Friday Forum – Should I Send a Pain Letter?

Welcome to the Friday Forum!

Every Friday, we take a question submitted by one of our readers and have our professionals field it and provide advice.  We then encourage members of the Need a New Gig community to comment below and give their take!

Here is This Week’s Question:

Mary asks:

“Hi, I just started my job search and I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter around the topic of sending a “pain” letter.  What exactly is a “pain” letter?  I’m an experienced professional and I am not familiar with the term. Is this a new tactic to increase my chances of landing a job?  Is it something that you recommend?”

Modern job seekers are always looking for ways to stand out from the competition. In today’s talent world you sometimes only have a small window to make an impression.  Some professionals believe that some of these tactics work, while others think they could potentially do the opposite.

What is a “Pain” Letter?

A pain letter is said to be a modern day cover letter.   The goal of your pain letter is to address the hiring manager’s biggest problem and let them know that you can solve it.  The one difference with a pain letter is that you will be sending it directly to the hiring manager or recruiter of the organization that you want to work for.

The first step in this process is to identify the hiring manager or head of recruitment.  This can be done in a number of ways, but a quick LinkedIn search usually is the easiest method.

Once you have figured out who it needs to go to, you can start trying to identify the “pain” of the organization.  You may need to research the company and industry to get an idea, but you can also review the job description.  Chances are that if a position is open, they have a pain and need to get it filled.

Finally, you will need to draft the letter.  This letter will actually be pretty concise and to the point.  It definitely will not be as long or in depth as a cover letter.  It will be more personal and describe a time when you solved a similar problem that the company is facing.  It is recommended to be conversational, but also forward in the fact that you can solve their problem.  Basically it is a strong sales pitch of your background.

Why “Pain” Letters can be a Pain…

While some folks praise this new age approach, there are can be a few drawbacks:

  • There’s a good chance you could be off base.  You may have identified a “pain” and it may not even be a real problem for the organization.
  • It could turn off the hiring manager.  Even if you have the perfect background and skillset, it may come off too flashy or salesman like.
  • Hiring managers are busy.  If you interrupt their day and they are aren’t a fan, it may be enough to take you out of the process.
  • You may not send it to the right person.  If for some reason you sent it to the wrong person, you may lose credibility for now knowing the reporting structure.
  • It may never get to them.  Most companies have spam filters and security settings when it comes to corporate e-mail.  Even if you think you have the right address, there is a chance you may spend a good amount of time crafting a message that they will never receive.

Is there anything I can do instead of Pain Letter?

Personally, I don’t recommend a pain letter.  In my opinion I think that there are too many variables that a job seeker is unsure about.  Trying to identify the hiring manager, a problem, an email address, and crafting the perfect message is a tall task.  Not to mention even if you do figure all of those out, you still have no idea how the hiring manager will react to your message.

With that being said, I don’t disagree with everything in the pain letter process.  As you know I endorse networking 100% and I feel that it is one of the best ways to find a new job.  I also agree that sometimes you do need to standout amidst the “HR Black Hole” of resumes.

In my opinion it doesn’t hurt to do a LinkedIn search to identify the hiring manger and reach out.  You do need to be careful as you do not want to push an employer in the wrong direction. My suggestion is to either reach out prior to applying, or give it about a week after you have applied if you haven’t heard anything.

A simple note is all that you need.  There is no reason to say that you are solving problems or reinventing the wheel.  Reach out, introduce yourself, and let them know that you noticed they have an opening.  Give a brief sentence overview of why you are a good fit for the job and let them know that you’d love the opportunity to learn more.  Attach a copy of your resume and send it off!

What are Your Thoughts? Comment Below!

Have you ever sent a “pain” letter?  Did it work?  Let us know!

Dan Metz is the Director of Executive Search and Employee Development at the Resilience Group, LLC, and Co-Founder and Contributing Author for Need a New Gig.  Follow his blog for more great tips like this!

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