What Is a To Whom It May Concern Letter?

A To Whom It May Concern letter is a way of addressing someone in a letter or email. It is a broad and generic form of communication that is typically used in business or formal writing. 

According to an online article published by Glassdoor, effective communication is crucial when scouting for potential career opportunities. Hiring managers discourage using the traditional salutation of ‘To Whom It May Concern’, especially if specific contact information is readily available. If the recruiter or hiring manager’s contact details are posted, then you should avoid using it. Sometimes, it pays to do a little research. The companies that you are applying to may contain a contact page, an ‘About Us’ page, or an organizational structure in their website. Make sure to check and research on these first before deciding to use ‘To Whom It May Concern’.    

Uses of a To Whom It May Concern Letter or Email

Because of its broad and encompassing nature, To Whom It May Concern can often be used as a default salutation in business correspondence. However, it is good to assess the scenario first before you start writing. Some situations call for more formal communication. But for others, there may be some leeway. The following areas are examples of when to use the salutation:

Employment Cover Letters: Job seekers often find themselves in a situation where they send an application but are unsure of the hiring manager or recruitment officer’s name. Some companies advertise or post the name and details of recruiters on their website or on job search platforms. However, not all companies do this; some just give a generic email without offering a name at all. In these cases, the applicant may opt to use To Whom It May Concern in their cover letters. School Concerns: Some parents will communicate their child’s needs to a school via written correspondence. It is common for parents to reach out to teachers and administrators when it comes to school or student concerns. In bigger academic institutions or schools where the student population is higher, parent-teacher relations may be less personal or intimate compared to a smaller, tight-knit community. It is generally acceptable for a parent to address a principal, director, or teacher using To Whom It May Concern. Solicitation Letters: Many organizations seek outside sponsorship or funding for their various events and projects. Fundraising activities involve tapping multiple support channels. A lot of these sponsorship or solicitation letters are typically distributed in one go, and to as many potential donors as possible. Handing out generic letters containing To Whom It May Concern is acceptable; but personally addressing a donor by name or title could boost your chances of receiving a successful response. People usually appreciate it when they are called by their name. Recommendation and Referral Letters: Many Human Resource Departments use character referrals to screen potential candidates. It is also typical for academic institutions to require recommendation letters as part of a graduate student’s application requirements. A professor or manager may write recommendation letters upon an applicant or hiring officer’s request. The recommending party is not expected to know the hiring manager or department. So it is perfectly acceptable for a recommending party to use To Whom It May Concern if a name cannot be established. Prospecting or Proposal Letters: Reaching out to new markets or potential business partners is one way to propel a company forward. Leasing and marketing professionals know that a good network is good for business. Prospecting and sourcing for new leads is typical practice for a lot of businesses. However, there will be cases that a company may reach out to prospective customers or new clients randomly and indiscriminately. Using To Whom It May Concern in a proposal is an accepted business practice. But if a contact is clearly established, it is best to use an actual name instead. Authorization Letters: When you are unable to claim or accomplish something yourself, some establishments or institutions allow a proxy or substitute to stand in your behalf. In banks for instance, authorization letters are required if a client is unable to make a personal appearance. The client needs an authorization letter in order for the bank to entertain the other person acting on his behalf. Using To Whom It May Concern in an authorization letter is formal enough and completely acceptable. Feedback or Suggestions: For unsatisfied customers or concerned clients, giving valuable feedback may help a business. Obviously, customers are not expected to know who is behind customer service or support. For this reason, it is perfectly acceptable for them to relay their suggestions and comments using the salutation, To Whom It May Concern. Generic Letters: For any letter that does not specify the person, gender, or title, using To Whom It May Concern is fine. It communicates intent with just enough respect and diligence.

When Not to Use To Whom It May Concern

There are some instances where it may not be appropriate to use ‘To Whom It May Concern’. Either it does not help convey the appropriate tone, or it may come off as unnaturally formal and unsuitable for the situation; there can be certain limitations to using the formal salutation. A letter or email that satisfies any of the conditions below should not use To Whom It May Concern:  

Personal Letters: Personal letters and emails naturally do not use To Whom It May Concern in addressing a recipient. Correspondence between family members, friends, and acquaintances usually go by the first name. You obviously will not refer to a family member as ‘To Whom It May Concern’. It does not only come off as inappropriate, but could be deemed callous and rude. If the recipient is someone close to you or someone you have established a relation with, use their first or complete names at all times. Absolute Certainty: Even when it comes to professional matters, you want to refrain from using To Whom It May Concern, if possible. If you do choose to address a specific person in your letter, be absolutely certain that you’ve obtained the right name. Double check the spelling, job title, and the prefixes. For formal documents like applications and proposals, make sure you know the name of the addressee. It helps to research ahead. Try accessing the company website or social media pages; some companies post their organizational structure online. Condolence and Sympathy Letters: When conveying your sympathies to a bereaved family, always address recipients personally in your letter or email. Using To Whom It May Concern is not only cold and disrespectful, but it can do little to ease the mourning. If you can’t pinpoint an exact person to address the condolence letter to, it is safe and acceptable to use the family name instead.

How to Write a To Whom It May Concern Letter and Email

Whatever your reason for using To Whom It May Concern, your letter should still follow standard rules. It is good to have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Follow the easy steps below when crafting your email or letter:  

Step 1: Use the Right Format for the Salutation 

The standard rule for using the salutation is capitalizing all words. A semi-colon usually follows the phrase. Make sure to check your capitalization and punctuation marks before sending out your letter or email. 

Step 2: Provide a Brief Introduction

If you are soliciting or sending out donation request letters, stary by introducing yourself or the organization you represent. Offer to give a short background about the event or project before diving right into the request. It is important to state your case but do so gradually and ease the reader into it. The same goes for a recommendation letters. Although you may never even meet the recipient personally, it is still best to maintain some structure in your letter. And by structure, that means having a solid introduction. If you are composing a character referral, briefly explain how you came to know the person or what your relationship is with them. For employment cover letters, you can start by mentioning how you became aware of the placement ad. 

Step 3: State Your Purpose for Writing

The body of your letter should contain the main purpose of the letter and your key points. State the reason for reaching out. If you are writing a recommendation letter to fulfill a friend’s application requirement, explain why you are recommending him to a job or position. It is important to substantiate your argument with supporting facts and ideas. You can describe the character or work ethic of the person you are recommending. Another example would be sourcing prospective clients or tenants for a commercial space. Leasing agents or scouts typically send out multiple proposals, even sometimes without a specific recipient in mind. Since it is a generic proposal, make sure your letter states the objective of your reaching out to them. For instance, your proposal letter should state your intent of inviting them to put up shop in their commercial space. Support your main point by explaining why the area is a prime location or describing the business opportunity that awaits them.  

Step 4: Close and Sign Professionally

End your letter or email by stating you look forward to hearing their response. You can also leave a contact number so the recipient can touch base with you faster. You want to make sure you match the opening salutation with the closing one. Pair formal with formal and informal with informal. If you open with ‘To Whom It May Concern’, it is more fitting to end with ‘Sincerely’ rather than ‘Hugs and kisses’. Use closing words like regards or sincerely; and do not forget to sign your name.   

FAQs

What is the correct way to write to whom it may concern?

The standard way to write the salutation is by capitalizing all words. Your letter should read, “To Whom It May Concern:”.

When do I use To whom it may concern in an email?

You can opt to use To Whom It May Concern in sending an email when you are unsure of the recipient or if it is a generic letter. For instance, a customer feedback email address is sometimes made available to customers in case of any queries or concerns. The customer or client may use the salutation when giving feedback or suggestions.

What salutation to use instead of to whom it may concern?

There are other ways to address an unknown recipient other than To Whom It May Concern. Some alternatives include Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Hiring Manager, Greetings, or Good day.

How do you end a to whom it may concern letter?

Like any formal letter, use the appropriate closing salutations and sign your name or signature. For emails, a formal signature is typically not needed and just a name will do. Before signing, you can also opt to leave a brief statement saying that you are looking forward to hearing their response. If appropriate, leave your contact details in your closing paragraph.

What does to whom it may concern mean?

To whom it may concern means it is directed to a certain person who may be able to resolve an issue or concern, even if there is insufficient knowledge as to who that person may be. A person who writes ‘To Whom It May Concern’ expects that the person at the receiving end of the correspondence will be able fix or solve their concern.

When to use to whom it may concern?

It is generally acceptable to use To Whom It May Concern when creating cover letters, solicitation letters, recommendation letters, authorization letters, prospective letters or proposals, and other generic letters. You may also use the salutation when offering suggestions or customer feedback to a company.

The traditional and formal salutation has many uses, as well as alternatives. And even though some may regard it as old school, using To Whom It May Concern is normally a safe bet. Not having the personal knowledge as to who is the correct recipient is sometimes unavoidable. In many cases, all people want is to get a general point across to someone they do not know personally. With the dozens of free samples above, find the right template that suits your business needs and create that sample letter today!