When you can’t find the name of a contact person, ‘To Whom It May Concern’ is an acceptable way to start a business letter.
However, we recommend finding the name of a contact and addressing your letter to them because it:
- makes your cover letter more personalised
- shows you’re up-to-date on professional cover letter writing practices
- reveals you took the time and effort to research the person who will read it
When to use ‘To Whom It May Concern’
If there’s truly no way to find the right contact person to address your cover letter to, ‘To Whom It May Concern’ is acceptable in these three situations:
1. If you’re writing a prospecting cover letter
When you send your job application to companies to see if they have any open positions, you probably won’t have a direct contact person to address.
In that situation, use ‘To Whom It May Concern’ if you can’t find a suitable contact person.
You can also use the prospecting letter (also called a speculative cover letter) to request the right point of contact for your application.
Have a look at this example of a prospecting letter in the body of an email:
To Whom It May Concern,
I’m writing to ask if you have an opening for an experienced receptionist at your organisation. I’d love to contact the person in charge of recruitment for this role as I’m interested in discussing the possibility of working for your company.
2. If you’re providing feedback
You can use a generic greeting when you write to express your displeasure or recommendations for a company’s products and services.
‘To Whom It May Concern’ is effective in this case because it sets a neutral tone and helps ensure your feedback gets to the right person.
Below is an example of a formal complaint letter with an impersonal salutation:
To Whom It May Concern,
I’m writing to express my displeasure at the way I was treated by your security team on my interview date March 27, 2022.
I was refused entry into the building, even after repeatedly explaining that I had an interview and showing them my letter of invitation. I missed my interview as a result of this treatment.
Please look into this situation so we can come to an amicable resolution.
3. If you’re providing a letter of recommendation
If you’re writing a recommendation letter for a former colleague or employee as one of their CV references, you can use ‘To Whom It May Concern’ (unless the person you’re writing the recommendation for provides you with a specific contact person to address).
The person who reads your recommendation letter won’t expect you to know whom to address the letter to.
Here’s a ‘To Whom It May Concern’ example used to start a letter of recommendation:
To Whom It May Concern,
I’m writing to confirm that Carole Birkins was an employee at FarmTrust Ltd. for three years.
In that time, she dedicated herself to becoming one of our top-performing business analysts and volunteered for projects that were beyond her role. I highly recommend Carole for this position.
Please feel free to contact me anytime by phone on 07351 382 124 or via my email, [email protected]
How to use ‘To Whom It May Concern’ in an email or letter
If you must address a standard or email cover letter with ‘To Whom It May Concern’, here’s how to do it properly:
1. Follow formal cover letter formatting
When using formal greetings like ‘To Whom It May Concern’, follow these cover letter formatting rules:
- capitalise the first letter of every word
- end the phrase with a comma
- start a new paragraph after typing your greeting
- use awkward variations like ‘Dear Whom It May Concern’, ‘To Whomever It May Concern’, or ‘To Whom This May Concern’
2. Choose the right ‘To Whom It May Concern’ ending
The greeting you use determines how to end your cover letter.
Use these standard UK letter endings depending on how you start your cover letter:
- ‘Yours faithfully,’ if your cover letter starts with ‘To Whom It May Concern’, or another opening without a person’s name
- ‘Yours sincerely,’ if your cover letter starts with a person’s name
How to replace ‘To Whom It May Concern’
If the job advert doesn’t include the contact person’s information, you can find ‘To Whom It May Concern’ alternatives by following these four tips:
1. Check the company website
Companies often have an ‘About Us’, ‘Team’, or ‘Company Directory’ page that lists employees and their job titles.
At minimum, you’ll find a general information email inbox where you can send a request to learn the name or title of the person you’re addressing your letter to.
2. Do a targeted Google search
Try using Google’s site search operator to find specific information on the company’s website.
Type in this site search format and fill in your target company’s website and job title information, like so:
- site:companyname.com “job title”
- site:companyname.co.uk “job title”
3. Visit the company’s LinkedIn profile
Search for the company’s profile on LinkedIn. On the top of the company’s page is a hyperlink that prompts you to ‘View all [number] employees’.
You can click that link and then scan the list until you find the person or job title you’re looking for.
And if the company has thousands of employees, try narrowing your search with the ‘Location’, ‘People’, and ‘Job Title’ filters.
4. Contact the company
Call or email the company to ask for the contact person’s name, job title, and work email address. But don’t forget to explain why you need the information, or you may be confused for a spammer.
Reaching out to the company shows the employer you’re willing to take initiative and are genuinely interested in the job.
Just remember that emails include your name, so if you prefer to remain anonymous before sending off your application, place a call instead.
6 ‘To Whom It May Concern’ Alternatives
Starting your cover letter with ‘To Whom It May Concern’ can make you seem old-fashioned and impersonal. So here are six better options:
1. Dear Mr/Ms/Mrs/Miss/Mx [Contact Person’s Surname],
The standard greeting for cover letters is ‘Dear’ followed by your contact person’s title, surname, and a comma.
Below are examples of how to address a cover letter with the contact person’s name:
Dear Mr White,
Dear Ms Rodney,
Dear Mx Taylor,
Remember these points when choosing a title:
- Use ‘Mr/Ms’ if you know the employer’s gender. If a female contact has a preference they’ved mentioned in the job advert, you can use ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’.
- Use ‘Mx’ if the gender of the contact person is unclear, if they have a unisex name like Jessie, Alex, or Jamie, or they use ‘they’ pronouns. (You can also use ‘Dear [Full Name],’ to avoid offending the reader.)
2. Dear [Job Title],
If you know the contact person’s position but don’t know their name, you can address them by their job title. For example:
Dear Managing Director,
Dear Human Resources Manager,
Dear Human Resources Director,
Dear Customer Service Manager,
Dear Head of Sales,
3. Dear [Department Name],
If you know the name of the department you’re applying to, try addressing your cover letter like this:
Dear Sales Department,
Dear Human Resources Department,
Dear Finance Department,
Dear Customer Service Department,
Dear Marketing Department Manager,
4. Dear Recruiter,
If you’ve done your research and still can’t find a contact name, job title, or department, address your cover letter to the recruiter, like so:
Dear Recruiting Manager,
Dear Recruiting Team,
5. Dear [Position You Want] Hiring Team,
Beginning your cover letter ‘Dear [Position You Want] Hiring Team,’ is a great way to emphasise the job title you’re seeking.
Here are three examples of how to address the hiring team for your target position:
Dear Graphic Design Specialist Hiring Team,
Dear Accounting Intern Hiring Team,
Dear Marketing Manager Hiring Team,
6. Dear [Creative Nickname],
You can also use a creative nickname to open your cover letter — but only if the job description’s tone and directions make it clear that the recruiter values unique, creative applications.
Creative nicknames instead of ‘To Whom It May Concern’ might include:
Dear Future Boss,
Dear Leader of Data,
Dear David Brent of [Company Name],