“To whom it may concern” is commonly used when providing employment reference letters, character reference letters and personal reference letters. A “to whom it may concern” letter is often written as a response to an individual or company inquiry about an applicant. A reference letter typically describes positive qualities about the person in question, including both professional and personal qualities.
Character reference letters are typically short and professionally organized. They are also dated recently, implying a recent relationship. A character reference for a job opening is often written by the previous employer's human relations department on company letterhead. Writing a character reference letter for a court proceeding or non-business matter often requires more personal details describing a non-work relationship. Often, these letters illustrate the positive character of someone accused of a crime. Such a letter typically states the nature of the relationship, how long the writer has known the accused and a personal testament toward the accused's character. “To whom it may concern” is often used when the person who is reviewing the letter is unknown. In situations such as a court case, the phrase “your honor” or the judge's name can be used instead. In business letters, the name of the business may be used, or if written as response, the letter can use the name of the original inquiry writer.