How To Write a Modern Cover Letter Addressing Employer Pain

June 27, 2017 in Career and Job Search Tips, Resume Tips



We’re speaking figuratively, of course!

But if you’re tired of sending garden-variety cover letters into the recruiting void, a modern cover letter — a Pain Letter™ — may increase your odds of landing an initial interview.

What’s a “Pain Letter™,” you ask?

Liz Ryan, CEO and Founder of The Human Workplace, has written extensively on this topic. According to Ms. Ryan, a Pain Letter™ is a lot more specific than a traditional cover letter is, because it addresses a real business pain the target hiring manager is experiencing. Pain Letters™ operate on a simple premise: if there were no pain, there wouldn’t be a job opening in the first place.

The Modern Cover Letter: Moving beyond the traditional

If you want to secure an interview at one of your target food & beverage organizations, try sending a Pain Letter™ directly to the hiring manager. Follow these steps:

Find the hiring manager. While it’s smart to apply via the traditional route listed in the posting (with a traditional cover letter), don’t stop there. Do some research on LinkedIn, ZoomInfo or the organization’s website to find out the name of your potential new boss.

Grab the reader’s attention. Set yourself apart from the first sentence. Instead of leading with the standard, “I came across your job posting on,” start by acknowledging a recent accomplishment or newsworthy item you found about the hiring manager or his department. Don’t worry if the introduction isn’t directly related to the position you want; the idea is to capture the reader’s attention in a positive way.

Identify the pain. Read between the lines when you see an intriguing job posting, looking beyond the essential requirements. Think about the business pain that’s driving the need for the ad. Is the organization growing rapidly? Dealing with talent or skills shortages in their market? Facing quality or distribution challenges? Threatened by new competition in their product category? Tap your network, review the organization’s press releases and search for recent news about the organization, products and key decision makers.

Once you’ve identified the likely pain, name it. Empathize with it. Then explain what you bring to the table.

Tell a good (true) story. Give the hiring manager a taste of what you can really do. Review your measurable accomplishments to find an example of how you solved a problem similar to one the prospective employer may be facing. If none exists, explain how you can use your skills and experience to address the business challenges the hiring manager is currently experiencing.

Keep the focus where it belongs. Throughout a Pain Letter™, write more about the hiring manager’s issues and less about your own skills and competencies. Skip the buzzwords and pat phrases like, “I’m a motivated, results-oriented professional.” The hiring manager can get specifics about your qualifications from your resume if he needs them.

Close strong. End your letter with a one-sentence paragraph that expresses your interest in the position and clearly explains the next steps you will take.

Move beyond traditional job search techniques.

Have a target employer you’d like to work for? Kinsa Group can open new doors in your job search, connecting you with opportunities that aren’t advertised elsewhere. Search executive food & beverage jobs here or submit your resume to get started.

Editors Note: This blog was originally posted in December, 2014. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.