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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Forget Cover Letters - Write A Pain Letter, Instead! 10-14

Forget Cover Letters - Write A Pain Letter, Instead!


If you haven’t been on a job search lately, consider yourself lucky. The job market is no picnic. Most large and medium-sized organizations use brutal and talent-repelling automated recruiting sites with keyword-sorting software that sucks all the human life out of your application or resume.

Cover letters don’t help you, because in the Black Hole your cover letter is ignored.
I was an HR leaders for decades, and every month or so one of our department managers would come to see me with a request. “I got this letter from a job-seeker,” the hiring manager would say, “and I’d like to meet this person.”
“Why not?” I’d reply. A person with the pluck and investigative skills to research a company like ours, find the hiring manager’s name (and these were the days before LinkedIn LNKD -3.84%!) and write to him or her directly seemed to us like a person we could use. We hired way more of the ‘direct outreach’ candidates, percentage-wise, than the folks who sent us resumes in response to our job ads, through the designated channel.
I wondered whether other hiring managers, desperate for help solving their thorny businessproblems, would react the same way. When I left the corporate world I started to teach people how to reach hiring managers directly. The approach is important. We teach them to find their hiring manager’s name and send a snail mail (surface mail) letter, directly to the hiring manager’s desk.
Inside the envelope are two documents. The first one is the job-seeker’sHuman-Voiced Resume. The second document is called a Pain Letter.
the rule breakers job search guide
The document is called a Pain Letter because in your letter, you’re going to talk about your hiring manager’s biggest problem. How will you know what your hiring manager’s biggest problem is? Put yourself in his or her shoes. Think about what your possible future boss is up against in his or her job.
If the organization is growing fast, they’ve got growing pains. It’s hard to keep on top of everything that needs to be done. Sales may be booming, but infrastructure undoubtedly lags behind. That makes customers unhappy. Systems are breaking at the seams.
If the organization is large, it may be slow to react to market changes – most large organizations are. They may be having trouble responding to their clients’ needs. They may have so much red-tape bureaucracy that important projects get stalled.
Universities are short of cash. They’re competing with private educational options and community colleges for dollars. Most universities have done a horrible job staying connected to alums, students’ families and their own communities, because they didn’t need to do those things before. Now they do.
Not-for-profits are learning that they’re competing against one another for mindshare and funding, and competing with for-profit companies too.
Every organization has pain! When you begin your Pain Letter congratulating your target hiring manager on something cool the organization has done recently (an item you found in the company’s About Us or Newsroom page) and then make a hypothesis about the most likely Business Pain for your manager, you’re in a great spot. Your manager has a huge incentive to keep reading your Pain Letter. When you tie the most likely Business Pain to your own experience through a Dragon-Slaying Story, your hiring manager’s brain may wake up. He or she may say “I’d like to talk with his person, at least.” That’s all you need!
Here’s a sample Pain Letter:
Dear Jack,
I was happy to catch the last half of your talk at the Atlanta Natural Foods Expo, and to become a fan! I couldn’t agree more with your observation that kelp is the new hemp.
It’s tremendous to see Angry Chocolates making a big splash in the seagrass-infused chocolate arena. I can only imagine that with year-over-year growth of 50% and given your new distribution deal with Wolfgang Puck’s organization, your Marketing folks are taxed to the limit.

When I was Marketing Director at Melted Candies from 2007 until the acquisition by Nestle in 2012, we had a similar challenge. We had to serve our loyal domestic customers while expanding into South America andEurope. We narrowly pulled it out and grew the company from $14M to $85M in sales during that time. Now I’m looking for the next challenge and curious how your team at Angry Chocolates is surmounting the high-growth challenge.
If you have time to chat by phone or start an email conversation, my contact details are on my resume.
Best to you and the team,
Grace Jones
A Pain Letter is short and to the point. It has four elements:
  • The hook (congratulations on something specific — in this case, Jack’s speech at the Atlanta Natural Foods Expo).
  • The Pain Hypothesis — Grace talks about Angry Chocolates’ deal with Wolfgang Puck and its year-over-year sales, both announced via press releases on Angry’s website.
  • The Dragon-Slaying Story. Grace ties Jack’s Business Pain back to her experience at Melted Candies, when they faced their own high-growth-inspired Business Pain.
  • The Closing. Grace says she’d be happy to talk if the issues she raised are on Jack’s radar screen.
callbacks about twenty-five percent of the time. That’s a lot better than their results lobbing resumes into the Black Hole recruiting portals. Better yet, the conversations that result from compelling Pain Letters are more substantive than the cursory screening calls that standard cover letter and resumes generate.
It’s way more fun to talk to an executive with real issues than a bureaucrat who has boxes to tick off on a screening checklist. 
Try writing your own Pain Letter and see for yourself!