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Liz Ryan Contributor

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. full bio →

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com

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Leadership 3,850 views

Am I Doing Something Wrong In My Job Search?

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I’d say their VP of Operations. They don’t have a COO. They have a VP of Operations, a CFO and their CEO, of course.

Where did you get that information — LinkedIn LNKD +3.6%?

LinkedIn and Acme’s own website.

Beautiful research there, my friend! That’s exactly how you will get a bead on the biggest Business Pain points. Acme is growing, obviously. They’re adding a distribution center. How big is it?

About two hundred and fifty thousand square feet.

Wow! So, they are serious. You’re going to help them bring stuff in and out of that place. What pain will you solve for your VP?

The pain of getting a new, huge distribution center up and running. The company is growing and I’m sure all eyes are on him. There are so many details. There are scheduling considerations. I know those pains really well.

Bravo! That’s the spirit. So, you’re going to write a Pain Letter and very politely inquire of your VP, “So, got any pain getting that distribution center up and running?”

Is that what my letter will actually say?

No – it will read like this: “Great job breaking ground on your new distribution center! I can only imagine that getting that facility online and staffed up fast is a daunting assignment. When I was at Angry Chocolates, I…”

I see! It’s ‘Show, Not Tell.’

That’s it. You won’t say a word about your credentials, because they have zip-all to do with anything. Your message is simple: “Got Pain X? I specialize in Pain X. Let’s talk.”

Okay, I’ve got it. So I send a letter to this VP directly?

That’s right. It’s your Pain Letter. Stapled to it, just behind the Pain Letter, is your one-or-two-page Human-Voiced Resume.

That’s it? That’s the one change I need to make in my job-search protocol?

Yes, but if you pull back the truck and look at this process improvement, it’s more than just an administrative switch-up. You’re changing your whole job search approach. You’re going to come across like a human being in your resume. You’re going to talk directly to your hiring manager with no bowing and scraping, and no online application nonsense.

You’re going to write to your manager at his or her desk and talk about his or her problem — not about how great you are or why they should stoop to consider you among all the talented job applicants they’ve heard from.

You’re going to reach out to your hiring manager the way a consultant would, asking “Are you suffering by chance from Pain X, as so many people in your situation are?” It’s a completely different mental model — a different relationship with your job search, and with your possible next boss.

So it’s a re-balancing of power?

Exactly. Who gets hired, in the end? It’s the person a hiring manager believes can solve his or her problems and let the poor hiring manager get a good night’s sleep, at last.

Spoken like a mom! Okay I’ll try it. What do I have to lose?

That is a very good question!

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  • Mark Skalla Mark Skalla 19 hours ago

    Superb article – not only was it well written but this is some quite insightful content from someone with some answers! Aside from my overwhelming praise – I can tell you know what you’re talking about and have clearly sat on both sides of the interviewing desk! Readers take note, this approach would have certainly caught my attention when I was the one looking to hire someone.

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