Just as resumes have undergone a dramatic revolution over the past 25 years, so have thank-you letters. Twenty-five years ago, a resume was a formality -- a single sheet of paper that briefly listed a candidate’s overall work experience and academic credentials. As the employment market changed, expanded, diversified, and became increasingly competitive, so did resumes. Today, they are powerful marketing tools designed to “sell” a candidate’s skills, qualifications, accomplishments, and career successes to give a job seeker a “competitive distinction” over other candidates.
The same is true for cover letters. They have evolved from transmittal letters (”Here’s my resume.”) to cover letters (”Here’s my resume, this is why I’m interested in your company, and here are a few highlights of my career.”) to marketing communications (”Here’s my resume, some of my most notable achievements and, most importantly, the value I bring to your organization.”) Powerful cover letters now integrate the same concepts as powerful resumes: they are designed to “sell” a candidate and give that individual “competitive distinction.”
Now, as professional resume writers, career coaches, counselors, and others in our community, you need to take those same concepts -- sales and competitive distinction -- and integrate them into the thank-you letters you prepare for your clients. Consider thank-you letters to be “second-tier” marketing communications. Your client has already used his “first-tier” marketing communications (resume and cover letter) to get in the door for an interview. He feels confident, he easily established rapport with the interviewer, and is anxiously awaiting an invitation for a second interview or, perhaps, an offer. He’s excited; you’re excited for him. But, you both know there is competition for the position. What can you do for the client to give him a competitive advantage over the other candidates?
The answer is the thank-you letter -- the letter you write for your client that acknowledges the time and consideration of the hiring manager, thanks him, and further expresses your client’s interest in the position. Unfortunately, most (not all) of the other candidates will be doing exactly the same thing.
After the interview is no time to stop selling. In fact, it is precisely the right time to continue selling -- your clients’ unique skills, qualifications, accomplishments, credentials and more.
To ensure the thank-you letters -- and YOUR CLIENTS -- stand out from the competition, use your letters as marketing communications to further sell your clients into a position. This can be easily accomplished by highlighting any of the following that may be appropriate to a particular client and the specific interview situation:
- If the hiring company shared some of their challenges with your client, relate how the client’s experience is tied directly to their current challenges and current needs. Suppose they’re in the midst of a turnaround and market repositioning initiative. Share your client’s past experiences in change management, reorganization and company revitalization, his achievements in reversing losses and delivering solid profit margins, his successes in productivity and quality improvement, and all the other things your client accomplished to facilitate successful turnarounds and improved financial performance.
- If the hiring company shared a major problem that they were currently working to resolve, highlight how your client solved that same (or similar) problem before. Imagine that the company is having to compete in a marketplace that they once owned. Two years ago there was no competition. Today, six companies are competing for the same customer base. Write a thank-you letter that shares your client’s past achievements in strengthening market position, expanding customer bases, and outperforming competitors.
- If the hiring company communicated an objection to hiring your client (a reason why they were concerned about hiring him or her), respond to it in the thank-you letter. For example, let’s say that they were concerned that your client had never worked in Los Angeles, and therefore does not have any professional contacts in the area. Use the thank-you letter to demonstrate that your client previously entered new markets and immediately developed strong networks. That’s one of the reasons your client has been so successful in his previous positions.
- Suppose there was something really important about your client’s experiences or qualifications that he forgot to mention during the interview. The thank-you letter is precisely the tool to communicate those achievements, experiences, project highlights and qualifications. Give the hiring committee the “ammo” they need to make the right hiring decision - YOUR CLIENT!
- If there were no challenges, no problems, no objections and nothing that your client forget to mention during the interview, then use the thank-you letter to further highlight that individual’s specific accomplishments as they relate directly to the company and the position for which he is applying. It may be that those items were discussed during the interview. Use the thank-you letter to further expand on them and link them directly to the hiring company’s operations, current needs and future goals.
Using thank-you letters as a “second-tier” marketing tools often dictates that letters be longer than one page. Fine! There are no rules to writing thank-you letters that dictate that they must be one-page long. The only thing that should dictate their length is the amount of valuable information you want to include. If the company has already extended your client the opportunity for an interview, they’re already interested and will, in most cases, carefully read any and all material the client forwards to them -- including a powerful, well-worded, sales-directed, and competitive thank-you letter.
Here’s an example:
JOSHUA A. VIENS
120 Port Street
Lawrence, Iowa 55441
January 17, 2003
1209 Robert Trent Street
Los Angeles, CA 90045
First of all, thank you. I really enjoyed our conversation yesterday and am completely enamored with the tremendous success you have brought to PYD. There are but a handful of companies like yours that have experienced such aggressive growth and can predict strong and sustained profitability over the years to come.
I would like to be a part of the PYD team -- in whatever capacity you feel most appropriate and of most value. I realize, of course, that you already have an HR Director who has successfully managed the function throughout the course of the company’s development. It is NOT my intention to compete with Leslie Ralson, but rather to complement her efforts in bringing renewed HR leadership to PYD.
Let me take a few minutes to highlight what I consider to be my most significant assets:
I have met the challenges of accelerated recruitment:
- In 2001, I launched a recruitment initiative to replace 50% of the total workforce in a 900-person organization. This was accomplished within just six months and was the key driver in that company’s successful repositioning.
- In 1997, when hired as the first-ever HR executive for a growth company, I created the entire recruitment selection and placement function. Over the next two years, I hired more than 50 employees to staff all core operating departments.
- Between 1994 and 1996, I spearheaded the recruitment and selection of technical, professional and management personnel. This was a massive effort during which I interviewed over 300 prospective candidates throughout the U.S. and Europe.
I have met the challenges of employee retention:
- During my employment with Helms Financial, we were staffing at an unprecedented rate. Inherent in this situation is the need to initiate programs to ensure staff retention over long periods of time. The faster an organization grows, the more critical this focus must become. Costs associated with recruitment can be significant and must be controlled. Following implementation of a market-based research study, I was able to reduce Helms’ turnover 35%, saving over $350,000 in annual costs.
I have met the challenges associated with international HR leadership:
- Throughout my tenure with Laxton Data, I led the company’s international employment and employee relations functions. This was a tremendous experience that provided me with excellent qualifications in domestic and expatriate recruitment, compensation, benefits and relocation. Further, I demonstrated my proficiency in managing cross-cultural business relationships spanning the globe.
I have met the challenges of growth and organizational change:
- Each of the organizations in which I have been employed has faced unique operating and leadership challenges. These situations have been diverse and included high-growth ventures, turnarounds and internal reorganizations. Each has focused on improved performance and accelerated market/profit growth. To meet these challenges, I have created innovative, market-driven organizational structures integrating pioneering methodologies for competency-based recruitment and performance management.
- Most recently, I orchestrated the workforce integration of two acquisitions into core business operations. This required a comprehensive analysis of staffing requirements, evaluation of the skills and competencies of the acquired employees, and accurate placement throughout the company. The integration was successful, and all personnel are now fully acclimated and at peak performance.
I hope that the above information demonstrates the value I bring to PYD - today and in the future. You will also find that my abilities to lead and motivate are strong and have always been the foundation for my personal success.
I look forward to speaking with you and scheduling an appointment to meet with Mr. Baldwin. Again, thank you for your time, your interest and your support.
Joshua A. Viens
Remember, you’re the job search expert, and it is your responsibility to share your expertise with your clients! Job search DOES NOT stop with the interview, but rather continues throughout the entire process until such time as your client is sitting at his new desk in his new position. Thank-you letters are a critical part of the process. Use them wisely and to your clients’ advantage!
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