Recently, I received the following email:

To Whom It May Concern:

I saw your company featured in the _____ email, and I have a few marketing friends that are looking for a new opportunity.

But I suppose you guys are keeping it a small startup for now?


This is a completely reasonable question but the way it was structured rubbed me the wrong way. This request is built to fail. Let’s break it down.

If you’re not sure who you’re addressing, To Whom It May Concern is perfectly fine. If you’re asking a hiring question and sending things to a general mailbox, though, you should go with Dear Hiring Manager or something similar. It’s super helpful to know who your desired audience is right up front and it lets us get your question to the right person quickly.

Keep your tone consistent. “To Whom It May Concern” doesn’t belong in the same email as “you guys.”
I would love to help your friends! But unless you and I have a prior relationship I’m much more likely to do so if they contact me themselves. Hand them my email address. I’m always happy to talk.

The last question is where it really goes off the rails. You should never make assumptions about what the person you’re talking to is willing to do. Put your question on the table and step back to let them respond. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much they’re willing to contribute to the conversation but if you preemptively reject yourself why should they help?

Do your research! It’s easy to find out that Red Hen is five years old and that we regularly help our clients with HR projects including recruitment. While we may still qualify as a startup according to some metrics, this is unnecessary commentary that makes it feel like you didn’t do even cursory research.

Here’s how it could have been done better:

Dear Hiring Manager,

I enjoyed your feature in the ______________ newsletter this week and believe I may be a good fit for your company or your clients. My resume is attached for your consideration.

I specialize in _________________, am currently employed with ___________________, and am exploring my options. I would love to talk further and can be reached at ______________.


I also would have happily accepted:

Dear Red Hen,

I just read your feature in _____________ newsletter and would really like to learn more about your firm. I’m actively seeking a new opportunity and have attached my resume. Whether we get to work together or not, though, I think we’re playing in the same space and would love to talk about that.

My interests include sky diving, cats, and solving incredibly complex marketing dilemmas for my small-business clients. Your casual culture and attention to detail are things I can get behind and if you’re available for coffee sometime next week I’ll bring the bagels.


Got it? Good! Get out there and ask for things!

Best wishes,