To Whom It May Concern: Definition and Tips for Using It Right

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If you aren't new to job searching and business correspondence, we bet you have seen many letters of interest/prospecting, job applications, and other written requests sent to an organization (or from one) to begin with the phrase "to whom it may concern." So, what's all the fuss about?

Some use the "whom it may concern" formulation on a regular basis, others use it occasionally, whereas some find this letter salutation inappropriate, especially in a job application.

The problem is that most don't even use it right.

From this article, you will learn:

  • What is the to whom it may concern meaning
  • Why it should be used carefully
  • When and how to use it right
  • What alternatives are there

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Why Should "To Whom It May Concern" Be Used Carefully?

to whom it may concern, to whom it may concern cover letter, to whom it may concern alternative

Until you define concerned, the phrase may sound somewhat weird. The traditional concerned meaning is to be worried about something. But, when you use "to whom it may concern" making an inquiry (written), it means you don't know your recipient.

This way of greeting people is somewhat outdated. Today, there is a trend toward personalization, which implies that you should find out who is that business or job contact you are writing to. Thus, sometimes, it's better to find another salutation.

The Vital Issues of Formal Letter Phrases

When writing a business letter or applying for a job, you should always do your best to find the contact name of a specific person you are trying to reach. 

First of all, there will be more chances for your request to be read. Secondly, this way, you will have a relevant person for future follow-ups. Thus, it really makes sense not to start your letter with "to whom this may concern."

There are several ways to find the specific name:

  • Job description
  • Internet search
  • LinkedIn
  • Company website
  • Calling the company

If nothing helps, only then use a generic greeting.

Tips on the To Whom It May Concern Letter Salutation Proper Use

There is a number of cases when using this salutation is perfectly fine:

  • Letters of introduction;
  • Letters of recommendation or reference for a colleague;
  • Letters of interest or prospecting for talent acquisition;
  • Formal complaints meant for a whole company or department.

Also, keep in mind the correct to whom it may concern capitalization. If you've been wondering is to whom it may concern capitalized, the answer is yes. It's recommended to start every word with a capital letter and put a colon after it, like here:

To Whom It May Concern:

Then, after a double-space, you can begin your introduction.

Alternatives to "To Whom It May Concern"

As we mentioned earlier, this kind of letter salutation is rather outdated. Thus, whereas possible, instead of "to whom it may concern," it is better to use alternative options. Once again, ideally, you should do your best to find out the name of your recipient.

However, if the company research doesn't help and you still have no name, in this part of our article, we will tell you how to address a letter rather than plain "dear whom it may concern."


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Phrases to Replace "Dear To Whom It May Concern"

Even when writing a business letter or cover letter to whom it may concern, there are still some better formal letter phrases to use instead.

In fact, you can still use a generic greeting without including a name, which, however, will look more appealing in your letter. Even without knowing an exact name, you can still purpose your letter to someone in particular - a recruiter, a human resources manager, a prospective boss, a specific team or group of people, etc. To do this, all you need is to specify the roles or professional titles of whoever you are planning to reach.

To get your ideas flowing, here are some nice options to use instead of "to whom it may concern":

  • Hello
  • Greetings
  • Re: (Topic of Letter)
  • Dear Human Resources Team
  • Dear Hiring Committee
  • Dear Search Committee
  • Dear [Department Name] Team
  • Dear [Role Name]

Starting your letter with the word "dear" + the position of the person is a great trick. Most importantly, you should define who can meet your needs best. For example, if you are looking to get hired, you should address your letter to someone in charge of making hiring decisions, etc.

Now, let's consider a few options in detail.

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Dear [Name of Your Potential Boss or the Head of the Department]

You may address your letter to a potential boss or department head. This might be the best option for cover letters, but it's vital to do it right since you will be trying to reach a busy, high-profile executive.

To do things right, research the company to identify whether its culture is very formal or not. This will help you define the proper formality and tone for your letter and explain whether to use honorifics, how to choose words, etc.

Dear [Name of the Recruiter/Hiring Manager] or Without a Name

Another option is to reach a hiring manager or recruiter. This will suit your needs if you want to get hired by a particular company.

As said earlier, the best way to send greetings is still by mentioning a person's actual name. This will help you set the right tone for your letter and show that you've done your research. However, if the name is unknown, it's okay to write "Dear Recruiter," "Dear Hiring Manager," or "Dear HR Team."

Dear [Your Future Role or a Name of Department]

Finally, you can also address your requests (especially letters of introduction) to the department you are hoping to work for or a specific role you are applying to.

This way to start may feel rather weird, but don't worry. Such letters have no less formality and can also be effective. After all, such letters will show that you are determined to work in a specific position or within a specific department, so it can help you tailor your application better.

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Final Thoughts

After reading this article, you should know for sure:

  • What the phrase to whomever this may concern means;
  • Why be careful when using the phrase to whomever it may concern;
  • When to use to whom it may concern cover letter salutation;
  • What options are there for the to whom it may concern alternative.

Hopefully, this will help you overcome the challenge if you suddenly get stuck writing the first paragraph of your letter, not knowing how to address the recipient.

In conclusion, don't forget that the team of SkillHub's career writing experts is always there if you need a professional helping hand just follow the link!

We've researched decades of articles about how to write an ATS-friendly resume to keep everything at one place. Our professional resume writers structured it so it helps you anyway. Enjoy reading!

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