The weakest way to start your cover letter is with “To Whom It May Concern.” This vague, antiquated phrase causes a hiring manager to ask, “Does this really concern me?” – at which point your letter will pale compared to all the more real, urgent concerns on their desk.
Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid using “To Whom It May Concern” as your cover letter intro. The following alternatives will show you how to address your target audience in a robust, more confident tone.
As a first step, replace “To Whom It May Concern” with the more straightforward “Dear Hiring Manager.” Consider this phrase your new default for those rare cases where you genuinely don’t know anything about your addressee or the hiring organization. But also consider it a foundation on which you can and should put other details often revealed by the job posting.
Here are the five most common types of information you can find in a job posting, along with tips and examples for adding them to the “Dear Hiring Manager” template.
1. The hiring company’s name
Most job postings specify the hiring company’s name. In these cases, you can simply place it in front of “Hiring Manager.”
Dear [Company] Hiring Manager:
Dear SZN Inc. Hiring Manager:
2. The hiring division or department name
If the job posting doesn’t provide the hiring company’s name, it may still indicate the division or department you’d be working for. You can include this detail in the same way.
Dear [Department] Hiring Manager:
Dear Sales Department Hiring Manager:
3. The addressee’s position title
A better scenario is when the job posting indicates the title of the person receiving your application or the title of the person you’d be reporting to in the position. In these cases, replace “Hiring Manager” with their given title.
Dear [Job Title]:
Dear Recruiting Manager:
You can combine these first three variables to the extent you know them, such as with:
Dear [Company] [Job Title]:
Dear TAO Services Accounting Manager:
However, depending on the job details, combining variables can make an unwieldy greeting such as:
Dear PricewaterhouseCoopers Sales & Marketing Department Recruitment Officer:
In these cases, use just the job title and move other identifying information above your greeting, as in:
Sales & Marketing Department
300 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10017
Dear Recruitment Officer:
4. The company’s work culture
If you know or can tell that the hiring company’s work culture is more casual, you can trade out “Dear” for the less formal “Greetings” or “Hello.” You can also make the text slightly less formal by trading the colon at the end of the line for a comma.
Greetings SOE Services,
5. The addressee’s name
This is the best alternative: address your letter to a specific recipient if their name is provided.
Dear [Mr./Ms./Mx.] [Last Name]:
Dear Mr. Bergsen:
As indicated above, use “Ms.” as your default title for female recipient names unless the job posting suggests they’re to be addressed as “Mrs.” or “Miss.”
If the recipient’s name is non-gender specific, you can write out their full name or use just their first name for a company with a more casual work culture.
Dear Alex Thompson:
Apart from “Dear Hiring Manager” and its many variations, you can also avoid “To Whom It May Concern” by referring directly to the job opening at hand, as in:
Re: [Job Title] Opening
Re: Sales Manager Job Opening
While this option is undoubtedly concise and specific enough, we don’t recommend it because it’s not very personable. Try to address your recipient directly – your cover letter is, after all, a letter. In his bestselling guide On Writing Well, William Zinsser describes writing as “a personal transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and the transaction will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.” Give your cover letter a more human touch, and you’ll make it much easier for hiring managers to envision you as someone they can have in for an interview.