When I see that in a cover letter, my first thought is this candidate did not take the time to research my company in order to address their cover letter with my proper name.
Not a good first impression, especially having way too much information on the internet.
If that sounds absurd, now you have a taste first-hand of what it’s like for a recruiter or hiring manager to see the words “To Whom It May Concern” at the top of your cover letter.
Those five little words tell a recruiter or your prospective boss a lot, and none of it is good. Do you want to be thought as lazy, or a lack of resourcefulness, or some combination of any number of characteristics that won’t help you get hired. Because to the hiring manager, if you were truly excited about the idea of working with this company, you’d surely take the time to tailor your greeting.
Yes, job searching can be tedious and frustrating and sometimes mildly soul-crushing, you’d rather have a tooth pulled than spend any more time writing cover letters. But at the end of the day, your goal is to get a new job, or at least land an interview. What’s the point in dashing off another cover letter if the very first words on it will make the reader wrinkle their nose and toss it aside?
So do everyone a favor and next time, try one of these “To Whom It May Concern” alternatives.
Dear/Hello [Name of Person Who’d Be Your Boss
Most of the time this information can be easily found on the company website by the name of the department and names of the team members for that department.
While you’re doing your company research, try to assess how formal the culture is to determine:
- Whether to start with “Dear” or “Hello” (or maybe neither—you can also go with just their name)
- Whether to use honorifics (Mr., Ms., Dr., Prof., etc.)
- Whether to use a full name or just a first name
You’ll probably want to err toward more formal if you’re not sure, and make certain you don’t accidentally misgender someone with the wrong honorific (if you can’t confirm it 100%, drop any gendered language and just use the name).
Dear [Name of the Head of the Department for Which You’re Applying]
If you’ve made a good-faith effort to figure out who your boss would be and it’s just not yielded any answers, don’t panic. It’s not always possible to find that information at this point in the process.
However, you might still be able to address your cover letter to a specific person by simply choosing the head of the department the role falls under. Sure, it may be your prospective boss’s boss, or their boss, but in a way, you’d still be reporting to them up the chain. And it demonstrates that you made an effort and considered what part of the organization you’d be joining and how you’d fit in.
Dear [Name of Department Supervisor for Which You’re Applying]
Along the same lines, if you can’t find the name of your Supervisor, you can go ahead and address your letter to the team or department. For example, you could say “Dear Sales Department” or “Hello Product Team.”
Dear [Whatever This Company Calls Their Recruiting Team or Department
But if you can’t figure out a name there, you can also address the team—just take a few minutes to look up what exactly this particular company calls it. You’ll end up with something like “Dear Recruiting Department” or “Dear Talent Acquisition Team.”
I also think you should put the name of the company in there and make it something like “Dear Bank of America Talent Acquisition Team.” That way, you’re giving a first signal that you know which company you’re applying to and not just sending a generic letter.
Your ultimate goal when you’re writing a cover letter is to get to the next step in the hiring process. Just remember that the Mr., Ms. Whams won’t be impressed if you address them as such. After all, they do have names, roles, teams, departments, and committees. Pick one of those instead and your letter is much more likely to get read, and you’re much more likely to get hired.
I hope that “To Whom It May Concern”- has sufficiently convinced you to vow never to use the phrase again, at least when it comes to your current and future job applications. You may find other situations where it’s appropriate—such as when lodging a customer service complaint—but I can assure you your cover letter isn’t one of them.
You can go to the company’s website or search on LinkedIn to obtain the proper name. There is no excuse for you not to research whom to address your cover letter to.
Writing Cover letters is one of my specialties.
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