Career Development

Best Ways To Use ‘To Whom It May Concern’

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It is important to include a greeting in all work-related letters and emails. Starting with ‘To Whom It May Concern’ is appropriate for many types of professional communication. This article will discuss the best way to use ‘To Whom It May Concern’ and when you can use a different greeting.

Why you should use ‘To Whom It May Concern’

‘To Whom It May Concern’ is a greeting you can use when you don’t know the name of the recipient. You can also use it when you’re sending a letter that several people may read. The ability to search for contact information on the internet has made ‘To Whom It May Concern’ less common, but it is still useful in many business settings, such as writing a letter of recommendation or cover letter. 

You should only use ‘To Whom It May Concern’ when you’re unsure of the name of person you need to address. If you do know the name, job title or department that will receive your letter, you can use a more personal introduction to create an immediate connection.

How to use ‘To Whom It May Concern’ in business correspondence

Here are five types of letters that work best when they begin with, ‘To Whom It May Concern:’

  1. Cover letter
  2. Introduction letter
  3. Recommendation letter
  4. Prospecting letter
  5. Feedback letter

Cover letter

When you apply for a job, several people might read your cover letter and resume, such as a human resources representative, hiring manager and supervisor. 

To ensure you address everyone that might review your cover letter, start it with ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ Using this general greeting can help you make a good first impression, especially if you are submitting your materials to a general human resources email address. 

Introduction letter

If you handle customer correspondence, you might receive emails from prospective clients that only use general company contact information. Since you won’t know specific names and titles, you should use a generic introduction when writing back. In your message, you can ask for details to use in future emails. 

To use a greeting that is as inclusive as possible, start your introductory message with ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ This professional greeting sets a businesslike tone for your correspondence and allows you to begin a new customer relationship on a positive note.

Recommendation letter

A colleague might ask you to write a letter of recommendation for a new job or educational opportunity. You may need to address a large group of potential recipients. In many cases, you will submit your recommendation through a digitized system where you won’t know the reader’s name. 

Since you should always include a greeting, even when delivering a letter to an automated system, start with ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ Using this general greeting allows you to address as many people as possible while providing a strong recommendation for your colleague.

Prospecting letter

If you work in sales or account management, one of your responsibilities might include prospecting new clients. When you first contact a prospect, you generally want to connect directly with the decision maker of the business.

If you have minimal information about the company but want to ensure that your prospecting letter reaches the right person, start your letter or email with ‘To Whom It May Concern.’

Feedback letter

As an employee, you might have to provide feedback about an internal initiative or company policy. In many cases, you can address your letter to the human resources department. You may need to include a wider group of recipients in your message. For example, the person who created the initiative may want to review your response in addition to human resources. 

To ensure that your letter applies to as many potential recipients as possible, address it, ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ Starting with this greeting involves all potential readers. 

Example alternatives for ‘To Whom It May Concern’

In situations where you have more specific information about your recipient, you can use a more personal greeting, such as:

  • ‘Dear [Name]’ example
  • ‘Dear [Title]’ example
  • ‘Dear [Department]’ example

‘Dear [Name]’ example

Before sending a prospecting letter, you should research your potential clients. If you can determine exactly who you need to connect with, address the letter to a specific person. For example, you can address the letter ‘Dear Mr. Lee’ to get your prospect’s attention and initiate a more personal relationship immediately.

‘Dear [Title]’ example

When you apply for a job, you want to make a positive impact on your potential employer. Addressing your cover letter to an individual’s job title gives you the opportunity to be more direct with your application materials. For example, you can start your cover letter with ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ to set a direct, professional tone when you apply for jobs. 

‘Dear [Department]’ example

If you are recommending a junior colleague for an internal job opportunity, you might know which team will review your reference letter. For example, you can begin the letter with ‘Dear Sales Department’ to create a connection with the intended recipients.