How to Address a Letter you Don’t Know who the Recipient is

We all are familiar with addressing a letter To Whom it May Concern when writing to someone or an office you don’t know. 

That’s not bad. But it is no more conventional. Aside from using ‘To Whom it May Concern,” there are other unique ways you can address your letter. 

This article has prepared a guide on addressing a letter you don’t know the recipient or receive. Whether addressing a cover letter or email, this guide will help you understand how to start and address a letter the recipient is unknown.

Also, this article uncovered some serious mistakes we make when addressing a formal letter, including some things to avoid.

What To Consider When AddressING a Letter You Don’t Know The Recipient

Knowing exactly how to start your letter is helpful in the beginning. Although it might seem obvious, there are a few things to consider.

1. Format and Language

The format and tone of your language are one thing you must consider when speaking with someone you don’t know. You are not yet close friends, even if you are familiar with their names. 

Therefore, it is unlikely that you would begin a letter with “Hey babe, what’s up?”

What say you, then? Well, “Dear [name]” is a generally accepted way to begin written communication. It’s formal but not stuffy.

Please avoid using any language that is overly familiar or where they might not understand you. Ensure you keep it simple and polite until you’ve built rapport with this person.

2. Gender Equality

In a formal or business letter, you have a few options when addressing someone if you know their name.

It would be best if you addressed them as Mr. or Ms. X. know how they are identified so you can manage them with the title. 

If you’re unsure, you can try to learn more or select a different form of address.

Be mindful of whether you use Miss, Mrs., or Ms. for women/femmes. Since “Ms.” doesn’t imply a married or single status, it is the safest choice.

Use it if you know the person prefers it over the others.

You can try to find someone on social media to learn how they identify (Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram are probably your best bet). 

People occasionally list their pronouns in their profiles, such as “Jane Gray, she/her” or “AJ DePew, they/them.” Although not everybody does this, it’s becoming more common.

Lastly, address someone if they have a doctorate, another official title, or honorific. “Dear Dr. Jane” or “Dear Professor Duncan,” for instance.

You may also want to check out: How to Write a Character Letter for Court in 2022: Step-By-Step Guide.

How to Address a Letter You Don’t Know The Recipient

Here are ways you can address a letter you don’t know the recipient:

“To Whom It May Concern” alternatives.

It’s acceptable to write to someone even if you don’t know their name. A few good choices still demonstrate your diligence and concern for them.

Such as “Dear Head of Operations,” say “Dear (Position/Job Title)”

If you’re applying for a position in, let’s say, the operations department, chances are good that your boss will have the title “Head of Operations.”

It would be best if you still addressed your communication to that person or position even though you are probably not applying to them directly (i.e., they won’t be the first to see your application/cover letter).

By using this style of address, you demonstrate that you have, at the very least, do your research on the position for which you are applying, the organizational structure of the departments, etc.

The phrase “Dear (Team/Department),” such as “Dear Human Resource Department.”

If you land the job, you can take a step back if you are unsure of the organization’s structure or the positions you might work with.

Although it’s not quite as direct as addressing one person, beginning with “Dear Human Resource Department” is still pertinent and considerate.

For Big Companies

If you’re applying to a larger company or team where it isn’t easy to pinpoint a specific position or individual who will see your application, this address works well.

Keep it casual by using the following:

  • “Greetings,” 
  • “Hello,” 
  • “Good afternoon,” 

Avoid using words like “Hi there!” or simply “Hello.” These addresses are undoubtedly less formal than “Dear X,” but they may be appropriate in some circumstances.

Something neutral like “Hello there” or “Hi there” is a good choice if you can’t get any specific information about where your application might go in an informal letter. “Good morning” also works well if you send your email first thing in the morning.

Even though it will be evident that you have no idea who you are talking to, at least you are neutral and polite.

However, it is good to learn more about the corporate culture before using this option. These greetings are probably acceptable if they appear relatively laid-back and informal.

Also, see: How To Write A Retirement Resignation Letter in 2022 | Full Guide

Words To Use When the Recipient is Unknown

Here are words you can use when addressing a letter you don’t know the recipient:

Dear (Name of Boss or Person to Whom You Would Report)

You might not be entirely sure to whom you are applying or sending that cover letter right now. However, you might identify who would be your boss.

Look around the company’s website. By reading the biographies, you will discover who is in charge of what and who is on which team. 

You can address your letter to the person you would report to if you know who that person is.

Sure, it sounds ambitious. However, it does show your research skills. And that you want to do your best work for the company, the job, and yourself.

Dear (Name of Department Head)

If you want to use someone’s name but are unsure who your boss would be if you got the job, zoom out a little. 

Whatever department you’d work in if they hired you, you can probably guess who the boss is.

Write your letter to that person once you’ve located them. Also, it’s not the most direct, but it’s unquestionably preferable to “To Whom It May Concern.”

Additionally, like the previous option, it shows that you’re trying to learn everything you can about the business.

Dear (Name of the recruiter)

You can address your letter to the specific recruiter who will look over your application if you know their name. Although it might take some work to realize that, it helps your application or cover letter stand out.

You can inquire if you’re working with a recruiter. Additionally, you can contact the business and ask them to provide you with that person’s name. But if you’re unable to do that.

Dear (Recruiting Manager or Hiring Manager)

These names can be challenging to find at times. However, it’s a safe assumption that a hiring or recruitment manager will be involved. Therefore, writing to the position in your letter might get their attention.

Dear (Hiring Manager for the position you are applying for), for example, “Dear Network Engineering Hiring Manager.”

If a team or committee is hiring you, you can always address your communication to them if you want to be as specific as you can but don’t know their name.

Put “Search Committee,” “Hiring Manager,” or “Hiring Team” after the position you’re applying for (such as Computer Engineer, or Database Scientist), as in “Dear Network Engineer Hiring Team.”

By doing this, you can show that you are aware of the department that, if hired, you would work in and that you are addressing your inquiry to them.

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Dear Head of the (Department) or Dear Head of (Department)

You can address your letter to the head of that department if you want to get the attention of the leader of your (potentially future) team.

Say something like “Dear Network Engineering Department Head” if you don’t know their name.

Dear (Name of referral) 

Finally, you can always address your letter to a coworker if they have recommended you to someone who works there.

This is especially effective because it demonstrates that you have a connection with someone who currently holds that position. 

As a result, you can be reasonably confident that your letter or application will get past the “first look.”

Your friend or acquaintance can look over your letter and decide who would be the best candidate to look it over.

Add-on: Dear (Full name)

Please find the name of someone on the selection committee or your applying department. But what if you’re not familiar with the history of that name or how people are addressed there?

Using the person’s full name in this situation might be a good idea. People sometimes list their last names first, for instance, in Hungary, Taiwan, or Japan. You aren’t assuming to address someone by just their first name using their full name.

How to Locate the Ideal Contact

You can take different ways if you’re determined to find a name to address your letter. One can:

  • You can frequently get that information by asking your recruiter or HR representative.
  • Visit the company website; the “About Us” section frequently contains valuable information and details about the team.
  • Look in the job description or application; there may be instructions there.
  • Look on LinkedIn; given that so many people use it and have publicly accessible profiles, it is frequently the first place job seekers turn.
  • Ask someone you know who works there or in the department.

Call the administrative assistant or office manager and inquire.

When “To Whom It May Concern” is appropriate

There are a few circumstances where you should use “To Whom It May Concern.” They typically happen when you don’t need or want to know the person’s name you’re addressing.

Therefore, you can say that when:

The business does not require you to conduct extensive background research on the recipient and select the ideal recipient for the letter; instead, you offer a recommendation or reference check for someone else.

If you received a defective product, weren’t happy with their customer service, or something similar, you’re complaining to the company.

You’re making an introduction to a person you’ve never met and don’t know very well.

If you don’t know your reader’s name, you now know how to address your correspondence. It’s not nearly as frightening (or dated) as it seems.

Read Also: How to End a Business Letter in 2022 | Samples & Templates

What to Avoid when Address a Letter you Don’t Know the Recipient.

When addressing a letter to an unidentified recipient, try to avoid the following mistakes:

You are assuming a specific gender

Just use their full name if you’re unsure. For instance, you might say “Dear Tom Trump” rather than “Dear Ms. Trump.”

Assuming the person is married.

When addressing someone by their first name, avoid using the prefixes “Miss” or “Mrs.” until you are sure of their preferences. Instead, refer to them by their full name or “Ms.”

Using the reader as a friend by addressing them.

Your cover letter can be informal, but it should still be formal and professional. Exclamation points and everyday language like “hi” and “hello” are inappropriate for a cover letter.

Not in any way addressing the reader.

It’s just as bad not to use a greeting as it is to use the incorrect one.

Hiring managers do not want to see a cover letter that appears to have been copied and pasted from one application to another or that the applicant did not research the recipient.

Here are some illustrations of incorrect cover letter addresses:

  • Hello there
  • Whoever This May Concern
  • Good day
  • Jane here.
  • Salut, Sales Team

A Sample Letter


Can we still use To Whom It May Concern?

In reality, the letter salutation “To Whom It May Concern” is a dated one that is still occasionally used. There are currently more effective ways to begin a letter. It is easy to omit the salutation.

How should you address a letter to someone whose name you don’t know?

Although Dear Sir is the proper form if you don’t know the recipient’s name, many people prefer Dear Sir or Madam. To find the person in charge of that division, use their name.

How should you address a letter to someone whose gender you don’t know?

When you don’t know the gender identity of the person, use a gender-neutral greeting and their first and last names, such as “Dear Tom Cook.”

Read Also: How to Write an Explanation Letter for Mortgage Application in 2022


When you are unsure of the recipient of your letter, you can take a few steps to ensure that your letter is addressed correctly. First, check for clues in the letter that might indicate who the recipient is. 

If there are no clues, try reaching out to the organization the letter is intended for and ask for help.

Finally, if you still cannot find out who the recipient is, address the letter as “Dear Sir or Madam.



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