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Your opinion of cold letters

Given the job market we are experiencing, do you recommend sending a letter to a business that does not have an advertised position posted? Are cold letters such as this viewed as irritating to the business leaders?

If you recommend sending a letter, should it be very brief merely asking about a job or should it accompany a resume to inform the business of your skills?

Answers

Topic Expert
Mark Richards
Title: VP of Finance & Operations
Company: RBA Consulting
(VP of Finance & Operations, RBA Consulting) |

Is a Cold Letter Effective?
A cold letter is generally ineffective because there is not an immediate need to fill, therefore, no reason to look at talent. Also, without a referral or introduction, it is difficult for someone to dedicate time from their day to review the letter (e-mail, etc.)

No Advertised Position - How to get in:
To get into companies with no advertised positions, I have used two steps with success

First, I have looked for 'events' that could trigger need for people with my skill set (new products, funding, acquisition, etc.). I looked at events within the last six months - it's usually a series of small events, not a major one. While that seems like a big window of time, a company may need an extended period to determine what it needs.

Second, I find a way to get a referral or connection to remove the 'cold' - just to give your letter a chance to be read. Remember, regardless of how strong a referral, your letter may go unread.

I think the book "Take the Cold out of Cold Calling" (www.takethecold.com) by Sam Ritcher is a great tool for finding connections.

Letter versus E-mail:
Use an e-mail, you are more likely to get it read. Letters are good for follow-up. I like to send notes like this on Sunday night, when people begin to scan e-mails on their smartphones in prep for the week, but their Inbox is not jammed.

What's in your letter:
As what to include in the letter it's all about addressing a need. In addition to using your network to get a connection, also seek insight into what's happening in the firm and specifically for the person you want to meet.

Here's what I've included in my e-mail.

1) Should be to a specific person (e.g. CFO)
2) Reference your referral by name (I include in the title of my e-mail)
3) Identify the need that person has from the event (e.g. integration of accounting post-acquisition). When I say need, what's they think about are those tasks they personally need to accomplish to remain successful.
4) In short, mention only background that is relevant to the addressing the need (e.g. I've done 4 integration projects).
5) Ask if they would like to meet, at a minimum you can share insight from your background.

Your objective is have them take a meeting. Give them a compelling reason why to meet - anything more simply gets in the way and diminishes your chances.

Include the URL to your LinkedIn profile instead of a resume and leave out asking for a job. You want to avoid making someone feel like they will have to say "No" to you regarding a job (Who wants to take a meeting like that?)

There's no advertised jobs for a reason, they are not looking. But just because they are not actively looking does not mean they do not have a need to solve. What you want to do with your e-mail and meeting is highlight the need.

While these are generally longer-term plays, the interesting part is very few people use this method to get in - especially when it comes to stringing together several events where the cumulative effect could be significant.

Hope this helps.

Mark

Diane McAllister
Title: Partner
Company: Brown Welch McAllister, LLP
(Partner, Brown Welch McAllister, LLP) |

Thank you Mark. This helps a great deal.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Mark - You mentioned E-mail versus Snail Mail, with E-mail being more effective.

My jury is out (although I just use e-mail); but this element came up at a networking event and some of the members feel that snail mail is so limited these days that you have a better chance of being read (uniqueness factor).

IMHO, whether you write an e-mail or a letter, brevity is best since most of us just don't have the time or the energy to read War and Peace (great book, except for the epilogues, but I digress).

Topic Expert
Mark Richards
Title: VP of Finance & Operations
Company: RBA Consulting
(VP of Finance & Operations, RBA Consulting) |

Wayne,

The point of uniqueness is well taken, however, it is more difficult to respond. It requires a likely busy person to find your e-mail address and then type it in. Does not sound like much, but unless a letter is very compelling you have a step in the wrong direction in gaining a response - which is the goal.

My rule is help them to help you. I would stick with e-mail - especially when a response is desired.

Regular mail is okay for "Thank You" cards

Mark

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