What is a Pain Letter and Why is it Different From a Cover Letter?

Nancy Anderson
Posted by

Despite a lot of technology that goes into job postings and online job applications, this method of trying to land a job remains tedious, long and impersonal. It may take an hour to fill out an application through a website, and then you receive an automated response. Instead, send a pain letter for a better way to communicate your intentions of trying to get a job at your favorite employer.

What Is a Pain Letter?

A pain letter, as explained by HR expert and Forbes contributor Liz Ryan, shows a company a problem that it needs to solve. You briefly explain the dilemma faced by an employer, and then demonstrate how you can resolve that difficulty. Much like with a cover letter, explaining a company's pain must be brief, to the point, targeted and specific. Unlike online job applications, this type of letter gets straight to the point as to why you're the ideal fit for an employer.

Why Job Applications Stink

In general, candidates don't like wading through form after form when filling out applications through a website because it just lengthens the time it takes to receive feedback. Up to 20 percent of viable candidates may move on to another company if applying online takes more than 20 minutes. These applications should be convenient rather than a hindrance, yet employers may try to jam as much information into online applications as possible. That's why a concise letter to an employer, which brings out your personality, is much more effective than an impersonal application through a website that digitizes a bunch of data points and places them into an applicant tracking system's rating algorithm.

Why a Pain Letter Rules

A pain letter is a special kind of cover letter, and it makes you stand out for several reasons. When someone at the firm notices you, that's the point of this type of correspondence.

First, this letter addresses a person responsible for hiring you directly, whether she is the head of HR, a hiring manager or a recruiter. This creates a sense of engagement, and it shows you took the time to research the person responsible for hiring you.

Second, you don't go on and on about your background and qualifications. You sum up your highest skill set in one sentence by saying what skill you have that solves a company's most prominent problem.

Third, your correspondence is very specific. You call out a problem the company has and you say exactly how your skills solve the problem. You create an immediacy because of the urgent problem the company has, so the hiring manager wants to talk to you as soon as possible.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, this type of cover letter stands out from the rest of the applications. You bucked the traditional method of supplying your information while creating a personal reason for someone to contact you. This letter shows you thoroughly researched the company and lent your human voice to the job search process, and tells an employer you are there to solve that company's problem.

A pain letter is a much more personable way to capture someone's attention. Try this method the next time you want a great position with your favorite employer and see what happens.

Photo courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

  • Vanessa J.
    Vanessa J.

    Umm...Interesting concept, this "Pain Letter." But not so sure it's a good idea to contact a perspective employer addressing problems with the company the applicant can solve before he/she gets the job. The applicant may come off as arrogant and someone who will immediately come in and want to make changes without understanding why certain systems are in place. I think this style of letter could work, depending upon the industry and the company culture and of course, the personality of the individual reading it.

Jobs to Watch