THERE ARE HUNDREDS of perfectly acceptable ways to start an email:
Dear ‘So and So’.
And then there is one you should avoid at all costs.
To whom it may concern.
According to Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas, ’To whom it may concern’ is the worst way to start an email today.
Though the greeting may seem innocuous at first, she explains that it comes off as impersonal and old fashioned — and reeks of a mass-produced spam letter.
“Ultimately, it sends the wrong message,” Gottsman says.
It also makes you look lazy and apathetic.
More often than not, a quick phone call or Google search will unearth the name of the individual you should be emailing. If you haven’t done your homework, the recipient may be insulted, and your chances of receiving a positive response decline significantly, Gottsman says.
And this is especially true for jobseekers.
Even if you can’t find a name — or you’re unsure whom exactly will be opening the email (you may be sending an email to a generic address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org) — there’s always a better opener than, To whom it may concern.
Gottsman suggests addressing your email to the position of the person, or the group of people you’re sending it to, such as, “Dear Recruitment Officer,” or, “Dear Marketing Department.”
Doing this shows that you still put in some effort, even if you ultimately couldn’t find a name.
Gottsman also recommends avoiding other generic greetings, such as, “Dear Sir,” or, “Hi Ma’am.”
These give off the same impersonal vibe, making you seem disingenuous.
Bottom line: A little research goes a long way.