Illustration: Ashley Siebels
How do you grab a recruiter’s attention to get the job interview? Be different!
1. Ditch the Cover Letter. Write a “Pain Letter” instead.
Though it sounds painful, a Pain Letter is a simple-yet-groundbreaking alternative to the formulaic cover letter. Instead of writing about yourself, you focus on a specific challenge that you know the company has been facing, and explain what you would do to help find a solution.
When hiring managers see a Pain Letter, they automatically know your intentions are solid and you know the company well. They’ll also know that:
a) You did your research
b) You are a bold problem solver
c) You have a vision for both the company and the role you want to play in it
Instead of presenting yourself as a possible new hire for the recruiter to mold into a seasoned employee, present yourself as a sharp potential team member who already has fresh ideas for the team you want to join.
2. Find a personal reference and email the recruiter directly.
You can’t always count on the system. Sometimes sending your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org will fail you. Instead, don’t be afraid to directly email the recruiter by connecting with them online, or if you’re lucky, through a mutual friend or colleague.
Be intentional but also considerate in the way you make an introduction. Instead of just asking this person for a favor, emphasize how specifically you can serve their company through the role you are vying for. Referring back to tip #1, show that you have a vision for the company and the role, and genuine passion and value to bring to the table.
Here’s an example of what this email could look like:
I am an applicant for the social media director position at your company, and I came across your contact information and website profile after seeing your post on your innovative approach to increasing brand awareness through video and audio streaming advertising with Periscope. During my time as an intern, I pioneered a video streaming advertisement strategy that the company is now using. I am sending you a link to some of my project samples.
As you can see, the brand was able to benefit considerably from the 30% increase in readership and clicks. I was very excited that your article highlighted and predicted the benefits of this innovative strategy. Please let me know if you are interested in more details! I would also appreciate any help from you in my application process for this role.
3. Don’t jump on the resume bandwagon — make a portfolio instead.
As appealing as the idea is of making a cool music video or Game of Thrones-themed infographic to tell your career story, being cute and gimmicky on your resume usually doesn’t fly. Many hiring managers are not amused by bright and flowery attention-grabbers on what should be a clear-cut document. For most, visuals (even a profile picture) can be highly distracting from what really matters on your resume.
Nonetheless, if you are creatively/artistically-inclined, and your aesthetic sense/design talents are highly relevant to the position you’re applying for, by all means show it off: create a portfolio of your work. This is an appropriate medium to pull out those infographics and SlideShare skills, or even deviantART projects. Treat this as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, bring your application to life in an especially impressive way, and show off all of your relevant skills. By submitting a portfolio, you’re not only displaying tangible examples of what you can bring to the table, you’re also showing that you are willing to go the extra mile to land the position.
If you do decide to do this, make sure you highlight just a few of your most recent and outstanding projects, instead of just compiling all the work you’ve done since 10th grade into one large, messy folder. Use portfolio sites to help you achieve the most professional, sleekest look possible. (Some popular sites are SquareSpace, CargoCollective, and Carbonnade.)
Tried-and-true methods are always a trusty go-to, but sometimes the road less traveled by can lead to unexpectedly positive results. Here’s to achieving that breakthrough in the new year!