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When writing a letter or an email, people tend to start by greeting the recipient. Your greeting will set the tone for the entire message and determine whether it is informal, formal, or neutral.
Suppose you are thinking about reaching out to a hiring manager at a major company — in that case, you will always want to keep things as professional as possible and use a proper greeting. “To Whom It May Concern” is one of the most popular and traditional ways of addressing someone you might not know, but it is also archaic.
Ever since the turn of the century, today’s technological advances have made it easier for people to access information about one another. This makes it even more convenient for people to know who they will be addressing when writing a letter or an email.
Taking the time and searching for the name of the person you are trying to contact can go a long way in the hiring process. It shows initiative and demonstrates that you are willing to put in some work and go the extra mile.
Here you will learn the meaning behind the phrase “To Whom It May Concern,” when you should use it and when you should avoid it, and some alternatives you can use in its place.
The phrase “To Whom It May Concern” is typically used at the beginning of a letter or email as a salutation. It is generally used to speak to someone whose name you do not know but would like to address in the message.
As mentioned above, this is now considered something archaic. Sometimes we forget that the internet is something that is still relatively new. Back in the day, people did not have easy access to a company’s database.
When a company posted a job, all you had access to was the company’s name and a brief description of the position you were applying to at the company. It was highly uncommon for them to list the hiring manager’s name. There was no easy way for you to gain access to this information — therefore, people would address the letters to whoever the letters may concern, hence the phrase.
Now, however, having information about any company is as simple as clicking a button. Most businesses or corporations have an entire section dedicated to their staff. Here you will be able to find the information you need.
Though using the phrase may be considered standard practice, some hiring managers might view it as laziness on behalf of the applicant.
However, there are certain instances where it is considered entirely appropriate to use this phrase. Here are some example of how to use “To Whom It May Concern” correctly:
To lodge a formal complaint. There are moments in life where you might feel as though you are not satisfied with a situation. Voicing a concern in a formal letter is an excellent way for you to do it. However, you might not know who you will need to address.
A letter of recommendation. Sometimes, a friend or coworker might need to list someone who knows them well as a reference, but they might be unsure who you will need to write the letter to.
A letter of introduction. After exhausting all your resources, you still might not be able to find the hiring manager’s name to include in yourcover letter, then, and only then is it considered appropriate to use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern.”
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter to bring to your attention who unsatisfied I am with your company’s customer service. On the morning of October 1, 2020, I made a call to your company’s customer service line and was treated rather rudely. It is appalling to me that a company with your standing would allow such unprofessionalism to take place.
I have been a faithful client to your store, and feel completely devastated by this behavior. I expect your full cooperation and hope this issue can be resolved.
No matter how formal it is, you never want it to sound too impersonal when writing any letter, using the phrase “To Whom It May Concern” does just that. If possible, avoid using this phrase at all costs.
This phrase is considered to be dated and too generic. Hiring managers want to make sure that the person they are bringing in is someone that is driven and will stop at nothing to get the job done.
If you cannot find the person’s name for any reason, you can skip addressing the person altogether and use a simple greeting such as “Hello,” “Good Morning/Afternoon,” or Greetings.
Before you begin to draft your letter, you will need to follow specific steps to write a compelling message. Remember that writing the recipient’s name on your letter or email shows that you are willing to put in the leg work and get the job done.
Go back to the original job posting and see if there is more information about the person you need to contact. Typically, companies and career websites will include the contact information at the bottom of the page.
Another way to verify a company’s personnel is to go directly to the source. Go to their official website and look through the “About Us” page– chances are you will find what you are looking for.
You can also use a professional networking website such as LinkedIn. These pages are filled with business professionals. Search for the company’s profile. Usually, you will be able to find everyone that is associated with the company by scrolling down along the page.
As a last resort, reach out to their customer service line and ask for the hiring manager’s name.
If you are still unable to find the name of your prospective employer after taking all of these steps, you may then use the phrase “To Whom It May Concern.”
The good news is you are not stuck using this expression. When you are trying to greet someone, there are countless alternatives that can be used instead of saying, “To Whom It May Concern.” The great thing about the English language is that it allows us different ways to say the same something. For example, in the place of saying hello, you can say greetings. Here is a list of alternatives you can use in place of “To Whom It May Concern”:
Hi (if this is a more casual email)
The good news is you are not stuck using this idiom. When you are trying to greet someone, there are countless alternatives that can be used instead of saying, “To Whom It May Concern.” The great thing about the English language is that it allows us different ways to express the same thing. For example, in the place of saying hello, you can say greetings. Here is a list of alternatives you can use in place of “To Whom It May Concern”:
Hi (if this is a more casual email)
Dear (The person’s name or surname)
Re: (name the topic you are addressing)
Try to avoid using the phrase “Dear Sir or Madam,” just like “To Whom It May Concern,” this, too, is considered to be an outdated form to address a recipient.
If you cannot find the recipient’s name and do not want to risk sounding too generic, you can always call them by their official titles, such as a hiring manager, a recruiter, or a human resources manager.
Dear Hiring Manager
Dear Recruiting Manager
Dear Recruiting Department
Dear Human Resources Manager
Dear (name of the department you are applying to)
Dear Personnel Manager
I hope this finds you well. I am writing to find out more about your company and if you have any openings. I saw your booth at the job fair last week, and from what I have learned, it could be a great place to work. Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dear Hiring Manager,
My name is Jane Smith, and I recently applied for the Project Manager opening at your company. I wanted to take this time to formally introduce myself to you and your staff. And I am excited about this opportunity. I am sure that my background and skills will make me an ideal candidate for this position and your company. Would it be possible for us to set-up an appointment to meet this week? I would love to get to know you and discuss what I plan to bring to your organization.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to speaking with you.
It might take you some time, but if you set your mind to it and put a little effort, chances are you will find the names you are looking for. However, it is essential to know that you really cannot go wrong with any of these alternatives.
Keep in mind that this is not about adding more pressure to your pursuit of finding a job. It is about opening your eyes and showing you that every little detail is essential and speaks volumes to any future employer about the person they will be hiring.
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