cover letter

The Popular “To Whom It May Concern” Phrase

I recently read a cover letter with the popular “to whom it may concern” on it. This phrase is supposed to be representative of the individual that will read this cover letter.

While this line has been added unintentionally, possibly owing to ignorance or lack of more information, The first phrase had me thinking for a moment.

The Problem With “To Whom It May Concern”

While to whom it may concern might sound cool and let you move on to submit your application, I think job seekers can do better.

Consider these two scenarios:

Scenario A: You receive a letter with “To Whom It May Concern”. What thoughts would go through your mind? I am sure you will take a moment to verify whether the content belongs to you.

Scenario B: You receive another letter that is personalised and directed to you.

Here, you need no additional information. It’s obvious the letter has been written to you.

When I receive emails or letters with “To Whom It May Concern”, I feel the letter or email might not be for me. I have to take a closer look to assess the content.

In some cases, especially when I am busy, I may not have the opportunity to dig further, particularly if the content does not appeal to me at first glance.

It’s the same with cover letters too.

What You Should Do Instead


When writing a cover letter for any application, address it to a human where possible. I have done this for several years in my cover letters for job applications, and the difference has been remarkable.


  • It is directed to a person, and they feel the need to take action in most cases.
  • It feels special when you receive a letter or email directed to you. You feel it’s your duty or responsibility to take action.
  • You are genuinely interested in knowing the content of the letter.
  • If possible, you own the content and want to take it to the next step. You feel a sense of duty.


What If The Contact’s Name Isn’t Readily Available?


Sometimes, the job ad doesn’t have the hiring manager’s information. Here, I recommend you contact the company and ask for these details. It might look like additional work, but the benefits are enormous.

This extra step might look stressful, but it might help unlock more information.

As a last resort, if you can’t access this information, it might be helpful to write to a head of a department or unit using a broad job title and the department.

This option still looks better than To Whom It May Concern; however, I prefer to have a named individual.

Closing Thoughts

Cover letters are fantastic. They can make a difference in your job application.

When writing cover letters, think about the next person.

Do you want the fellow to feel obliged and the need to act on your cause, or do you want them to start analysing whether the letter belongs to them?

You can make it easy for them to move on with you by addressing your next cover letter to the hiring manager.

Agree. You might not always have all the information you need, but seeking to get this information will be helpful.


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