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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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The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Leadership 34,884 views

Dear Hiring Manager: I Feel Your Pain

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Amy Smith

Amy knew she was the most random candidate ever, so she threw a joke into her Pain Letter. She took a chance. If I’m going to job-hunt as myself, she figured, why not have fun with it? Amy’s phone rang two days later. It was Jack on the line.

“You really think you could pull this project together?” he asked. “It’s going to be fast and furious around here for the next two years, at least.”

“Let’s talk about it,” said Amy. She and Jack met. Jack was enchanted. He’d met dozens of certified and industry-trained Call Center Managers with endless lists of initials after their names, but he hadn’t met any with Amy’s spunk and resilience. Think about an animal shelter, a place far more real and earthy than any call center on earth. An adorable stray kitten comes in and is showered with hugs, and another poor animal arrives past help and must be put down minutes later.

Jack saw in Amy that she could handle whatever circumstances threw at her. In the end, he couldn’t care less about the formal Call Center training, the certifications and the industry-specific jargon. He needed a trusted second-in-command and an advisor, because it’s lonely at the top.

Jack made Amy the job offer as he walked her to her car. “I’m going to think about it,” she said. “I really appreciate the offer, and I’m glad to know you, Jack.”

Amy called me when she got home. “I didn’t realize that a corporate Call Center is like the Starship Enterprise in Hell,” she said. “I can’t hack that. I have to see sunlight. I can’t hire and train people and stick a headset on them, with two ten-minute breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon.”

Amy passed on the job offer, but her mojo zoomed off the charts. She knew she’d get a good job. She only had to zero in with laser focus on a specific hiring manager’s pain and then reach out to say “I understand your movie.”

A month later Amy was managing an art gallery. “I don’t think of this as rebranding myself,” she said. “I think of it as reclaiming the power I never knew I had.”

But of course! You can do the same thing. Don’t torture yourself reading job ads peppered with impossible lists of Essential Requirements. The truth is that hiring managers in pain don’t really care about those bullets. HR screeners care, and that’s why we avoid them and go straight to the guy with the pain. Try it!

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