| |

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

Contact Liz Ryan

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

Leadership 31,816 views

Dear Hiring Manager: I Feel Your Pain

A woman walked into our job-search workshop and raised her hand when I asked “Any impossible cases here?”

“Mine is pretty close to impossible,” she said. “Why’s that?” I asked. “I had to leave my profession, at least for a while, because I moved across country,” she said. “I ran an animal shelter. I worked in that field for thirty years. Here in my new state, the animal shelters and Humane Societies have their staffs in place.

Those people have worked hard to become the number two, number three and number four leadership folks in their agencies. I understand that. There’s no way I’m going to be able to walk in from left field and get a management job in an animal shelter, and I can’t afford to start at the bottom again. I have a mortgage to pay.”

“Would you be game to switch careers and try something new?” I asked her. “I have no choice!” she said, laughing. “That’s the spirit!” I said.

We brainstormed together as a group. Obviously the animal-shelter leader, whom we’ll call Amy, has leadership and general-management abilities above and beyond her knowledge of animals. She knows how to run an operation and how to fund-raise. She knows how to mentor and manage people. “It’s really up to you what to do next,” I said. “The sky’s the limit.”

“But am I not limited to management jobs that don’t require specialized knowledge?” asked Amy, perplexed. “I can’t imagine there are very many of those. Every job ad I see is full of specialized industry jargon. I don’t stand a chance!”

my first pain letter comic strip“You don’t stand a chance responding to a job ad through the Black Hole machine,” I agreed. “But we don’t want anybody to waste their time and squash their mojo pitching resumes into those things. They’re useless. You’re going to write to your hiring manager directly, and talk about his or her own movie.”

“How do I know the movie?” asked Amy. “I was busy with my animal-shelter movie.”

“It’s all pretty much the same movie,” I said. “You only need to let your hiring manager understand that you get what he or she is up against. That’s the most important thing.”

Amy saw that a logistics company was opening a 200-person call center two towns away from her new home. She composed a Pain Letter and sent it in the mail to her hiring manager, the VP of Operations. We found him (Jack) in three seconds on LinkedIn. Amy attached her Human-Voiced Resume to the Pain Letter with one staple in the corner before she mailed the packet to Jack.

Amy ignored the jargon and long list of requirements included in the job ad for a Customer Support Manager that Jack had running on all the job boards. She talked to Jack about the pain behind his job ad, instead.

Dear Jack,

Congratulations on breaking ground on your new Call Center in Woodfield! It’s got to be a good feeling to add 200 jobs to the local economy during the worst downturn in recent memory. Hats off to you and your team on Acme Logistics’ year-over-year growth record.

I can only imagine that bringing your new Call Center online without missing a beat serving Acme’s FedEx and Acme’s other national accounts is an issue high on your radar screen. It’s no small feat to hire and train 200 agents on new processes and build your Call Center infrastructure simultaneously.

When I was the Executive Director of HappyHeart Animal Shelter in the DC area, I had a similar challenge. I had to build policies and systems on the fly while overseeing 150 animal adoptions a week, keeping up with constant regulatory and healthcare changes and managing a staff of 30 and a $10M annual budget, all in an atmosphere punctuated by snarls, barks and yelps — and then there were the animals!

If you’ve got a minute to talk about Call Center operations, building a team quickly and positioning your new facility for success, my contact information is on my attached resume.


Post Your Comment

Please or sign up to comment.

Forbes writers have the ability to call out member comments they find particularly interesting. Called-out comments are highlighted across the Forbes network. You'll be notified if your comment is called out.