How To Correctly Utilise The Salutation 'To Whom It May Concern'

Updated 11 July 2023

When you write a business letter or email, it is vital to begin the correspondence with an apt greeting. A common phrase used is 'To Whom It May Concern.' With so many different greetings, it can be difficult to decide when to use this one instead of another salutation. In this article, we help you learn how to prepare professional correspondence by giving you helpful tips on how to use this greeting and providing viable alternatives to it.

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Why Is The Phrase 'To Whom It May Concern' Used?

Conventionally, the salutation 'To Whom It May Concern' is used in corporate communication when you do not know the name of the recipient or when you are not addressing a particular person. For instance, when preparing a cover letter for a job application, if you are not sure who will review the application, you can start the letter with this greeting.

Before the internet, it was much more difficult to find the name of the person you wanted to send a letter or email to, making this one as a popular greeting. Now that you can easily search for the person you need, this greeting is not as common, though it is still acceptable when you are unable to find the right name or department. You should still try to avoid using this greeting if possible since it is usually overly formal, which can distract from the content of your message.

Related: Dear Sir or Madam: Best Use and Alternatives

How To Correctly Craft 'To Whom It May Concern'?

To start, capitalise all five words in this greeting. Use either a colon or comma after the salutation. Add a space between the salutation line and your letter's first sentence, for instance:

'To Whom It May Concern,

I am Michael Johnson, and I am interested in the sales agent role you have advertised…'

Related: 45 Email Greetings for the Workplace

When To Use 'To Whom It May Concern'?

You can use this phrase in the following situations:

  • Cover letter

  • Recommendation letter or contact referral

  • Client introduction

  • Company suggestions or feedback

  • Prospecting message

Cover letter

You can use this greeting if you are submitting a cover letter that multiple people will read, such as a recruiter, HR specialist and hiring manager. Since multiple people will read your application, you cannot necessarily address your cover letter to just one person. To make a favourable first impression, avoid making a wrong guess about the recipient and utilise this generic greeting instead. Many hiring managers and hiring teams expect to see this salutation on cover letters.

Recommendation letter or contact referral

If a network contact requests you to write a referral or recommendation letter for an opportunity, you may not be sure who the recipient is. In addition, you may need to post your letter via an automated platform that does not give any information about the name or title. Using 'To Whom It May Concern' is acceptable if you cannot find the right name. Ask your contact for a name first before you use this greeting.

Client introduction

A potential client might send you an automated correspondence that does not have their name, so you will have to use a generic salutation when you respond. Use this opportunity to request their name and designation so you can personalise future communications with them, which builds a strong rapport.

Related: Your Guide to Writing a Letter of Intent for a Job

Company suggestions or feedback

If you wish to provide your suggestions or feedback to your organisation, it is customary to deliver your message to the HR unit. However, you may not be sure who in the unit will read your feedback, so you can use a generic salutation. This phrase is also helpful if your suggestions will be reviewed and addressed by multiple departments or people.

Prospecting message

Business development and sales professionals need to contact potential clients with prospecting messages. Sometimes, they may not know about the name and other details of the individual they are trying to reach. In this case, it is best to use the generic phrase. However, sales professionals should perform extra research to find the right name in order to make a strong first impression.

Alternatives To 'To Whom It May Concern'

If you think 'To Whom It May Concern' seems too formal, you can use one of the following alternatives:

  • Dear [first name]

  • Dear [position title]

  • Dear [department or team]

  • Hi There or Greetings

  • Dear Recruiting Manager

  • Dear Hirer

  • Dear Hiring Department

  • Dear [department name]

  • Hello

  • Good Morning, Good Day or Good Evening

Related: How To Start a Conversation (With Conversation Starters)

Dear [first name]

You can use the first name of the recipient if you have met them before, such as 'Dear Gouri.' If you are communicating to a person whom you do not know, use their title and last name, like 'Dear Mr Mostert.' In formal situations, only use the person's title and last name to demonstrate your professionalism.

Dear [position title]

If you are aware of the recipient's job role or title, but not their name, you can start your letter in a manner like “Dear Project Manager.'

Dear [department or team]

If you are writing to multiple individuals in a unit or you do not know which team member is the main contact, you can opt to incorporate the unit name, like 'Dear Customer Support Department.'

Hi there or Greetings

For informal correspondence, like a meeting announcement or office memo, you can use a casual generic phrase. If applicable, combine it with a department or team name, such as 'Greetings, sales team.' Avoid using 'Hi there' or 'Greetings' for formal and professional introductions since they are casual salutations.

Dear Recruiting Manager

You may not know the name of the recruiting manager when you are applying for a new job. Review the company's website to see if you can find their name. Otherwise, 'Dear Recruiting Manager' is acceptable.

Dear Hirer

If you are not sure of the recruiter for the position to which you are applying, you can use the popular greeting 'Dear Hirer.'

Dear Hiring Department

When applying for a position in a big enterprise, your application could be routed to a wide hiring inbox. Therefore, you should not write to a particular person as your letter may be reviewed by multiple recruiters. Cast a wider net by using the greeting “Dear Hiring Department.”

Dear [department name]

If your goal is to sell to a particular company unit and you are not sure who your target purchaser is, it is best to address your message to the unit alias. This is especially applicable if you are not able to pinpoint the correct contact person.


If you are in the middle of an email conversation with the recipient, you can begin with a friendly “Hello” and carry on with the message thread.

Hello There, [Name]

Use this casual and informal greeting for messages to business associates, colleagues and peers with whom you have a good rapport.

Good Morning, Good Day or Good Evening

Use any of these salutations based on the time of the day that you send an email. You can add the recipient's name if you know it, such as 'Good morning, Moirah.'

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Tips To Find A Contact's Name And Title

Instead of using the generic 'To Whom It May Concern' greeting, it is more professional to individualise your messages with the name of the recipient. Therefore, it is important to consult every resource possible before using this formal phrase. You can locate a contact's name and job title by utilising the following methods:

  • Check the posting carefully

  • Refer to the organisation's website

  • Request another contact

  • Call the organisation directly

Check the posting carefully

If you are applying for a job, review the posting for the name of the contact. Some companies list the hiring manager's name in the job advertisement, usually toward the bottom of the posting.

Refer to the organisation's website

Many enterprises have an 'About Us' or 'Team' page on their official website that provides details about each employee. Check the firm's website for information about the recipient. For example, look for the purchasing department if you want to send a sales email. Researching the company also helps you gain more information you can use in future correspondence.

Request another contact

In some cases, you may know another person in the company you are applying to or sending a sales email to. You can contact them for information about the name of the recipient and their job title. This shows you are invested in making a connection with the organisation.

Call the organisation directly

You can directly call the firm and request this information. Be open about your objectives, and inform the receptionist why you are calling. Tell them that you are applying for a job in the enterprise and would like to know the name and designation of the recruiting manager so you can craft a personalised cover letter and application. You can get a positive response by being transparent about your reason for the call.

Related: Guide To Email Writing Format In English (With Tips)

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