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Calling all Employers: Is “To Whom it May Concern” the Kiss of Death?

One of our colleagues over at CareerBuilder’s job seeker blog, The Work Buzz, recently wrote about whether writing “To Whom It May Concern” as the salutation to a prospective employer on a cover letter is the kiss of death for a potential employee.

I think what’s most interesting about this question is that, as evidenced in the post’s comments section, both those in the position of hiring and of being hired have quite a varied opinion on which salutations are acceptable on a candidate’s cover letter — and whether it even matters.

For instance, “promytius” said the resourcefulness of finding out the correct person to address a cover letter to can be construed as “nosy,” while “To whom” or “Dear Sir/Madam” reflected respect for the hiring manager and education of the individual who wrote it.

“Denine” made the point that sometimes employers list the company as confidential in their job advertisement — and in that case,  it’s not only both undetermined and difficult to find out who the employer is, but it’s a red flag to the candidate that trying to find out and get in touch with a particular person at the company is not welcome.

“Mark” said there’s a reason employers use software applications and why job sites often give employers the ability to make contact information confidential — they don’t want to be directly contacted.

For “Lee,” heading formalities are not the issue, but that his company is really looking for proper spelling, ease of reading and proper grammar. And impressed with a candidate addressing him by name? Not so much: Lee said if a candidate finds out his name, he would assume the candidate knew someone within the company and was getting inside information.

“Dawn” said that oftentimes she feels at a disadvantage, because not only is a phone number or e-mail address not provided, but the company name is also kept private. With no information to go by, what is the correct way to address you, employers (assuming we are talking about situations in which cover letters are part of the application equation)?

With all the disagreement, how are candidates to know the correct way to address a cover letter — and avoid having it tossed into the nearest trash can?

How do you want to be addressed on a cover letter? Is there a difference between “To Whom it May Concern” or a candidate doing his or her research and addressing you by name?  And does it even matter, or are you focused on other aspects of the candidate’s credentials?

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
18 comments
engineering technician
engineering technician

Yes, careerbuilder is a serious joke.

Like this site, the primary purpose is to generate revenue thru selling your personal information to advertisers...online colleges, work at home stuffing envelopes scams... sell you old spare gold...and even wonder bra type scammers.

career builders is not alone in this....they all do it.

engineering technician
engineering technician

Yes, careerbuilder is a serious joke. Like this site, the primary purpose is to generate revenue thru selling your personal information to advertisers...online colleges, work at home stuffing envelopes scams... sell you old spare gold...and even wonder bra type scammers. career builders is not alone in this....they all do it.

Amy
Amy

I'm with the two people who said CareerBuilder is a joke. There are very few legit jobs on the site, which is probably why there aren't many, if any, names associated with the ad. Not only that, CareerBuilder sells job-seeker contact information to scam companies. I got so many e-mails via CareerBuilder for what were obviously fake opportunities that I deactivated my account several months ago. That slowed the spam, but didn't stop it.

Amy
Amy

I'm with the two people who said CareerBuilder is a joke. There are very few legit jobs on the site, which is probably why there aren't many, if any, names associated with the ad. Not only that, CareerBuilder sells job-seeker contact information to scam companies. I got so many e-mails via CareerBuilder for what were obviously fake opportunities that I deactivated my account several months ago. That slowed the spam, but didn't stop it.

Amy
Amy

I'm with the two people who said CareerBuilder is a joke. There are very few legit jobs on the site, which is probably why there aren't many, if any, names associated with the ad. Not only that, CareerBuilder sells job-seeker contact information to scam companies. I got so many e-mails via CareerBuilder for what were obviously fake opportunities that I deactivated my account several months ago. That slowed the spam, but didn't stop it.

M. Murray
M. Murray

I recently posted for an admin assistant position in our office and the job posting clearly had my name and that I was the contact person for this position. I am amazed at how many applications I've received addressed "to whom it may concern". I am looking for an office professional and so, for me, this lack of attention to detail is a rather large turn off.

M. Murray
M. Murray

I recently posted for an admin assistant position in our office and the job posting clearly had my name and that I was the contact person for this position. I am amazed at how many applications I've received addressed "to whom it may concern". I am looking for an office professional and so, for me, this lack of attention to detail is a rather large turn off.

M. Murray
M. Murray

I recently posted for an admin assistant position in our office and the job posting clearly had my name and that I was the contact person for this position. I am amazed at how many applications I've received addressed "to whom it may concern". I am looking for an office professional and so, for me, this lack of attention to detail is a rather large turn off.

Suzanne
Suzanne

My name is posted as the contact on all of our job postings and it bothers me when applicants don't take the time to address me by my name (which is clearly noted on the job description). Those who do take the time to write my name are promptly scooted to the top of the list!

Suzanne
Suzanne

My name is posted as the contact on all of our job postings and it bothers me when applicants don't take the time to address me by my name (which is clearly noted on the job description). Those who do take the time to write my name are promptly scooted to the top of the list!

Suzanne
Suzanne

My name is posted as the contact on all of our job postings and it bothers me when applicants don't take the time to address me by my name (which is clearly noted on the job description). Those who do take the time to write my name are promptly scooted to the top of the list!

Robert
Robert

Well, I used something very simple on the cover letter that landed me my previous job: "Dear employer".

Robert
Robert

Well, I used something very simple on the cover letter that landed me my previous job: "Dear employer".

Bill
Bill

I agree with Dorothy in a lot of ways. I'm sure there are a FEW legit job opps on careerbuilder. But not many. Most of them I see are same regurgitated junk over and over. Many of them are obviously scam type jobs as well looking to take peoples' money. Also in most larger companies a candidate is spinning their wheels trying to get a name. For instance, I know someone that works for McKesson locally. Every time there's a job posting that looks like it might fit my background, she submits my resume for a potential referral bonus. She's never able to get a name though for the hiring manager. And she works for the company!! Sorry to sound bitter but careerbuilder is a joke!!!

Bill
Bill

I agree with Dorothy in a lot of ways. I'm sure there are a FEW legit job opps on careerbuilder. But not many. Most of them I see are same regurgitated junk over and over. Many of them are obviously scam type jobs as well looking to take peoples' money. Also in most larger companies a candidate is spinning their wheels trying to get a name. For instance, I know someone that works for McKesson locally. Every time there's a job posting that looks like it might fit my background, she submits my resume for a potential referral bonus. She's never able to get a name though for the hiring manager. And she works for the company!! Sorry to sound bitter but careerbuilder is a joke!!!

Dorothy B Mallar
Dorothy B Mallar

As most companies do not have names attached to the positions they are hiring for, you are lucky if there is a company name with the ad, I feel your comments are as useless as your site. Most of the jobs on careerbuilders have been the same postings for years, I am not sure how legit they really are. As far as doing your homework to find a name and title, what a wonderful idea if the company would introduce themselves and have a human name to contact instead of the "Baby Games" most companies think of as a test. How sad. Every time I read what you think is the correct and updated way of doing things, within weeks it has changed and there is something new that is now required. If hiring managers knew how to read resumes, set up proper interviews, then maybe some of the jobs that have been on your site for the past three years would have been filled.

Dorothy B Mallar
Dorothy B Mallar

As most companies do not have names attached to the positions they are hiring for, you are lucky if there is a company name with the ad, I feel your comments are as useless as your site. Most of the jobs on careerbuilders have been the same postings for years, I am not sure how legit they really are. As far as doing your homework to find a name and title, what a wonderful idea if the company would introduce themselves and have a human name to contact instead of the "Baby Games" most companies think of as a test. How sad. Every time I read what you think is the correct and updated way of doing things, within weeks it has changed and there is something new that is now required. If hiring managers knew how to read resumes, set up proper interviews, then maybe some of the jobs that have been on your site for the past three years would have been filled.

Dorothy B Mallar
Dorothy B Mallar

As most companies do not have names attached to the positions they are hiring for, you are lucky if there is a company name with the ad, I feel your comments are as useless as your site. Most of the jobs on careerbuilders have been the same postings for years, I am not sure how legit they really are. As far as doing your homework to find a name and title, what a wonderful idea if the company would introduce themselves and have a human name to contact instead of the "Baby Games" most companies think of as a test. How sad. Every time I read what you think is the correct and updated way of doing things, within weeks it has changed and there is something new that is now required. If hiring managers knew how to read resumes, set up proper interviews, then maybe some of the jobs that have been on your site for the past three years would have been filled.

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