Formal communication is on the wane in modern life, but there are still times when it's the only correct way to reinforce a connection or convey information. If you're applying for a job, looking for a recommendation, or expanding your network, err on the side of formality. Don't let the slightly archaic feel of a formal business letter tempt you into using flowery, outdated language.
However, before using a general salutation (or leaving off a salutation), try to find out the name of the person you are contacting. If you are applying or inquiring about a job and the hiring manager’s name is not included on the job listing, you might look up the title of the employer or hiring manager on the company website. If there is a contact number, you might also call and ask an administrative assistant for the name of the hiring manager. If you are sending a different type of letter, you can still look up the person’s name on the company website, or speak to an administrative assistant or contact at the company for the name of the person you are trying to reach.