — and potentially even the business email address — of a specific hiring manager. This can help ensure that you have the right information before you address and send your letter.

3. Ask a recruiter for detailed information

If you are working with a recruiter during the application process, be sure to ask them for detailed information about the hiring manager. A recruiter will be in close contact with the company you are addressing, and they will often have detailed insights into the ideal person to reach out to with a cover letter or job inquiry.

In many cases, a recruiter can also provide you with information about the hiring manager’s preferences when it comes to how and when to contact them.

4. Visit the company’s About Us page

If you have been unable to find information about a hiring manager via other methods, you might consider using the company’s About Us page to find out the name of the person you are attempting to contact.

Keep in mind that About Us pages are not always as up-to-date as LinkedIn, and they often only include information about executive-level employees. However, you might be able to find out the name of the head of Human Resources or Customer Service, which could allow you to contact this person for more information.

5. Ditch the intro greeting altogether

In some cases, you will be sending out an inquiry or cover letter with little to no insight into the company you are contacting. This might make it impossible to discover the name of the person your correspondence will be reaching first.

In this situation, another alternative to using “To Whom It May Concern” is to ditch the greeting altogether. Instead, simply begin your correspondence with the body of the message.

Black arrows on rectangular blocks of wood are laid together and face in the same direction; one red arrow on block faces the other way.
There are always rules of use; and there are always alternatives.

Tips for using broad salutations

If you plan to use the salutation “To Whom It May Concern” there are a few tips that can help make this professional greeting land better with your audience.

  1. Make sure that you capitalize every word in the greeting.
  2. Follow “To Whom It May Concern” with a colon.
  3. Ensure that you utilize “Whom” rather than who or whomever.
  4. Place a double space after the salutation leading to the body of your message.

Additionally, rather than using “To Whom It May Concern” you might consider starting your message with an alternative broad salutation. Keep in mind that you only want to use these salutations when you are addressing an unknown recipient and you have already attempted to find the recipient’s contact information.

Examples of alternative salutations include the following:

  • Dear Hiring Manager
  • Dear Hiring Committee
  • Dear Human Resources Representative
  • Dear [Department Name]
  • Dear Recruiter
  • Greetings
  • Hello
  • Good Morning
  • Re: Email Topic

Realistically, no matter what salutation you begin your correspondence with, as long as it is followed by a compelling, professional letter, most hiring managers will overlook the greeting itself.

While the personal touch is always best, for more than one reason, don’t hesitate to give a broad salutation a try if needed. Learn more about how to write a cover letter or job inquiry letter through our extensive set of resources and guides.