How to use “To Whom It May Concern”

When we write an e-mail or letter, the first thing we do is greet our receiver. This greeting defines the letter’s character, whether official, informal, or neutral. 

 Let’s imagine the situation – you’re going to write a letter to the recruiter of the big organization. This time you’ll definitely prefer to write a strictly professional letter and, of course, use the correct greeting words. Here, people mostly use the “To Whom It May Concern” greeting to those they don’t know. It is one of the most common methods, but a little bit old, since today, thanks to the technology development, we can easily find any info about the interested person. And it makes us comfortable to know to whom we write our letter. 

Spending time looking for those you will write a letter to plays a significant role in the whole employment process. This way, you demonstrate your readiness to make some efforts and do all possible and impossible to get the job. And when the letter gets into the hands of the wrong person, you lose.

The “To Whom It May Concern” will help in these cases if you don’t know who to address your letter to. Start it with “Dear Sir or Madam” and continue with the actual content of your letter. This will help you to avoid any mistakes and still show respect. 

Or, you can use an e-mail version of this greeting – “Dear Sir or Madam”. It is not possible to use this format in a letter. So, if you are going to send your resume via the Internet only, then it will be better for you.

The last thing is to remember that this greeting isn’t used in invitations, congratulations, and other situations when you want to congratulate someone. These letters are only personal (but still written with respect). So, it’s better to use more informal greetings like “Dear John” or “To my dear friend”.

Hope this article will be helpful for you to write an official letter or e-mail with the best greeting words. So, in our post, we will study the “To Whom It May Concern” greeting, the cases of when to apply it or not, plus some other variants you can use instead.  

 “To whom it may concern” – the greeting’s significance.

 As we have said before, “To Whom It May Concern” is a greeting applied to refer to the person whose name you don’t know. This greeting form is old and rarely applied today. 

 Once when the company published the vacancy, you could see only its short description and the organization’s title. It was not typical to publish the recruiters’ names at that time. That is why the job candidates while making a letter, used the greeting of “To Whom It May Concern.” Today you can easily know any interesting info about the organization – all you need to do is press the button. 

 Yes, it is common to apply the greeting of “To Whom It May Concern” in your application letter, but some HR managers consider it laziness of you. Nevertheless, there are cases when using this greeting form is relevant:

  • In official complaints: Sometimes we can feel some discontent with the current situation, and filing a complaint is a great way to express it. But in some cases, we do not know to whom we can refer. And here, we can use the “To Whom It May Concern” greeting. It will help to avoid any mistakes, blame and direct it to the right person.
  • In recommendation letters: Sometimes, your coworkers or friends need to mention someone as a reference, but they do not know whom they can address. 
  • In introduction letters: If you need to present yourself to a big audience, this greeting form can serve as a great way to do it. 
  • Interest letter: If you want to know some information about the vacancy that’s not publically available, you can make a letter and apply this greeting form (or one of its alternatives).
  • In the letter of prospecting: It refers to those who work in business or sales who don’t want to share personal info with outside people.
  • When you are not sure whom to address: You may be nervous about an important meeting with your potential employer. It is natural that you don’t want to make any mistake, but also you can forget some of the most common phrases or even names, of course. In this case, using the “To Whom It May Concern” will benefit you – it sounds official and respectful.
  • Sending a letter to a government organization or public company: The same can be said about a letter addressed to some government organizations or public companies where the addresses are not always available. 

The greeting of “To Whom It May Concern” saves you from the risk of sending your letter to the wrong place.

  • Sending a resume: Sometimes we send our resumes electronically – and it can be sent out to all job vacancies we find on the Internet. Here, the “To Whom It May Concern” is the most appropriate.
  • hen you don’t know the company’s name: You can use this greeting when sending your resume to a particular person or job vacancy you find on some website or publication where they do not mention the name of the company. But, in all these cases, remember that using this term will make your letter or resume look old-fashioned.

And now let’s find out when we cannot use this greeting form:

  • In transmittal letter: The transmittal letter’s aim – is to attract the recruiter or possible employer. And “To Whom It May Concern” phrase will not attract at all. 
  • While writing a letter in your own name: When you make a letter, not for yourself, to use the “To Whom It May Concern” phrase is ok because you don’t know who will receive it and how it’ll be used. When you write a letter in your own name, we recommend not using this phrase.
  • When having any, even little info, about the receiver: Using this phrase will not only look old-fashioned but also make you seem impolite. But if you have even a little info about the receiver, it is better to get personal.
  • To refer to one person: Using this phrase will make it impossible for anyone to understand whom exactly you are talking about (both external and internal people).
  • To refer to more than one person: Using “To Whom It May Concern” when referring to more than one person will make your letter look too formal. But if you are writing for a big audience, there is no need to use this phrase. You can say something like “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Dear Ms.”
  • To refer to a specific person: In this case, if you know someone's name, don't use this phrase. Just make the subject line clear and say something like "Referring to your ad in…," "In response to your ad…" or "Regarding your job posting…"

While making an applying e-mail or letter, you need to take some steps before using “to whom it may concern” greeting:

  • Carefully read the vacancy description. Typically, it contains the HR manager or other organization’s contacts. 
  • Visit the organization’s website and click the “About us” section. There, you’ll find the necessary contacts. 
  • Search for networking websites, like LinkedIn or something else. Generally, many organizations have profiles that contain all necessary contacts. 
  • Call the organization and request the contacts you can refer to.

 And now let’s find out what to do with this greeting after you’ve finished your letter:

  • Keep it at the end of the letter. When you write a business letter, place the “To Whom It May Concern” phrase at the end of the letter (after your name and contact information).
  • If you don’t know whom exactly to write to, write “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources Director.”
  • Keep it short. When you are applying for a job, use this phrase only if there is no other person who can be addressed instead of it (like the head of the department). If there is another person to whom you can refer, use his or her name instead.
  • Use this phrase only when you are not sure who exactly is going to read your letter, resume or apply for a job. For example, if you don’t know what the exact hiring manager is, then “To Whom It May Concern” is an appropriate greeting. If you know who is going to read your letter, resume or apply for a job, use the complete name of the person.
  • Keep it professional and avoid using slang or abbreviations. It should be written in formal styles, like “Dear Ms. Brown” or “To Whom It May Concern":
  • If you are applying for a job through the Internet, make the subject line clear and specific (like “Customer Support Manager Application”). After this phrase, use your name, email address, and anything else that can attract the recruiter’s attention.
  • If you are not sure what to write before “To Whom It May Concern,” use one of these phrases: "I am writing with regards to…" or "Writing in response to your job listing…" or “Following up on our phone conversation…” or “Enclosed please find my resume for the _____ position.”
  • To conclude a letter, use this phrase: "Again, I wish to thank you for your time and consideration." or “Thanking you in advance,” or “I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

If these steps do not help, you can use the “To Whom It May Concern” greeting or some of its variants. These variants are the following – Dear + You possible boss’s name; Dear Hiring Manager; Dear Recruiter, etc. And don’t use the “Dear Madam or Sir” greeting – it is also old and never applied today.

There’s one more note about the “To Whom It May Concern” phrase – it is always written in capital letters. Yes, it can seem strange, but we always write a person’s name from the capital letter. And since we use this phrase because of not knowing a person’s name, we write it in capital letters. 

 And now, we will give an example of how to use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern.”

 To Whom It May Concern

 I’ve never written such letters, but today it’s the exception. I’m writing to show my discontent with your service and attract your attention to it. On August 10, I came to your shop, and your sellers treated me awful. This day I called your support service, and they also treated me horribly – they couldn’t answer my questions and refused to review my application. I resent that your organization encourages such customer service and incompetence.  

 I’ve been your client for over ten years, and yesterday I was unsurprisingly shocked when visiting your shop. I want to hope that you’ll read my complaint and take steps to change this situation. 

 Best regards,


 To sum up

 Yes, you need to spend some time searching for contacts to write about the job. And most likely, you will find these contacts. Nevertheless, you also need to be sure about the alternative variants if you fail to find the necessary information. And it would help if you understood that every word you write in your letter impacts the possible employers’ decision to hire you.  So do it carefully and don’t forget that every word should be written respectfully.

And we need to mention that the “To Whom It May Concern” phrase is not often used in modern job search and resumes writing. So if this phrase helps you get a job, then use it. If it doesn’t help – search for the contacts or write the “Dear + name” phrase.

As we said, this phrase is rather old and is not applied often nowadays. But you can try to use it if there is no other way out and someone needs to contact who you are writing about. You can also change it a little bit – by adding your name, job title, or department. Then you will show that at least someone read your letter and it is not just a cold note.

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