5 Alternatives to 'To Whom It May Concern'
By Vicki Salemi
If you're writing another cover letter and blindly reaching out to a recruiting department, "To Whom It May Concern" may feel a little tired. Well, that's because it is. Would you like to receive a universal letter that pretty much addresses no one? Probably not.
Here are several ways to spruce up the letter and show you're putting in more effort than your average job seeker. Whichever way you decide to spice it up, please don't be that guy or gal who makes the ultimate faux pas: "Dear Sirs." Yes, job seekers still do this, and yes, for equal opportunity workplaces it can be a major turnoff. Even "Dear Sirs or Madam" is a lot better but still seems very 1950s. Try these instead:1. Dear [hiring manager's name]. With a little digging online, you can probably get a sense of who the position reports to. Considering many companies list their executives, you can drill down from there. Why not start from the top? If you're pursuing a job in human resources and the company clearly lists the name of the chief HR executive in charge, go ahead and address the letter to that person. Will the executive be the first person to open the cover letter in the applicant tracking system? Not exactly. Will it look like you did your homework? You bet.
2. Dear [recruiting manager's name]. Again, with some online research, you can find out who is opening each résumé and cover letter in the system. Although calling the company may not always do the trick, you might as well try. Ask to be connected to the experienced hire recruiting team or someone in talent acquisition. Be honest: Say you want to personalize your cover letter and aim to connect with the professional managing that specific job requisition. At that point, you can also ask for the company's formula for employees' email addresses. (For example, is it an employee's first initial and last name at the company name dot com? Or is it the full name? Or just initials?)
Another way to find this email code is by looking at the media page of the company's website. Click on the press room page to look at press releases. If the public relations team is internal, those employees' email addresses will be listed. Voila! Just like that, you've deciphered their email address code. At that point, you can contact the recruiter via email with the personalized letter just for him or her. If you emailed the wrong person, chances are they'll forward it internally to the right one.
3. Dear Recruiting Department. If you hit some dead ends during your research, save this precious time for networking and go generic instead. Recruiters and hiring managers spend split seconds on your cover letter to make a decision, so while the content matters most, even saying "recruiting department" will show a nice touch. They won't have time to wonder why you didn't call the department to get a specific name, but they will see you went an extra step that goes a long way.
You really can't go wrong with this particular approach. When you submit your résumé to the system, it's recruiters, sources or their coordinators – essentially folks in talent acquisition – who are reviewing your paperwork. Bingo!
4. Dear [name of the department you're pursuing]. If you're pursuing a position in marketing, you can't go wrong by addressing your letter, "Dear Marketing Department." Even a small step like this will get noticed positively. Plus, your cover letter will likely reflect your marketing skills and experiences, thereby tying in the greeting nicely. The first course of action would be to find the name of the director who's doing the actual hiring as mentioned above, but when all else fails, address it to the department.
5. Dear [name of referral]. Your networking has been paying off! If your neighbor or friend from Toastmasters or yoga offers to forward your résumé internally, then use his or her name in the letter. The email will definitely get read, because a referral has clout and stands apart from the thousands of generic résumés in the system. If the string of emails get separated but the cover letter and résumé get reattached elsewhere, at least you're referencing the referral in the letter and your introduction mentions it as such, too. You're less likely to get lost in the shuffle this way, and isn't that the whole point?