As many jobseekers have discovered, contacting HR (human resource) departments or applying online – where resumes also tend to end up in HR – are rarely effective job search techniques.
In fact, the primary purpose of HR departments is to screen people out. We recommend avoiding HR and instead contacting the hiring manager of the department you want to work in. If it’s a small company, that person might be the owner or president.
And when you contact them, there’s a unique approach you may want to try.
A very unique process for getting an interview
To carry out this approach you should first create a list of companies where you might want to work. A good way to find these companies is by using CareerOneStop’s business finder database. Include as many companies as you can within whatever specifications you set, whether it’s the distance from where you live, the size of the company, the products it produces or the services it offers, or whatever.
Then the real research begins. Decide which department would use your talent and skills, and find out the name of the hiring manager for that department.
You may be able to find them on the company’s website. Or you might try using the “advanced search” function on LinkedIn and entering the company name and a variety of manager titles, which could bring up the name of the manager you’re looking for and their correct title. You can do the same thing by doing a general internet search – Google a manager title and company, and see what comes up.
If neither of these work, you can call the company’s main telephone number and ask the person who answers the phone to give you the name of the manager in whatever department you’ve decided would be the right one.
Once you have the hiring manager’s name, you’re ready to begin this process, which is different than any other we’ve ever heard about it.
The idea comes from Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace in Boulder, Colo., and author of Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want & Career You Deserve.
Determining business pain is the key
This technique is all about business pain. In other words, you have to figure out what challenges and problems the hiring manager may be facing and let them know how you can help solve them or “lessen their pain.”
Once you’ve zeroed in on the companies you want to work for, do some research on them and others like them to see what kinds of problems they or their industry are facing. If ideas for these problems aren’t obvious from what you already know, search the internet, check out LinkedIn and read local business publications.
If you live in a city with a Business Journal or Business Times (search by using “name of city” and business journal or business times), you have an excellent resource. These newspapers provide invaluable insight and most can be searched online. While some of these are independent publications, many belong to a group known as American City Business Journals, which has publications in 40 cities across the U.S.
If you’re looking for blue-collar work, think about the challenges and problems you’ve encountered in the type of work you do and how you’ve created ways to deal with – or solve – them.
Now comes the creative part. You’re going to write what Ryan calls a “pain letter.” Instead of promoting your talents and skills like you would in a normal cover letter, you address the issues your potential next boss may be facing.
How to write a “pain letter”
Your brief pain letter should begin by complimenting the hiring manager on something the company has recently accomplished, whether winning a new award, releasing a new product, discovering a new way to operate or whatever.
The next paragraph, according to Ryan, should be a “pain hypothesis,” something you think might be troubling the hiring manager and that you know about from your previous experience.
For example, you might write, “I can imagine that you sometimes have trouble because there aren’t enough people scheduled to work on your manufacturing production line, and it could slow down.”
Then tell what Ryan refers to as a dragon slaying story, how you had this problem and solved it in a previous position.
For example, you might write, “When I was the production supervisor at Excellent Technologies, I instituted a new training program for the 30 assemblers on the manufacturing line that trained at least two people for every position. That way if a person was absent, there was always someone else to take their place. And slowdowns became a thing of the past.”
The letter should be as brief as possible, and all that remains is the closing.
For that you might write something like, “If production line slowdowns or stoppages are something that your company is challenged with, I would love to talk to you when you have some time. Sincerely, Jack Rogers”
Once you finish your pain letter, Ryan suggests printing it out along with your resume or JIST card and mailing it to the hiring managers you’ve targeted. Yes, you read it right. Snail mail. That way they’ll surely see it when it lands on their desk. If you don’t hear back in a week or two, she recommends changing the date on the letter and sending it again.
Still no response? Pick up the phone and call, but do that before or after hours. That’s when you’ll be more likely to reach the hiring manager. Don’t leave a voice mail message, Ryan warns. It’s better to keep calling until you get them on the line. Then you can have a conversation and tell them verbally what you wrote in your pain letter. And if they think you can help alleviate “their pain,” the end result will be an interview.
This is a rather revolutionary technique, and it might not always work, but it sure beats submitting your resume on a job board and having it disappear into the black hole.