Standard job search strategy calls for a resume and a cover letter. And your cover letter might be even more important than your resume.
Typically your cover letter should respond to an ad or job description point by point.
For example, the want ad says:
15 years of experience in marketing management
Demonstrated success in dealing with advertising agencies
You go down this list, point by point. Paragraph 1 refers to your 15 years in marketing management. Paragraphs 2 begins, “Success in dealing with advertising agencies” followed by bullet points of 2 or 3 success stories
Paragraph 3 says “As an experienced team player, I…”
But what if you are applying for a job that hasn’t been created yet? Maybe you networked successfully and realized you have a rare opportunity
In that case, write your own want ad! Identify what the hiring managers want and set up your letter.
Depending on the situation, you could even say, “If you were writing an ad for this job, here’s what it would look like.”
But that’s a judgment call — could backfire as: “Wouldn’t look like that at all – guess we don’t need this person after all.”
You might be hearing about an alternative to a cover letter – a pain letter. Here’s a brief article that explains the concept.
What it is:
The Pain Letter is targeted to a hiring manager. It’s more like a sales letter in marketing than a standard cover letter. Like any marketing tool, its success depends on your ability to nail your target. It might not work when sent to an HR manager or a recruiter.
The Pain Letter has 4 parts. Using the terminology from the post, they are:
- The hook: Grabbing your reader’s interest
- The pain hypothesis: What you suspect is causing them pain
- The dragon-slaying story: How you solved a similar problem in the past. It’s definitely a story!
- The Closing: A casual, “If you need someone like me, let’s chat!”
I think it’s a great idea. But like any job search tactic, it works better when you’re already a solid candidate.
(1) Research shows that the best predictor of job success is the research a candidate does before the interview. So if you’re a good researcher, you’ll stand out in interviews and you’ll do very well with the Pain Letter.
(2) If you’ve got a solid, problem-solving track record, with examples you can cite, you’re well ahead of the game. You need credible examples – not exaggerations or hype – to make the Pain Letter work.
(3) Like all job search tactics, Pain Letters require you to be a courageous action-taker.
If you’d like to discuss your own strategy, check out my Career Strategy Session. It’s designed to replace extended coaching with a one-time session that gets you moving quickly. Some of my clients say they got more out of this one session than out of two or three months of traditional coaching or consulting.