Career Advice, Interviews

In A Job Search? Follow The Pain

Last week we talked about why the black hole is your worst-odds job-search channel. We won’t get a job by pitching resumes into the Black Hole. We’ve got to find ‘our’ hiring manager, and reach out to him or her directly.

If the employer you’re targeting is on the small side, with a few hundred employees or fewer, your target decision-maker may be the head of your function. If the employer is larger, your decision-maker may be a few layers down from that functional VP.

How to Find A Decision-Maker’s Name:

If you’re targeting the VP of your function, the odds are good that you’ll find that person on the company’s website. Piece of cake! If you’re looking for someone a bit further down in the organization, here are four ways to find the name of your very-possibly next boss:

  • Conduct a LinkedIn search on the company’s name and your target person’s most likely title.
  • Use to find the manager you’re looking for.
  • Google the company name plus the title — ‘your’ manager’s name may pop up in a search result.

It’s easy to find a mailing address for your manager, once you’ve got a name. If you check LinkedIn and check with your three-dimensional network and can’t find a conduit person (someone who knows your hiring manager, who’d be willing to make an introduction for you) then your best bet is to send a snail mail letter straight to the decision-maker’s desk.

Now, Spot the Pain

Finding the decision-maker’s name is fairly easy, unless your target organization is a huge company like IBM. After you’ve got a name and a street address, your next job is to spot the pain the employer is facing — that is, the reason for the job opening.

Every job opening springs from some sort of business pain. If there’s no pain, there’s no opening. If things were working perfectly, why would the CFO approve a job opening? Your job is to spot the business pain and show the decision-maker how you’ve surmounted a similar problem in the past.

You can extrapolate the business pain from the job ad itself, at least fifty percent of the time. Read the job ad carefully, and ignore the list of requirements — X number of years of this, and Y years of that and certification in Z. We don’t want to write a letter to talk about those requirements. They aren’t central to the job opening. We want to talk about the pain, instead.

Identify A Company’s Pain: It Isn’t Rocket Science

There are only so many kinds of business pain — there’s growth-related pain, and contraction-related pain. There’s acquisition-related pain and globalization-related pain. If we can’t see the pain staring up at us from the job ad, we’ll move to the company’s own website and read as much as we can. From there, we’ll move to Google News to see what the rest of the world has to say about ‘our’ company.

Here’s an example. If we’re applying for a call center manager job and the job ad talks a lot about training staff and motivating staff, we’ve already got something to write about. Let’s do a bit of our own research to see how ‘our’ employer stacks up against its competitors. We can do a Google Blog search, and check Yahoo! message boards as well as visit to get the scoop on the company we’re targeting. We may learn that the company is number three in its market, and that turnover is high. Glassdoor users on the payroll say that the training in the call center is weak and motivation is low. That is business pain! If we’re up for the challenge of turning things around, we can write a pithy ain letter to the VP of Operations, a.k.a the hiring manager.

Here’s an example:

Dear Rodney,

I was struck by your observation in last month’s Call Center Manager magazine, “Capacity planning is the next frontier for savvy Call Center managers.” Given XYZ Inc.’s rapid growth and the spate of recent mergers among your competitors, I can just imagine the capacity-management issues you’re facing. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that customer experience, employee training and retention are also major issues on your 2010 agenda.

When I ran the call center at Charismatic Software, we launched an on-call system to allow off-the-clock agents to log on and take overflow calls as needed, keeping our hold times under two minutes and customer-sat ratings high. At the same job, I built an agent training system that gave more senior agents Mentor Points for working in groups or on-one-one with newer arrivals — and reduced turnover by twenty percent in one year.

I’d love to talk with you about XYZ’s call center opportunities when your schedule allows.


Cassandra Martin

A good pain letter is conversational and direct, with no old-school flotsam like “I’m a results-oriented professional” but with at least one concrete, relevant story. Our job is to let the hiring manager that we can imagine the sort of dragon that’s flying around his castle walls this very minute – and that we’ve slain the exact same dragon before.