Make an offer they can’t refuse
Say what you will do, not what you’ve done
I think we can all agree that job searching is no fun. It’s demoralizing to scour job boards, put hours into each application, and still…crickets. I’ve been there before, and recently I chatted with another member of the BrightCrowd community who was in that very spot.
Her situation was proof that job hunting is universally un-fun. Despite having a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience she couldn’t seem to get an interview. Hundreds of applications and fantastic credentials somehow led to zero responses.
Her problem got me thinking about the nature of traditional job hunting. She’s asking a total stranger for something enormous, and so far she’s done nothing for them other than send her resume. That’s what everyone else is doing, so how can she stand out from the pack?
I suggested she flip the script — instead of asking for a job, she should make an offer instead.
That might sound ridiculous, but hear me out. What if she spent half an hour researching the company’s product, understanding it, and actually suggesting improvements in her application? That’s a cover letter that would absolutely get a response.
This strategy doesn’t require a PhD to be effective. We’ve all got valuable skills. With some extra thought, a little marketing technique, and a dash of confidence, you can make it work.
Understand the company’s needs. With a little bit of research you can get a pretty good idea of how your expertise adds value to a company. Google is your friend.
Show your worth. Don’t waste precious cover letter space on your past experience. Get straight to what’s interesting — and talk about what you will do for the company.
Make them want more. Don’t just say what you can do, give the company you’re eyeing a little taste. Once they see firsthand how awesome you can be for them, an interview won’t seem like a big request.
Not sure how this translates to the real world? Let me give you can example of how this technique hooked me as an employer…
An offer I couldn’t refuse
We were recently recruiting for a UX Designer for BrightCrowd, and (luckily for us) hundreds of people applied for the position (we only posted on AngelList — if you are job searching in tech, check them out!).
I reviewed a ton of cover letters, and about 90% of them looked something like this:
My name is XXXX and I’m a front-end developer and designer with a background in journalism and psychology. I’m looking to transition into a more fully developed design role, with experience conceptualizing and wire framing my own designs through freelance work. A sample of my projects can be found on my portfolio…
This real example seems like a pretty good cover letter, but there’s a glaring problem. It’s all about the applicant: what they’ve done, what they want to do, what their aspirations are. This is stuff I’d love to hear about once I get to know you, but now is (unfortunately) not the time.
I’m sitting with a huge stack of applications to go through, I urgently need a UX designer, and my other work is still piling up. I need to know what you’ll do for me.
Preferably you’ll tell me, and do it in the first three sentences. For example, check out this real (totally awesome) application I received:
Hi T.J., I checked out BrightCrowd and I’m really excited by your fresh approach to professional networking. I definitely get the friendlier, more helpful vibe, but I think there are a few things you can do to further differentiate from LinkedIn. I showed the site to a few of my colleagues and came up with a list of potential improvements based on their experiences that I would love to share with you. Can we schedule a time to chat?
There is NO WAY I’m not going to have a conversation with this person. It’s pretty clear why, right? Read this offer side-by-side with the resume recap above. Who would you call?
Making an offer to a potential employer is a subtle shift in the narrative, but it’s a powerful one.
It’s pretty hard to turn down an offer of help when you need it. So the employer will want to at least hear you out. You’ll probably get a meeting and even if you don’t get the position, don’t regret the effort you’ve spent. You will have made a valuable connection… and your dream job just might follow.
If you are looking for more specific career advice, you can go ahead and ask your helpful professional community on BrightCrowd. Or feel free to reach out to me directly.
P.S. — Of course, it’s always helpful to have a connection where you’re applying! I’ll cover that in a different post.