“To Whom It May Concern” Cover Letter Greeting—Yes or No?

A woman sitting on the floor and typing on her laptop

Overview

“To Whom It May Concern” as a Cover Letter Greeting—Really?

Applying for a job is accompanied by many dilemmas, the first of which is whether you need a cover letter (yes, you do; it’s very important), and soon after, how to address your cover letter. One of the options is the “To Whom It May Concern” cover letter greeting.

There is a bit of controversy surrounding this particular salutation. In this article, you’ll find out all about it and get tips for using “To Whom It May Concern” in a cover letter, namely:

  • When to use it
  • How to use it properly
  • What the alternatives are

Is It OK To Put “To Whom It May Concern” on a Cover Letter?

A recruiter talking on her phone with a laptop in her lap

Source: Magnet.me

“To Whom It May Concern” is commonly used in formal correspondence. It is a perfectly acceptable cover letter greeting when you don’t know who to address the letter to. It is also appropriate to use this greeting if you are not applying for a job but writing a letter of interest or making any other inquiry and you don’t know who to address it to. 

But this greeting is not the only option. If you’re feeling worried about choosing the wrong cover letter greeting and starting on the wrong foot, rest assured you’re not the only one. After all, the greeting is the first thing that a hiring manager will see, right?

What no one tells you, though, is that hiring managers (probably) won’t really care. They may not even pay attention to the salutation.

Knowing the hiring manager’s name won’t make or break your cover letter either. You can start your letter with “To Whom It May Concern” or a specific name, follow with a suitable outline, get the length just right, and get all the technical aspects down, but if you lack in the skills department, none of it will matter. 

You’ll only stand out if you focus on what makes you a great candidate—by demonstrating why you and the company are a match made in heaven.

How Do You Use “To Whom It May Concern” Correctly?

To leave a great impression on the hiring manager, you can’t afford to make any mistakes. “To Whom It May Concern” is the phrase you will put at the beginning of your cover letter, right after the header and before your opening paragraph. You can also use it to start your email, whether you are enclosing your cover letter in the attachment or writing it in the body of the email

You may also wonder—do you capitalize “To Whom It May Concern” in a cover letter? The answer is yes—you must capitalize all five words and follow with a comma. Leave the next line blank.

The rest of the cover letter should follow the established structure. These are the typical parts:

Cover Letter PartWhat It Includes
Opening paragraphReasons for writing
Main paragraph(s)Reasons you are a good candidate
Closing paragraphA statement of your enthusiasm for the role and a call to action
Complimentary closingA formal phrase to end your cover letter
SignatureYour full name (you can type it our use an electronic signature)

What Not To Do

A candidate working on his application

Source: Bench Accounting

You must remember that “To Whom It May Concern” is a fixed phrase. It is a traditional, formal opening that you mustn’t change. Forget about creating alternatives such as “To Whomever It May Concern” or “To Whom This May Concern.”

Also, note that while certain formatting tricks will help your cover letter stand out, you shouldn’t bold the greeting. Leave the bold option for your skills and achievements.

Is It Better To Use the Hiring Manager’s Name in the Greeting?

Finding a hiring manager’s name so that you can address them personally instead of with a generic greeting such as “To Whom It May Concern” can have its benefits. 

The point of a cover letter is to impress a prospective employer—you can try to do it with a generic cover letter, but adding a personal touch will give you an advantage.

The moment you mention a person’s name, you provoke an immediate reaction in their brain. They look at your letter differently. They feel like you have written it specifically for them. It might help them remember you. 

But if you’re actively looking for a job and applying for many positions, you may not have enough time to find out what each company’s hiring manager is called. In that case, digging for that info online might be a waste of time. Only if you’re chasing that one perfect role (or this is your first entry-level job) would you want to take that extra step—and here are the ways to do it.

How To Find Who To Address Your Cover Letter To

If you want to find the name of the addressee, you have several options:

  1. Reread the job ad—The name of the recruiter/hiring manager or their professional email address is sometimes mentioned in the job posting
  2. Visit the company website—Contact information of the hiring manager is often provided in the Team or About Us section
  3. Check out the company’s LinkedIn profile—It may contain information on the current employees and their job titles
  4. Conduct a targeted Google search—The name of the hiring manager in a particular company could show up in the results

What You Should Absolutely Not Do When Addressing Your Cover Letter

Even if this is your #goals job, do not call or email the company to ask them who their hiring manager is. You do want to stand out from other candidates, but not by being the annoying one.

You would only be wasting their time by contacting them for such a minor issue. This could also be pointless for you, because:

  1. A company might have an HR team—Several people might be evaluating applications, so even if you get a name, you can’t know whether that person will be handling your application
  2. There may be several open positions—The person who answers your call might not know who is in charge of hiring for that particular position
  3. Teams could be working remotely—If you find a phone number, you can’t be entirely sure you aren’t calling someone at home

Useful Alternatives to “To Whom It May Concern”

If you’re worried that “To Whom It May Concern” is making you sound like a robot, you can use some other greetings. The table below presents other acceptable alternatives:

Generic SalutationsSalutations for Direct Managers
Dear Sir or Madam,
Dear Hiring Manager,
Dear Hiring Team,
Dear Recruiter,
Dear Human Resources Representative,
Dear Sales Director,
Dear Marketing Manager,
Dear Head of Operations,

The options in the first column are a perfectly safe solution as they may apply to any member of the hiring or HR team. The alternatives in the second column allow you to cleverly address your cover letter directly to a person who you would be reporting to, so don’t be afraid to use their title if you know it. 

Whichever way you decide to go, make sure to use a comma after the salutation. 

Find Perfect Job Openings Faster

HR team and a candidate having an interview in a conference room

Source: Getrodeo

While the salutation you choose may not carry much weight, your cover letter does. It must be top-notch if you want to be among the lucky few who get invited for an interview. 

About a quarter of hiring managers report that cover letters directly influence their hiring decisions. More than half of recruiters expect to receive a letter even when the job ad states that it is optional. 

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Featured image source: Thought Catalog

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