Just like any other direct marketing piece, you only have 3 seconds to make an impression. Here are the rules for effective use of email:
0. Direct your email to a specific person by name – sir, recruiter, hiring manager, etc aren’t acceptable. Bob Smith, Suzy Brown or David Perry are.
1. Use an inviting subject line – “To whom it may concern” needs to be replaced with – Ms. Brown [use the name of a colleague if you can] suggested we should meet and talk about [X].
2. Your opening paragraph must capture the reader’s attention – Tell the reader what’s in it for them. For example: “Dear Mr. Perry: I know that your firm handles searches for finance executives. My goal is a senior finance role with a broker/dealer, mutual fund company, or investment advisor. My background would also … “
3. Tell the reader how to get hold of you – give the reader instructions on how to get hold of you in the message. Don’t make them look in your resume for it or open another document to get it. Make it easy.
4. Cut and paste your resume into your email message – Word documents and PDFs can get lost or deleted before they get to their intended designation so I suggest you embed a plain text copy of your resume in the body of the message and send a snail-mail version at the same time. If they get both versions there’s no harm.