being impersonal with to whom it may concern is like sending a letter anonymously

To Whom It May Concern and 3 More Outdated Phrases to Avoid in Your Job Search

To Whom It May Concern is an outdated salutation that was traditionally used in business letters. It was the go-to when the letter writer didn’t have a specific person to send the letter to.

Is it Bad to Use To Whom It May Concern?

Using To Whom it May Concern should be avoided. In fact, you should abolish the outdated and stodgy phrase from your job search activities.

When you write to whom it may concern in your letter, you are really telling a prospective employer “I have no idea what person I am writing to or why you would be concerned with what I have to say.” That is not a good way to grab an employer’s attention.

If you love the idea of using To Whom It May Concern, read this guy’s letters.

What to Write Instead of To Whom It May Concern 

Guy on a computer doing research to avoid having to use to whom it may concern on a cover letter.

Do Some Digging and Get a Name

When writing your resume, cover letter, resignation letter or emails, make every effort to get a contact name. You can use LinkedIn, people who you know that work at the company, and the company’s website to find a contact.

You can also call the company’s human resources department to get a clearer idea of who you would address in an introductory email. Look for contact information on the job application or careers page.

Also, check the company site for an About or Contact Us page. Public sector organizations have org charts and employee directories that are usually listed online.

Worst case scenario, the message can be sent without a greeting. Simply start the email or letter with the first paragraph.

Other Generic Letter Greetings to Use 

To Whom It May Concern is not only outdated, it’s an insult to the person reading it. How impersonal can you get? At the very least you should greet the person with a title that shows respect.

Here are some salutation options:

  • Dear [Department] Manager
  • Dear Hiring Manager
  • Dear Hiring Committee
  • Dear Recruiter
  • Dear Recruiting Manager
  • Dear Search Committee
  • Dear HR Manager
  • Dear Personnel Manager
  • Dear Human Resources Representative
  • Dear Customer Service Manager
  • Dear Job Title (Editor, Director, VP of Sales)
  • Greetings
  • Hello
  • Re: (Topic of Letter)

3 Other Job Search Phrases That Need to Go

Dear Sir or Madam is Also a No

Dear Sir or Madam is another outdated and mindless salutation commonly used in the past. Stay away from it. It is just as old-fashioned as writing To Whom It May Concern.

Do Not Use References Available on Request

This is a phrase that is almost as superfluous as To Who It May Concern. In the times of paper resumes people used the phrase on their resume to say “let me know when you are serious about giving me the job and I will let my people know you will contact them.”

Today, with hundreds of people applying online including references in the application is more common.

Some companies will not request references until after the interview, but you should give them your references at the interview. All of this is to say references are no longer a last step, they are a routine part of the process, so have them ready.

Any Language That Doesn’t Fit the Profession

There’s nothing worse than reading a cover letter or email that sounds like you cut and paste it from a form letter. Whole Foods recruiters want a cover letter with your application and they want it to be personal.

Your correspondence should match the tone of the company you are applying to. Whole Foods is laid back and fun. Your writing should mirror that tone. The job description is a great place to get an idea of the company’s tone.

You should avoid To Whom It May Concern and other generic language in your job search. You have to make your application personal. You might have to work a little to find the right person to address your materials to but it will pay off in the long run.

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