To Whom It May Concern Letter: When To Use It and Letter Examples

 Article Summary:

It’s often best to use a “To Whom It May Concern” letter in professional letters that aren’t addressed to a specific person. While this letter greeting is appropriate for recommendation, concern, or formal complaint letters, it’s not the best for a potential job cover letter. In this case, try your best to find the appropriate person (such as a hiring manager) and address your cover letter to them.

The world of business has always been a little more formal than the average interaction. This is especially true when it comes to things like cover letters, formal complaints, or letters of recommendation. It’s one of the few times when you will hear people use the phrase “to whom it may concern.”

Did you recently find yourself in a situation where you’ve been asked to write a letter with this phrase? Is it your first letter to a major corporate boss or a legal complaint department? This guide is specifically for you. Keep reading to learn more about “to whom it may concern” letters, when you should write one, and how to structure your next business letter.

What is a “To Whom It May Concern” letter?

This is a letter addressed to an unknown recipient, ideally for professional purposes. It’s a letter that is meant to work with any form of interaction that could end up being put on record that doesn’t have a specific person in mind.

When should you use a “To Whom It May Concern” letter?

This letter style can be used for a wide range of business correspondence. There are several occasions that tend to be more likely to warrant it than others.

  • Recommendation letters. Any time you don’t know the contact person for a letter of recommendation, you should use this choice. It’s a formal letter that requires a formal greeting.
  • Formal complaint. If you have a serious complaint that you are concerned may come to legal blows, this would be a good choice of letter for you. Filing a formal customer service complaint can help avoid legal problems.
  • Prospecting letter. This might be the case if your target company’s profile notes that it prefers formal correspondence.
  • Concern letters. These are letters that act as a corporate form of, “Hey, are you guys sure you want to do this policy?” If you don’t know the concern letter’s recipient, this is one of the better ways to go about writing letters to them.

Should you use a “To Whom It May Concern” letter for a job search?

If you’re looking to get a new job, this is not the type of letter format you should use unless it is specifically requested on the job application. It’s considered outdated to use it as a reply to an original job posting.

A better option for job hunters would be to seek out the right person for the letter and address them specifically. This may take some digging on a site like LinkedIn or the company website itself, but it shows that you took the time to find the right hiring manager’s name.

If you cannot find the hiring manager’s name or can’t locate a specific hiring manager, the best thing to do is stick with “Dear hiring manager,” “Dear personnel manager,” or “Dear recruiting manager” as a salutation.

Pro Tip

Hiring managers prefer seeing their names in letters and tend to spend a little more attention on people who make an attempt at professional networking. Reaching out through social media, networking events, or a professional networking website can make the difference between getting the job and never getting a callback.

How to write a “To Whom It May Concern” letter

This is one of the few letters that will require good formatting. When sending out a professional letter, make sure to use the formatting style below:

  • Always capitalize the first letter of this salutation, as in “To Whom It May Concern.”
  • Follow that up with a colon, not a comma.
  • Double-space your text throughout the letter.
  • Keep your language formal and to the point.
  • It’s customary to start the first paragraph with a quick explanation of what you’re writing about, including the job title.
  • Resist the urge to use “Who” or “Whoever” or “Whomever” instead of “Whom.
  • Use a professional letter header (your name, address, contact info) and a professional letter closing.

Once the letter is formatted correctly, make sure you follow these points for the specific letter you’re writing.

  • Recommendation letter. Make sure you don’t oversell the person and be honest about what they can and cannot do.
  • Formal complaint. Though you may be tempted to, refrain from using profanity, slang, or threats in the letter.
  • Concern letter. While it’s important to voice your concerns, remember that adding suggestions for alternative moves can make a big difference.
  • Lawsuit letter. If you are considering a lawsuit, you can mention this in your letter as long as your lawyer suggests it.

Alternative greetings for professional letters

You may find that a “to whom it may concern” greeting doesn’t fit the particular letter you’re writing. In that case, feel free to substitute the greeting with one from the list below.

  • Re: [letter topic]
  • Dear Search Committee
  • Dear Recruiter
  • Dear Hiring Team
  • Dear Recruiting Department
  • Dear Hiring Committee
  • Dear HR Manager
  • Dear Talent Acquisition Team
  • Dear [department] Manager
  • Dear [department] Team
  • Dear Personnel Manager
  • Dear Human Resources Representative

Three examples of a good “To Whom It May Concern” letter

Let’s see this letter format in action, shall we? Below you’ll find three different sample letters that you can use as a guideline for your letter. Just make sure to tailor your letter to the particular company and situation you’re writing about.

Example 1: Recommendation letter

If a student or former employee asks you for a recommendation, feel free to highlight some of the candidate’s best qualities. However, be succinct and don’t oversell the person’s achievements.

[Recipient Address]


From the office of George Washington
January 10, 1776


To Whom It May Concern:

I recently heard that Alexander Hamilton has applied to be a part of your company. As his former employer, I wish to put forth a letter of recommendation.

I have been working closely with Mr. Hamilton for approximately 10 years. He has been an excellent intern and will work well with your organization. He is known for being succinct, efficient, and impeccably good at rhymes. I strongly recommend him for this position.



George Washington

Example 2: Formal complaint letter

No one likes being criticized, and it’s important to keep that in mind when drafting a complaint letter. State your complaints and that you wish to rectify the situation, but don’t threaten the company or customer service department.

[Recipient Address]


From the office of George Washington
January 10, 1776


To Whom It May Concern:

I have been a customer of the British Empire Tea Party for the past two years, and wish to issue a complaint. I was wrongfully billed for the sum of $450 for goods I have never received. When I tried to call customer service, they refused to refund the money.

I am deeply alarmed by this and know this is not the correct way to do business. Please fix this concern immediately before we need to escalate the situation to the Better British Bureau. I await a reply.



George Washington

Example 3: Concern letter

Similar to the complaint letter, remember to professionally state your concerns about a new policy without coming across as aggressive. If you can, also include evidence supporting your concerns or potential solutions for the problem.

[Recipient Address]


From the office of George Washington
January 10, 1776


To Whom It May Concern:

As a resident of the 1313 Mockingbird Lane condominium, I feel I should express concern about the new policy regarding pets. I do not feel like having a policy that allows unleashed pets to roam free is wise for our neighborhood.

A dog that remains unleashed could end up harming smaller pets and animals. It also could run away from its owners, devastating them. My suggestion is that we keep dogs on a leash, just like we have for the past 12 years. I hope you rethink your new change of stance.



George Washington


How do you address a letter to an unknown recipient?

There are several ways to do this, but the overall consensus is that it should be a simple, generic salutation. A generic greeting like, “Dear customer service manager,” or even something like, “Dear sir or madam,” can work well.

If you’re writing letters of a more casual type, simply putting a generic salutation like “Hello there!” can work well.

How do you address a letter to multiple recipients?

If you’re writing a formal correspondence, then it’s best to address them by their full names and job titles, with commas separating each person’s name. For example, it would look something like this:

  • Dear Hiring Manager Judy Smith, and Associate Manager Debra Smitty

If you’re writing a letter that is more casual, then you can use all of their first names. If the recipients are all part of a specific group or company, then you can use the group’s name to address all recipients.

Who do I address my cover letter to if there is no contact name?

It’s always best to do a little research about the hiring manager’s name. Many firms are totally fine with a phone call to ask the name of the hiring manager so that it can be featured on the cover letter. You might also be able to find this information on professional networking sites.

If you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, using “Dear recruiting manager” will work in a pinch.

Key Takeaways

  • A “To Whom It May Concern” letter is a great choice for formal letters that do not have a specific person as a chosen recipient.
  • You should try to keep language formal in this type of letter.
  • Using this greeting is ideal for letters of recommendation, formal complaints, as well as letters that involve addressing specific issues on paper.
  • Try to avoid using a “To Whom It May Concern” type of letter for a job application or a cover letter.
  • When at all possible, try to address the letter to a specific person.
  • Use proper grammar and formatting when writing any type of formal letter.
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