Should I Use “To Whom It May Concern”?
You shouldn’t put “To Whom It May Concern” on a cover letter unless you have no other choice. But if you must, make sure you know how to do it properly.
When you apply for a job, your goal is to impress the hiring manager and get called in for an interview.
Using “To Whom It May Concern” in your cover letter won’t help you achieve this goal. Such wording shows you didn’t spend any time researching the specifics of the position, or even who you should address your cover letter to.
What about “Dear Sir or Madam”?
Similar to including “To Whom It May Concern” in your letter, you shouldn’t use “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Such a greeting sounds out of place in the 21st century. If you take some time looking into the job opening, you can find an option more targeted toward the person receiving your application.
“To Whom It May Concern” Alternatives
Show you’ve put some effort into your application by using a more personalized greeting than “To Whom It May Concern”. Here are five better alternatives:
1. Dear [Mr./Ms./Mrs./Miss] [Last Name],
The most suitable greeting on a cover letter is “Dear” followed by the recipient’s title and last name.
So if you find out that the hiring manager’s name is “Jake Lopez,” you can write “Dear Mr. Lopez,” at the top of your letter.
Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?
If the hiring manager is a woman, use “Ms.” as her title. You can use “Mrs.” or “Miss” if you know she prefers these titles. For example, if the job posting states “Please address all job applications to Miss Courtney Rodham”, you can follow these preferences.
Dear Miss Rodham,
How to Handle Ambiguous Names
The gender-neutral title “Mx.” is also becoming more popular for addressing non-binary individuals and people with unisex names, like “Jay Winter.”
Dear Mx. Winter,
However, it’s still rare, so only use it if you know the recipient prefers it. Otherwise they might think it’s a typo.
2. Dear [Full Name],
Another option for dealing with unisex names like “Jay Winter” is just to use “Dear” and their full name. If you use the wrong gender title, you might offend them — so it’s best to avoid titles altogether in such cases.
Dear Jay Winter,
This is also a good option if you’re writing to someone who identifies as a third gender or non-binary.
In some countries, including Japan, Taiwan, and Hungary, the last name comes first. If you’re unsure which name is someone’s last name, it’s best to use their full name in the greeting.
Dear Liao Shou-zheng,
3. Dear [Job Title],
If you’re struggling to find out the right person’s name, you might be able to get away with using their job title instead:
Dear Office Manager,
Look for the hiring manager’s specific job title on the listing, under the “Reports to:” heading:
While it’s not as personal as using the individual’s own name, using their title shows that you’re aware of who you’d be reporting to, and that you’ve put the effort into looking up that information.
4. Dear [Department] Head,
If all else fails, you might need to resort to addressing your cover letter to the head of the department you’d be working in:
Dear Accounting Department Head,
If you can’t find the name of the department, make an educated guess. For example, an accountant applicant would address their cover letter to the “Accounting Department Head” or “Head of Accounting.”
5. Dear Hiring Manager,
Sometimes you won’t be able to find any details about anything related to the job listing online.
For example, if you’re applying to a large Fortune 500 company, it might be unclear which department you have to apply to, so you’ll need to address your cover letter to the hiring manager, like so:
Dear Hiring Manager,
When to Use “To Whom It May Concern”
“To Whom It May Concern” is OK when you’re not trying to impress the reader of the letter or email.
For example, you’re sending out a letter of complaint because you’re unhappy about the service you’ve received, or one of your colleagues has asked you to provide a letter of recommendation for them.
How to Write “To Whom it May Concern”
As we said, “To Whom It May Concern” shouldn’t be used on a cover letter. However, if you’re going to use it, use it correctly.
There’s a lot of confusion among job seekers about how to present this controversial opener.
To clear things up, when writing “To Whom It May Concern”, capitalization is key. All five words are typically capitalized.
When starting a cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern,” the format is up to you. You can either use a colon, which is the traditional format:
To Whom It May Concern:
Or you can use a comma:
To Whom It May Concern,
Either way, remember that “To Whom It May Concern” is a traditional, formal opening, so don’t get creative and use a reworked version like “To Whomever This May Concern,” or “To Whom This May Concern.” These variations will make you look like you don’t understand how to write a cover letter properly.
Now that you know what to use instead of “To Whom It May Concern,” it’s time to start writing your cover letter.
We have industry-specific cover letter examples you can download for free. Simply tailor them to your own situation, or use them as inspiration when you write your own.
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