How to Use the Salutation ‘To Whom It May Concern’
“To Whom It May Concern” is a letter salutation that has traditionally been used in business correspondence when you don't have a specific person to whom you are writing, or you do not know the name of the person to whom you are writing.
Of course, you should make every effort to find a contact name to use on your letter or inquiry, but sometimes that’s just not possible. When it's not, you can use “To Whom It May Concern.”
There are also now other better options that can be utilized to start a letter, or the message can be written without a salutation.
Here is when and how to use “To Whom It May Concern,” as well as a few examples of alternative salutations to use when writing letters.
How to Find a Contact Name
Ideally, you will try to learn the name of the specific person to whom you are writing. For example, if you are writing a cover letter for a job application, and do not know the name of the employer or hiring manager, do your best to find out.
There are a number of ways to discover the name of the person you are contacting. If you are applying for a job, the name of the employer or hiring manager may be on the job listing. However, that is not always the case. Some employers don't list a contact person because they may not want direct inquiries from job seekers.
You can look on the company website for the name of the person in the position you are trying to contact (you can often find this in the “About Us,” “Staff,” or “Contact Us” sections). If you cannot find the name on the website, try to find the right person on LinkedIn, or ask a friend or colleague if he or she knows the person’s name.
Another option is to call the office and ask the administrative assistant for advice. For example, you might explain that you are applying for a job and would like to know the name of the hiring manager.
If you take all of these steps, and still do not know the name of the person you are contacting, you can use “To Whom It May Concern.”
When to Use “To Whom It May Concern”
When should you use the term? It can be used at the beginning of a letter, email, or other forms of communication when you are unsure of who exactly will be reading it.
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 material to someone whose name you do not know.
Capitalization and Spacing
When addressing a letter “To Whom It May Concern,” the entire phrase is typically capitalized, then followed by a colon:
To Whom It May Concern:
Leave a space after it, then start the first paragraph of the letter.
Alternative Letter Greetings to Use
“To Whom It May Concern” is sometimes considered outdated, especially when writing cover letters for jobs. “Dear Sir or Madam” is another salutation commonly used in the past, but it may also come across as old-fashioned.
Here are some options:
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear Recruiting Manager
- Dear Hiring Committee
- Dear Search Committee
- Dear HR Manager
- Dear Human Resources Representative
- Dear Personnel Manager
- Dear Customer Service Manager
- Re: (Topic of Letter)
You can also write a greeting that is still general but focuses on the group of people you are reaching out to.
For example, if you are contacting people in your network for help with your job search, you might use the greeting, “Dear Friends and Family.”
Another Option: Leave Off the Salutation
Another option for starting your letter is to leave off the salutation entirely. If you decide not to include a salutation, start with the first paragraph of your letter.