To Whom It May Concern (2019): Capitalization, Sample Letters, Expert Tips

When do you use 'To Whom It May Concern' as a greeting? Is it an up to date way of formally greeting a professional through a cover letter, business letter or legal letter? And what's the proper grammatical way to put it into a letter? All of these are great questions which we're going to help answer in this comprehensive guide to that formal greeting.

Let's go ahead and dig right in!

Table Of Contents

When Should I Use “To Whom It May Concern”

When should you use this introduction? It’s not all that confusing, actually. Normally, you would use this formal greeting when you don’t know the person's name who will be reading your letter.

The types of letters that this greeting can be used for are:

You should know that by using this introduction it may cause some issues with the effectiveness of your message. Let’s jump into that right now.

Let’s say you are writing an email to a generic contact email address, like hello@company.com — should you use “To Whom It May Concern”? The answer is no. If you are addressing an email to an unknown party, try something slightly more informal. For example, “Hey all”. Which is less formal but may receive engagement on the email, resulting in a reply to your inquiry.

Is Using “To Whom It May Concern” Effective?

Using “To Whom It May Concern” is not effective and here’s why. It lacks personality and personalization that is key to online engagement in any form.

Using this greeting could indicate to the reader that you:

We’ll get into why you shouldn’t use “To Whom It May Concern” for SPAM reasons in a moment. But before we do, it is highly recommended that you find an alternative to this formal greeting. Ideally, you find the name and contact information for the person you are attempting to get in touch with.

Caitlin Proctor from Zipjob.com told us, "If you can find the name of the person in charge of hiring for your job, use it. If you can't find the name of the hiring manager, start your cover letter with "Dear Hiring Team." This is a bit more personalized than "To Whom It May Concern," especially as final hiring decisions are often a team effort."

Finding The Hiring Managers Name To Use For Your Letter Greeting

Here are two effective strategies on using LinkedIn to find your job posters first name.

Strategy one

Sometimes, a job listing might be posted somewhere other than LinkedIn jobs. If that's the case, go to LinkedIn and see if the job listing is there. 30% of the time, the job posters name is listed on the right of the job advertisement. Here's what to do:

Strategy two

When the job posters first and last name isn't listed in LinkedIn, it makes it slightly more complicated but also achievable to find their name. Here's what you'll want to do:

Capitalization, Formatting And Spacing For "To Whom It May Concern"

When using “To Whom It May Concern”, let's say for a cover letter, how is it phrased, capitalized and placed grammatically? Here is an example of the perfect way to use this greeting:

To Whom It May Concern—

We use capitalization on each of the first letters due to the fact that this is a formal greeting. And then we use an “m-dash” to indicate that we are addressing the person who is reading.

SPAM Filters And “To Whom It May Concern” In An Email

Here’s the biggest thing you should know about using this greeting, it can trigger SPAM filters via email. Let’s say for instance you are sending your cover letter and resume to a company contact email address (info@company.com), by using this greeting it could send it to SPAM and never make it to the eyes of the team.

“To Whom It May Concern” is often used by spammers. Those who are sending emails to company or personal email addresses hoping for a response. You might have seen the classic “Nigerian prince asking for money” SPAM technique. When these are sent, they often begin the email with “To Whom It May Concern”.

Even if you use it in your cover letter and not in the email, it may still trigger SPAM. That is because email tools like Gmail and Outlook are starting to scan PDF/Word documents before they land in the inbox. If that keyword is used, even in an attachment, it may still trigger SPAM.

For this reason alone, it’s highly recommended you don’t use this greeting. You want your email, cover letter, letter of recommendation or note to be received. Using this greeting could risk that.

Alternative Greetings You Can Use

Here are some formal and slightly informal greetings that you could use as an alternative, depending on the type of letter you are writing. But let’s say it’s a cover letter or letter of recommendation. Here’s what you might want to pick instead:

Adrienne Cooper (Chief People Officer at FitSmallBusiness.com) told us, "I like "Dear Hiring Team." This greeting is both friendly and savvy. It acknowledges that the process involves more than one person, especially if you continue through the stages, and gives a nod to teamwork."

Sample Letter Using “To Whom It May Concern” As The Greeting

Here is a sample letter using “To Whom It May Concern”, so you can get the idea for where and how you might be able to place this greeting. It’s important to note that below this letter is an alternative sample letter you could use, utilizing one of our alternative greetings instead.

Cover Letter Sample

January 1, 2019

John Smith
john@smith.com
888-888-8888
123 Road, St., New York NY 11121

Company Inc.
Sarah Doe
sarah@company.com
Senior Management
123 Business Road, New York NY 11121

To Whom It May Concern—

This letter is in hopes of receiving the opportunity to interview with your company. The mission of The Social Enterprise has always inspired me, helping the youth to advance themselves through technology. I was a child without access to technology for most of my life. And only, later on, did I feel the impact of this on the health of my family, our livelihood and the effect it had on my brothers and sisters.

This mission is something I hold close to home. Attached is my resume, along with letters of recommendation which make me an ideal candidate for the Customer Success role that you have open.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,
John Smith

Which should end up looking something like this:

Cover Letter Sample (With Alternative Greeting)

January 1, 2019

John Smith
john@smith.com
888-888-8888
123 Road, St., New York NY 11121

Company Inc.
Sarah Doe
sarah@company.com
Senior Management
123 Business Road, New York NY 11121

Dear Hiring Manager—

This letter is in hopes of receiving the opportunity to interview with your company. The mission of The Social Enterprise has always inspired me, helping the youth to advance themselves through technology. I was a child without access to technology for most of my life. And only, later on, did I feel the impact of this on the health of my family, our livelihood and the effect it had on my brothers and sisters.

This mission is something I hold close to home. Attached is my resume, along with letters of recommendation which make me an ideal candidate for the Customer Success role that you have open.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,
John Smith

Which should end up looking something like this:

To Whom It May Concern VS. Popular Incorrect Alternatives

There are some popular alternatives people often choose to use. Here's how they stack up against each other in terms of greetings.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams.

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