If you don't know the name of the person to whom you are applying, how should you start off your cover letter? "Dear Sir or Madam" just seems so stuffy and outdated but "Hey guy" is perhaps a little too informal. Any tips?
I tend to use "Dear Recruiter" because medium to large companies who do their own recruiting tend to call the folks who perfrom that function "Recruiters".
I would love to use a real name, but it is frequently impossible to find one. If one can find the name, they can usually get a phone number also. Those folks do not want all of the calls.
Some of the jobs for which I have posted and interviewed told me that they had 400 repsonses. It is hard enough to wade through all of the e-mails and paper without having to field calls also. While I prefer a more personal approach, I understand that volume frequently prevents such a style.
If you have not "met" the person yet you should greet them with "Dear Mr." or "Dear Ms." lastname. Once you have been introduced then you could use a first name if they have responded to you in the same.
If you do not know the person you are "speaking" to then you should use "Dear Sir", which is proper etiquette in the english language.
I do not think "Dear Pat" is appropriate for a first time communication in a business situation. It is a little bit too personal and un-professional for the first time, after you have had correspondence then it may be appropriate.
Definitely do not use "Dear Dude", unless your looking for a job in a surf shop in Maui. ;-)