When And How To Use “To Whom It May Concern”

To Whom It May ConcernWhat do you do if you need to write an email but don’t know the name of the recipient? In this case, you may turn to the once-popular “To Whom It May Concern”.

 

 

Today, we are looking into how and when to use this phrase and even provide a sample cover letter starting with “To Whom It May Concern”.

Plus, we will give you several alternative greetings if you find “To Whom It May Concern” old-fashioned.

When to use “To Whom It May Concern”

“To Whom It May Concern” may sound a bit outdated and the phrase is used much less often now than before. However, according to a 2020 survey of over 1,000 hiring managers, 83% of them say that addressing a cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern” will have no impact on their hiring decision.

With that, it’s best to only use the generic “To Whom It May Concern” if you can’t find the name of the person you are writing to.

The best possible way to address the email is by using the name of the person you are writing to. For instance, if you are sending a job application, do your best to learn the name of the hiring manager. Here are just a few ideas on how to do that:

1. Look through the job listing

Quite often, you will be able to find the name of the hiring manager or employer in the job description or job listing itself.

2. Check the website

If you can’t find the name of the contact in the job description, check the company website. Often, companies will have a page dedicated to their team where you will easily find the name of the hiring manager.

3. Ask your employer

If you still haven’t found the name of the person you should be addressing, consider calling the company and checking with the reception. You can try to explain your situation and say you are looking for the name of the hiring manager.

If you’ve tried all of this and you still don’t know who you should be addressing, you may have to turn to “To Whom It May Concern” or a similar generic greeting.

How to use “To Whom It May Concern?”

You can use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern” at the beginning of a letter or email – or other forms of correspondence — when you are not sure about the name of the person you should be addressing.

This might happen at many points in your job search. For example, you might be sending a cover letter, letter of recommendation, or other job search materials to someone whose name you do not know.

Note that when you address a letter or email with “To Whom It May Concern”, the phrase should be capitalized and followed by a colon.

As we’ve mentioned above, “To Whom It May Concern” is a rather outdated expression. While you can still use it, there are also more modern alternatives that you may want to consider. Please find some options below.

To Whom It May Concern alternatives

Here are just a few ideas of greeting that you can use instead of “To Whom It May Concern”:

Here are some options:

greeting

You can also use a general greeting that is meant for a group of people. For instance, if you are reaching out to someone in your network for help with the job search, you can start your letter or email with “Dear Friends and Former Colleagues” or “Dear Friends and Family” and so on.

How to write a To Whom It May Concern cover letter – example

An email starting with “To Whom It May Concern” is not particularly different from any other email you write. The one small difference to note may be a difference in tone — an email that starts with “To Whom It May Concern” will typically be more formal than an email starting with “Hi”.

Moreover, when you start your email with “To Whom It May Concern”, you admit that you don’t know the person you are addressing. This means that your email will probably include more general information and no personal references.

Here’s a quick example of how to use “To Whom It May Concern” in an email.

A cover letter using “To Whom It May Concern” as a greeting:

greeting

Here’s how to write a cover letter.

Why do people use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern”?

As we’ve already mentioned above, you would typically use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern”, when you don’t know the name of the person who you are addressing. Here are some typical instances for when you might want to turn to “To Whom It May Concern”:

Cover letter

A cover letter is typically read by a number of people: from HR managers to heads of departments and even the company director. As you may not be able to “predict” who will be reading your email, you may want to start your email with “To Whom It May Concern”. Check out our post on What is the purpose of a cover letter?

Reaching out to a new client

If you send an email to a new client you may want to start it with “To Whom It May Concern”. However, make sure to use this opportunity to find out the client’s name for future correspondence.

Project or company feedback

If the purpose of your email is to get feedback that might be read by multiple people or departments it makes sense to use a generic phrase like “To Whom It May Concern” to start your email

Filing a complaint

If you are writing an email to complain about a product, service or somebody’s work you may want to use “To Whom It May Concern” to avoid pinpointing a specific person.

Letter of introduction

If you’re writing a letter of introduction to someone you don’t yet know you may use to address your email. Once again, make sure to ask for the person’s name so that you can address them by the proper name and your next email.

Prospecting emails

A lot of businesses send out prospects and emails and letters to get in touch with new clients. As you don’t know the name of the person you are right into, it’s acceptable to use “To Whom It May Concern” in this case. However, if it is at all possible, do your best to find out the name of the person who will be reading your email. This will make a much better impression and increase your chances of landing a contract with this client.

Summing things up

So, here are a few key take-aways about using “To Whom It May Concern” in emails:

  • You can address an email with “To Whom It May Concern” when you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to: for instance when applying for a job.
  • In most cases, you should do your best to find out the name of the person who will be reading your email. This will let you avoid the more generic and outdated “To Whom It May Concern”. Try checking the website of the company you are emailing, their social media pages or even consider calling the reception.
  • There are alternatives to using “To Whom It May Concern”. Start your email with a simple “Hello” or a more specific “Dear Hiring Manager” — and so on.
  • You may also want to start an email with “To Whom It May Concern” when you don’t want to address a specific person — for instance, when filing a formal complaint.
  • Use “To Whom It May Concern” when writing an email to a group of people instead of a specific individual — for instance, when giving feedback.

Learn how to write a professional email.