Survey: Is "To Whom It May Concern” Acceptable on a Cover Letter?
If you’ve ever researched how to write a cover letter, you probably know that career experts from all over the internet agree you should never address your cover letter with a generic introduction like “To Whom It May Concern.”
But does it really matter how you start your cover letter? To find out, ResumeCompanion conducted a poll of over 1,000 hiring managers from across the United States to determine how they view “To Whom It May Concern” being used on an applicant’s cover letter.
No big deal: 83% of hiring managers disclosed that seeing “To Whom It May Concern” on an applicant’s cover letter would have little or no impact on their hiring decision.
For years, experts have insisted that when you’re formatting your cover letter, you should avoid using “To Whom It May Concern” at all costs. But countless job seekers begin their cover letters with “To Whom It May Concern” anyway — they can’t all be unemployed.
So to discover the truth, ResumeCompanion conducted a survey of hiring managers from across the country.
The results of this survey deal a shocking blow to the expert consensus.
Over 83% of hiring managers polled revealed that seeing “To Whom It May Concern” on a candidate’s cover letter would have little or no impact on their decision to hire or interview that person.
Even more fascinating, however, is how the data varied according to the age, gender, and location of each respondent.
Men are three times as likely as women to reject a candidate for starting their cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern.”
The majority of both men and women agreed that seeing a candidate use a generic introduction on their cover letter would have little impact on their hiring decision. However, men are clearly touchier about the subject.
6% of male hiring managers stated that they would reject a candidate outright for using “To Whom It May Concern” on their cover letter. Compare that with the 2% of female hiring managers who said the same, and there’s clearly a gender divide.
If you find out a man is going to be reading your cover letter, try to address him by name to boost your chances of success. Yet if you can’t find his name, it’s still most likely fine to address your letter with “To Whom It May Concern” since neither gender seems to mind much.
Even more interesting is how results differed by age:
Gen Z hiring managers are the most likely to reject an applicant for addressing their cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern.”
If internet memes are anything to go off of, you’d assume that the most likely person to get worked up over your cover letter introduction is older — maybe a prickly 60 year old?
However, according to ResumeCompanion’s research, the reality is the opposite. According to the data, the most likely age demographic to reject a candidate outright for beginning their cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern” is Generation Z (ages 18 to 24).
True to their reputation, though, older hiring managers (ages 55 to 64) are still the second most likely to reject a candidate for starting their cover letter with a generic introduction.
Meanwhile, Millennial hiring managers cared the least about whether candidates use “To Whom It May Concern” on their cover letters.
Also interesting are how the results vary according to geographic location:
Hiring managers from the Midwest are most likely to reject an applicant for starting their cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern.”
A significant 22% of hiring managers from the Midwest admitted that seeing “To Whom It May Concern” on a cover letter would make them less likely to hire that candidate.
This makes the Midwest the strictest region when it comes to how you should address your cover letter.
This is in stark contrast to hiring managers from the Northeastern United States, where only 10% care whether or not a candidate opens their cover letter with “To Whom It May Concern.”
Takeaway: “To Whom It May Concern” isn’t the cover letter killer that experts claim it is.
Here’s the bottom line: if you can’t find the hiring manager’s name, using a generic opener like “To Whom It May Concern” isn’t a big deal.
However, it’s still far from the best way to introduce your cover letter. Before falling back on a generic opener like this, make sure you exhaust your options for finding the hiring manager’s name.
To help you in your search, here are a few methods for finding the hiring manager’s name that you may not have thought of:
- Search the company website to see if they have a directory.
- Browse the company’s LinkedIn to find their associated employees.
- Google the company name and the phrase “hiring manager” or “human resources.”
- Call the company and ask the receptionist if there’s a name you can use on your cover letter.
If all else fails, just remember that the vast majority of hiring managers don’t actually care how you address your cover letter, so long as the rest of your application demonstrates that you’re qualified.