Keep calm… and put that cover letter down.

If you’re still writing and sending a cover letter out for your job search, it’s best to rethink that strategy. For so long, cover letters have been seen as the single document that can make or break your career prospects. When you submit your resume to a potential employer, it is highly recommended that you enclose a cover letter with it.

A cover letter, according to many hiring managers, allows them to get a glimpse of your personality and potential that your CV can’t provide. When applicants for a much-coveted position have almost the same level of qualifications, many times, it’s the cover letter that serves as a tie-breaker.

But the workplace is changing – quickly, and in so many ways. So many things (from how a resume is formatted to how to approach HR to interview tips and more) that have worked in the past are now obsolete and irrelevant. And in today’s highly competitive, high-stake, fickle job market, the cover letter is getting the pink slip. Its format, tone and significance have become too monotonous; it’s easy to sound like all the other applicants. It doesn’t allow you to “stand out from the crowd,” which is supposed to be the goal of a cover letter.

But you still need to send out a personalized message when you send out your resume. This time, that message should be directly addressed to your hiring manager and it should basically tell them how you as the ideal candidate can take away the (you guessed it) business pain they they are dealing with right now.

The Pain Letter, a concept invented by Human Workplace, is described by their CEO Liz Ryan as your conversation with the hiring manager at the highest level – that level of conversation where you talk about “the thorniest issues the manager was facing.”

The content of the Pain Letter can be structured according to four key parts as identified by Human Workplace.

  • First off, you hook the hiring manager’s attention by complementing a recent accomplishment achieved by the company.
  • Based on what you know and have researched, you make a hypothesis about the kind of business pain that company is dealing with right now.
  • Then, share one of your success stories, aka the Dragon-Slaying Story, that shows how you were able to solve a similar problem (or tackle the same dragon).
  • Cap it off with a memorable closing that aims to seal your next appointment.

Needless to say, it isn’t as simple as merely following a format, because there is no strict formula for it; the content of your letter depends on the specific needs and pains of the organization that you are addressing. Therefore, the Pain Letter you are sending will be different for each and every application.

It may take a lot of time, practice, research, writing, rewriting and even training, but knowing how to write your Pain Letter may just be the last piece of the puzzle you need to land that ideal job.