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Advice / Job Search / Cover Letters

The Pain Letter: The Best Way to Write a Cover Letter That Gets Results

Hiring managers don’t just want people who can do the job.

Ideally, they want people who will make their lives easier. People who can hit the ground running, who can go above and beyond the duties listed in the job description, and who can help the team or company hit its goals.

To that end, it’s time to stop drafting cover letters that detail only what you’ve done in the past.

In fact, it might be time to stop drafting cover letters at all.

Liz Ryan, in a recent Forbes article, suggests sending a “pain letter,” instead. In a pain letter, you talk about your hiring manager’s biggest problem and how you, if hired, would plan to solve it. In doing so, you highlight not only your skill set and how it applies to the new position, but also your knowledge of the company and your excitement about coming in and making an instant impact on the job.

“Pain Letter users tell us that their Pain Letters result in callbacks about twenty-five percent of the time. That’s a lot better than their results lobbing resumes into the Black Hole recruiting portals,” Ryan explains. “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.”

So, how do you know what an employer’s pain point is? Sometimes, you can tell right from the job description. (Think: “We need to double our team in the next two months and are looking for a recruiter to lead the charge” or “We’re looking for a savvy growth hacker who can help us reach two million users.”)

But other times, you’ll need to do a little digging. See if you can find out who the hiring manager is, then do a little LinkedIn stalking to find people in your network who might know him or her. Once you’ve identified someone, reach out for a quick coffee or call (here’s how) to ask, “I’m applying for the marketing manager job at the Lightning Co. and want to make sure to tailor my application. Do you have any insight into what they’re really hoping for someone to focus on in this role?”

If you don’t have anyone you can ask, you can search for people who hold similar roles at different companies and ask what their biggest challenges are. You’ll probably notice some themes and can hypothesize about the hiring manager’s pain points. Or—you’ve heard it before—do your research, reading press releases, reviews on Glassdoor, and current news about the company. Whether it’s going through layoffs, growing pains, or entry into a new market, learning about the major issues a company is dealing with as a whole will offer a great starting point for understanding the challenges in your potential role.

Once you have that pain point? Get to work describing just how you’ll come in and relieve it. Hop over to Ryan’s article to learn more.

Photo of hand writing courtesy of Shutterstock.