To Whom It May Concern: Selecting the Right Greeting for a Strong First Impression

Megan Green Megan Green August 23, 2020
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When writing professional letters, begin with an appropriate greeting. While there once was a time when “To Whom It May Concern” was the go-to choice, many employers are now looking for a more personal introduction. Starting a message off this way poses the risk of making the writing feel impersonal. Read below to see when to use this salutation, along with other options.

Table of Contents

  1. When is This Greeting Appropriate?
  2. How To Write This Salutation Properly
  3. Finding a Contact Name
  4. Frequently Asked Questions

When Is It Appropriate To Use To Whom It May Concern?

Nowadays, it seems old-fashioned. Does it still have a place in business writing? There are some situations in which this standard acknowledgment is perfectly relevant. The ‘To Whom It May Concern’ letter was once the most common greeting for business writing.

Contacting A Large Company

If a business has a complex organizational system, it may be suitable to use a basic opening. For example, you could write:

‘To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to let you know about the services we offer…’.

Also, if the point of contact is a generic company email address and not a name, it could be appropriate to use this greeting. For example, if sending a cover letter to [email protected], chances are it is going to a whole department and not an individual. Some research could help locate information to make the correspondence more personalized. It is especially important when addressing a specific person.

Writing A General Recommendation

A basic opening after writing ‘To Whom It May Concern’ may be necessary when recommending another individual. More than likely, the person asking will be using it to apply for jobs at different companies. Addressing it to one person wouldn’t make sense. An example would be:

‘To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to recommend my colleague Mr. Davis for the position…’

In this case, provide a digital copy of the message or email as well. It allows for changing the greeting to make it unique to each job position. When contacting a company for a reference check on an employee, it is fine to use a generic salutation as it is a request.

Making A Company Complaint

Using a basic acknowledgment can be appropriate when filing a grievance with a company. A complaint about a recent hotel stay may say:

‘To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to let you know about an experience my family had…’

Beginning a message this way will sound formal, but allow it to get into the right hands upon arrival. If the objection is about a specific department, try to find one person or a smaller group to address it. Remember, it’s essential always to make correspondence personal when there is a specific individual to address.

Making An Introduction

An opening message is one place where a simple greeting could go wrong as the last thing to do is create a negative first impression for a potential employer.

‘To Whom it May Concern:

My name is Angela Smith, and I am…’

Being too informal before meeting someone could be a huge mistake. In this instance, a greeting serves as a general salutation that is polite and respectful. The recipient can skip ahead to the important information right away. But if the introduction is a cover letter, find a way to use the beneficiary’s name.

Sending The Same Letter To Multiple Recipients

When mailing a large number of correspondences at once, it could be the best decision to use a non-specific opening. For example, a recruiter trying to reach potential employers could find this useful:

‘To Whom it May Concern:

I am writing to let you know about the positions we currently have available…’

Even when large amounts of messages are sending, it will help to find a more personal way to address recipients. It is always more respectable to refer to someone by name, even if it will be more time-consuming.

How to Write This Salutation Properly

Write This Salutation Properly

It’s been a while since “To Whom It May Concern” was commonly utilized as a greeting. In today’s world, it is not the most widespread opening. Proper punctuation and capitalization are essential, as this is the first thing a recipient will read.

The First Letter Of Each Word Must Be Capitalized

Making a great first impression means paying attention to mechanics, such as capitalization. When using To Whom It May Concern letter openings, capitalization occurs with the first letter of every word. In headings and titles, small words such as “to” or “it” are not capitalized. While this is true, it’s not a title. The first letter of each word in a salutation is capitalized to adhere to the rules of proper grammar.

“Whom” Is Correct In Every Situation

No matter who is being addressed, it is always necessary to use “whom.” Cover letter openings are the exception. To choose when to use “whom,” “whomever,” or “who” has always been a difficult decision, even for grammar experts. In this instance, “whom” is correct because it is the object of a verb or preposition. Another standard error is replacing the ‘it’ with ‘this.’

A Colon Must Be Placed At The End

When using “To Whom It May Concern” capitalization is not the only consideration. It’s more proper to use a colon after a salutation and a comma at the end of the message. Accurate punctuation is crucial in a cover letter.

Finding A Contact Name

Finding A Contact Name

To Whom It May Concern letter openings are often considered to be old-fashioned. They demonstrate a lack of effort on the part of the letter writer. Those in business will say that this is too impersonal. It is always preferable to use someone’s name in the greeting. Sometimes it’s a difficult task. Some companies have thousands of employees and many departments. A search of the company website may still not yield much advice. Here are some ways to locate a contact name.

Enlist The Human Resources Department

HR representatives are knowledgeable about the company in which they work. Call or email them and explain the situation, and they will most likely be able to offer a name to use. If using a recruiter for a job search, they should be able to provide the business’s contact information.

Head To LinkedIn

Most businesses today utilize social media to strengthen their online presence with customers. Social media platforms like LinkedIn give names of people within a company. They also list the roles of key employees. This data can help find someone appropriate to address the message to so writing ‘To Whom It May Concern’ is not necessary.

Go To The Company’s “About Us” Page

Companies use other methods besides social media to inform clients. Company websites can provide critical information, as well. Sites tend to have an “About us” page to introduce important people in the company. Look through this page to find the correct person to send letters to, depending on the position.

Make A Phone Call

When all the above options fail, the best option is to pick up the phone and call the company’s main number. The person who answers the phone may be as knowledgeable as a Human Resources employee. Explain the situation, and they will give the needed material.

Ask A Colleague Or Friend

If you know anyone in the company, reaching out to them for contact information could prove handy. It doesn’t matter if they work in Human Resources. Being an employee gives them access to ask around or provide the name of someone else who will be able to help.

Alternative Greetings

Whether you’re looking for a name or not, there are many other options to use. Make sure not to accidentally say “To Whom This May Concern” – that is never ok. Without a name, a letter can still start with an opening that is more personal and shows effort. The options below are more specific, even though some of them do not include the use of a name.

Dear (Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss) Last Name

Identifying the name of the recipient in a ‘To Whom It May Concern’ inquiry is an excellent first step. It is necessary to determine their title as well. If the contact is a woman, make sure to ask about whether she prefers Mrs., Ms., or Miss. For many, it can be offensive to use the wrong title. When someone uses Dr. or Prof., be sure to include this title to avoid offending them. Double-check the spelling of the recipient’s last name as well.

Dear (Job Title)

At times, the recipient’s name will be unknown, but the title will be evident. In this case, it is still better than nothing to use their professional title in place of their name. This shows that the letter is addressing them as personally as possible. For example, “Dear Sales Coordinator” is still preferred over a generic alternative. It demonstrates the writer going the extra mile to make a more specific connection to get the job.

Dear (Department) Head

When looking for a position within a particular department, the best option is to address the head directly. If applying for a job in Marketing, a way to start might be “Dear Marketing Department Head.” This is an easy way to let the recipient know the sender attempted to address them directly.

Dear Recruiter/Hiring Manager

If the company is large, it may make it more difficult to pinpoint a recipient. In this case, using “Dear Hiring Manager” or something similar is a good alternative. The letter can also be addressed directly to a recruiter, who can then forward it on.

Dear Customer Service Manager

When contacting a manager for a new job, it’s hard to predict what will happen. Some companies have brilliant client service representatives. Others may lack the patience to help. Either way, it’s preferable to catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. In other words, using a formal opening within a letter can help resolve a complaint.

Dear Search Committee/Hiring Team

If the decision for securing the job lies with a hiring team, then this is an appropriate option. In this situation, you cannot choose one individual as a recipient. So, speaking directly to the group is the most personal choice available.

Good Morning

If options for personalization are running low, choose a greeting that is pleasant yet generic. For an enterprise with a casual or relaxed environment, begin correspondence with a simple “Good Morning.” While this is more informal, it can be a good alternative in certain instances.

Hello, or Greetings

Beginning with “Hello” or “Greetings” would be appropriate for certain companies. Many businesses operate casually and appreciate informal communication. Looking at the organization’s website can reveal its atmosphere.

No Salutation

Another choice is to begin with no salutation at all. Just get to the business introducing yourself and writing the meat of the correspondence. While this is still an impersonal option, it can give off the impression that you are a “down-to-business” person that doesn’t waste time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Use To Whom It May Concern?

Times have changed, and writers have since become more sophisticated. Nowadays, this greeting can be outdated, depending on the situation. It’s preferable not to use and should, therefore, be utilized sparingly, and only when there is no contact information available.

“Who Should I Contact” Or “Whom Should I Contact”?

This question is common as the difference between the use of ‘who’ and ‘whom’ is subtle. In this case, the word to use is “whom” because it is the object of a preposition.

How Do You Start A Letter To Someone You Don’t Know?

It’s tricky when you want to write a letter to someone you have never met. A good place to start is by gathering as much information about the potential recipient as possible. Knowing their title and if it is one person or a group reading can help you craft a mighty welcome.

  1. Gather information – look at a website, their company profile, etc.
  2. Use a formal, non-specific opening
  3. Use an informal greeting, such as “Good Morning” or “Hello”

Is To Whom It May Concern Rude?

“To Whom It May Concern” cover letter acknowledgments are something to avoid. In other instances, it’s not necessarily considered rude. It could, however, come off as short or lazy. Depending on the situation or type of correspondence, this greeting could make it seem like you do not care very much about the letter or who is reading it.

Is To Whom It May Concern Outdated?

Today, it is utilized less in career and business writing. It is seen as more modern and appropriate to use a person’s name or title when acknowledging them in a formal letter. An example would be:

‘Dear Mr. Smith,

I am writing to inform you…’

How Useful Is It?

Making a strong first impression is vital when it comes to business communications to help advance your career. The salutation used in formal letters and emails says a lot to a potential employer. There are some situations in which it is appropriate, but “To Whom It May Concern” cover letter openings are a significant exception.

On the other hand, this address can seem cold or lazy if misused. Some may ask, “What’s the big deal? Does it really matter?” Yes. Employers may not consider reading further because of an impersonal or inappropriate salutation. The next time you’re writing formal letters, consider the alternative options for ‘To Whom It May Concern’ and ask yourself how you can make a stronger first impression. One of the best ways to do so will be to keep your messages personal to show effort on your part. Accomplish this through researching to whom specifically the communication will be submitted. Begin by addressing their name or title (or both), and continue writing as you would normally.

Published: August 22, 2020 | Updated: August 23, 2020
Megan Green

Megan Green

Megan is a writer who works at the junctures of science and stories. Previously, she has been the editor of a fashion magazine, an educator, mom, and a baker. She is keen on working with brands and lifestyle products, and outdoor tasks. Megan is outgoing, optimistic and has a great personality. She delivers top-notch content with a unique view on usual things.

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