Today, I received the best e-mail cover letter ever. Sometimes the ones designed to jump out at recruiters are more flash than substance. What I liked  about this one:

-no goofy salutation (Dearest Heather, Mr. Hamilton, Mrs. Hamilton, Dear Heath, Mr. Ham, Sirs, etc.). Incidentally, if you contact me and need to use a salutation, "Hi Heather" is perfectly fine. I'm neither a man nor married and my old e-mail address is an uncomfortable contraction of my first and last names.

-He anticipated questions about relocation and work authorization and answered them early in the e-mail

-One short paragraph highlighted the level of work he is looking for, years of experience and highlight companies on his resumes

-He highlighted results. He happened to be a sales candidate, so he gave a percentage of quota (I forwarded it along to the sales recruiting team...I know they appreciate the same kind of info as I)

-The text was in the body of the e-mail

-It was short

This might sound bad to people looking for a position (it's reality though), but recruiters don't want to spend much time reading a cover letter (cover letters aren't a substitute for building a relationship...I'd try to do that over the phone though). They want to spend a little bit of time to get a few key pieces of info and if you can be brief and provide that info, recruiters will notice. I do not recommend attaching a cover letter in a separate document (probably won't get read). I would also recommend keeping your e-mail intro well above the fold in the e-mail. Don't feel like you have to comply with cover letter standards of the past (you know, like making it look pretty on an 8.5 x 11 page...please, don't bother). Here's the way to think of it: would you rather that the recruiter spends time reading a long cover letter or spends that time finding you a position?

Brevity rules.