Archive for July, 2013

“Cold Mail”: An Innovative Way to Access the Hidden Job Market

or… What Faulkner and Twain Knew About Career Communications

Faster than a job board troll, more powerful than networking, and much less intimidating than picking up the phone and calling someone you don’t know… I bring you: COLD MAIL!

Why do you “cold mail?”

Any salesperson worth their salt knows that to really make things happen, they need to go beyond their network and reach out to new contacts. It’s called cold calling.

As you “sell yourself” (I’m not fond of that term, but more on that another time) on the job market, your field of possibilities expands almost infinitely if you go beyond your network and make these “cold” contacts. Detective work and phone calls are highly effective if that is your strong suit. You can even hire an “executive talent agent” to make these calls for you.

But if you’re not comfortable with the idea of cold calling or you’re hesitant to invest 5 figures to have someone do it for you, cold mailing is an excellent option.

What do you “cold mail?”

Send a brief letter, 150 words or less, called a value proposition letter. These letters were perfected brought to prominence by the late Mark Hovind. Mary Elizabeth Bradford, who was mentored by Mark, introduced me to them, and I’ve found them highly effective.

It’s important to know what NOT to send. Do not send a resume. Firstly, the psychological impact of a resume either, “I’ll read that later” or “Not another one! Where’s the recycling bin?” It is lengthy, kind of like discussing your ex or childhood traumas on a first date. Additionally, many companies have a universal policy that all resumes must go through HR. Well, so much for dealing directly with the decision-maker, which was the whole point.

Do not send a lengthy letter! It may seem easier to send a shorter letter, but this is not the case. As you’ll see from the example at the end of this article, it’s a challenge to crystallize the most important points in 150 words or less. But the calculated brevity does two things. Firstly, at less than half a page, it looks completely unintimidating to read. The recipient will often go ahead and consume its contents right away. Secondly, the tone will naturally be to-the-point which is how executives tend to communicate. You’ll be speaking in the reader’s language and as their peer.

By the way, who is the reader?

Who do you “cold mail?”

Cold mail hiring managers or others in a position to influence hiring, such as board members or executives at venture capital (VC) or private equity (PE) firms. If you are a high level executive or your market is smaller companies, you’ll want to reach out to C-level folks. If you are at a mid-manager or director level looking at a larger organization, include VPs in your search.

You can find these people with the help of your reference librarian (most libraries have a business database available to patrons), by researching online at websites such as ZoomInfo, or by hiring someone to generate a list for you (I like Career Solvers and Profile Research).

How do you “cold mail?”

Lots of labels and lickin’! You may have forgotten what it’s like to send out actual items of mail via the USPS, but it’s time to remember. Alternately, you can hire a service to take care of fulfillment for you. Warning: fulfillment services are sometimes used to sending a resume and cover letter. Don’t do this! Insist that you only want to send the value proposition letter.

Keep in mind, this is a numbers game. While I’ve seen response rates up to 30% for someone with in-demand skills, if you count on a 3% response rate, you should be fairly safe. This means if you send out 100 letters and get 3 calls, you’re doing something right. 800 to 1,000 letters is usually a good amount, but balance that with quality of data. There point in spending time and money approaching random people. When putting together your list, be clear on the size and type of company, industry, and job function you are interested in.

Note: Though not the traditional way to do this, my clients have had great success sending their value proposition letter through LinkedIn messages. Join groups containing the audience you seek (i.e. biotech executives), and reach out to members via the group’s messaging service. If you do this be absolutely certain that your LinkedIn profile is up to snuff. In fact, you’ll want to do that in any case as your letter should include the link to your LinkedIn profile.

The value proposition letter has a very low success rate if sent via email.

What does a “cold mail” look like?

It is bare bones. Neat, but without much extra formatting. The body of the letter should be no more than 150 words. Oh, how I struggled with this word limit in the beginning. A 150-word letter would never win an award for best cover letter! I love all of my clients and want nothing more than to extol their virtues all day long.

But beauty is as beauty does. 150 words gets interviews. 200 words doesn’t.

The format goes:

1. Open with an engaging question about what the reader needs for his/her business.

2. In one short sentence, give a big-picture example of how you’ve achieved #1 for your current employer.

3. Provide 3 brief, bulleted examples either breaking down the details of #2 or expressing your top career accomplishments in light of your opening question.

4. Tell the person how you’d like to help them and what you want in return. Suggest setting a time to speak.

5. Thank them for their time.

6. Include a P.S. It’s kind of like how Colombo would turn back after speaking with a witness and say, “Just one more question.” It’s a way to sneak in a zinger. That zinger can often be the URL for your LinkedIn profile where they can learn more about you. Your P.S. could also be a way to mention something critical like your connection to the industry or your upcoming master’s degree.

Example: Here is a value proposition letter I wrote for a client. It’s edited down to a 148-word body


Do you need a sales and marketing leader who can exceed revenue goals, reinforce culture, and develop products that out-innovate competitors?

As the executive head of sales and marketing at my current company, I’ve grown revenue 93% in the last year. In my career I’ve:

  • Led capture of dozens of 7- and 8-figure deals with Fortune 500 companies and government organizations.
  • Realized drastic YOY revenue increases (high double and triple digits) by rethinking markets and product application.
  • Accelerated growth with due diligence and go/no-go M&A decisions.

I’ve helped multiple companies realize profitable exit strategies. Now, I’m looking to make a long-term impact on culture and products where I have a stake in the outcome. If this is of interest to you, let’s set up a time to speak.

Thank you in advance for your interest. I look forward to learning more about your most pressing challenges.


John Candidate

P.S. You can learn more about my experience here: [insert LinkedIn profile URL]


The letter at the end of this post was my first attempt to write for the same client. At 187 words, it was too long! I felt I’d whittled it down to the essentials, but my word count told me otherwise. You must, as Faulkner quipped, “Murder your darlings.” If you imagine yourself a busy decision maker and look at each of these, you’ll quickly understand why the above is better.

It takes time to write tight! As Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” But if you’re serious about job search, you better make the time!

(Disclaimer for the sticklers out there: some people say the above quotes were erroneously attributed to Faulkner and Twain. That may be the case, but whoever really posited these thoughts would have made great resume writers!)



Do you need a sales and marketing leader who can exceed revenue goals, reinforce strong corporate values, and develop product portfolios that out-innovate competitors?

As a member of the executive team at my current company, I’ve grown sales 93% in the last year. Additional results that may interest you:

  • Closed dozens of 7- and 8-figure deals with Fortune 500 companies and government organizations—both through personal contributions and team leadership.
  • Realized drastic YOY revenue increases (high double digits and triple digits) by rethinking customer base and product application and creating segmented marketing campaigns and sales strategies.
  • Accelerated growth and supported profitable exits by performing due diligence and making go/no-go merger and acquisition decisions.

I’ve helped multiple companies realize profitable exits through sales. Now, I’m looking for a place where I can make a long-term impact on culture and products and have a stake in the outcome. If this is of interest to you, let’s set up a time to speak.

I thank you in advance for your interest, and I look forward to learning more about your most pressing sales, marketing, and business challenges.

John Candidate

P.S. You can learn more about my experience here: [insert LinkedIn profile URL]



July 27, 2013 at 8:35 am Leave a comment

Four Must-Have Tools for an Organized Job Search—Plus a Bonus Tool for Social Media Junkies

Do you ever wish there were two of you? I mean, it takes so long to live your life AND look for a job. Here are a few tools that will make your job search more effective and free up some time for important things like networking, suit shopping, and mani/pedis (they should be tax deductible as part of your job search, no?).

Can you live without these tools? Sure. They do take time to set up, time that could be used networking or writing your resume. But it often takes months to land a job, and your labyrinth of contacts, tasks, and emails will only get bigger and less wieldy as your search goes on. Besides, all of these tools will help you maintain the momentum of active career management long after the ink is dry on your ideal job offer. After all, you’ll want to be better prepared for your next transition, won’t you?


Dedicated email: I love Gmail because of its many forwarding and filtering options. When you delve into the land of job search, you may end up on a bunch of mailing lists. A dedicated email address means it’s easy to ignore all that stuff later once you’re employed. Also, I believe using a service perceived as leading-edge helps your image. Browse Google Labs for fun and time saving Gmail add-ons. One of my favorites is “canned responses.” Technically, Google has disabled its labs, but you can still find it in your email settings under the “labs” tab.

The only one that might trump Gmail for hipness is a Mac address. Personally, I’m still waiting to get one of those. In any case, you’ll need a Google account for some of my other suggestions.


Dedicated phone number: Again, you have many choices here. Skype has been the bane of my telecom existence for some time. It doesn’t always do what I ask it to in terms of voicemail and call forwarding, and call quality is dicey. I’ve had good luck with my Vonage connection, but call forwarding is awkward. I LOVE my Google Voice account because it will ring any phone I ask it to and even send me a text message transcript of voicemails. I do suggest NOT using the call screening option. If you aren’t available, it rather highlights the possibility that you just didn’t want to speak to the caller.


CRM: If you’re serious about job search and ongoing career management, it’s time to ditch the spread sheet! JibberJobber is my favorite option for job seekers or people who just want to keep their network alive and growing. There is a free option that works very well, and the upgrades are quite affordable.


Scheduling Tool: It should be as easy as possible for qualified companies to schedule an interview with you. TimeTrade eliminates the back-and-forth emails and phone calls and allows interviewers to put themselves on your calendar. It takes a bit of work to set up at the front-end, but the ensuing ease of scheduling and the professional impression it gives are worth it.


Social Media Scheduling Tool: Not everyone needs to be active on social media to run an effective job search. But if you do, or if social is just your cup of tea, a scheduler helps you batch your social activity. My personal favorite after trying several is BufferApp. It takes the pain out of scheduling by automatically posting at optimum times to achieve maximize visibility. The plugin for Chrome allows you to easily snag relevant articles from the web, and they’ve even added the ability to schedule at specific times (though why anyone would want to think that hard is beyond me).

Do you have a favorite job search tool? Please share in the comments!

July 26, 2013 at 8:21 am Leave a comment

Guard Your Coffee, Get Your Dream!


Resume writers, career counselors, and loved ones are killing dreams every day.

To paraphrase Tony Robbins, if a friend accidentally puts cyanide in your coffee, it will still kill you. Your friend’s (or counselor’s) good intentions do not lessen the negative effect of the poison.

Today, I heard from yet another potential client who was told he could not be a CFO because he wasn’t a CPA. I’ve heard various versions of this. You can’t be a project manager, you don’t have a PMP credential. You’ll never be considered at a top pharma lab because you only have a master’s, not a PhD.

I’m here to tell you right now that 90% of this advice is bullcrap.

Pardon my language, but it really makes me angry. People who are looking for work are already in a vulnerable position. Every powerful person I’ve worked with—whether a celebrity, CEO, or successful entrepreneur—has had a moment or more of feeling like a fraud or like they are not good enough to achieve their next, heart-felt career goal. It’s challenging enough for job seekers to quiet the nay-saying voices in their heads. As resume writers and coaches, we are here to encourage and to help them increase their chances of success.

The average chance of getting a CFO job without a CPA might be 10%. But we don’t know what any particular individual’s chances are. If they are smart and a hustler, their chances could be close to 100%. I don’t mean to pull out the rainbows and unicorns and live in total fantasy. It’s our job to be realistic with them, but then to get to work with all our heart and soul to tip the scales in their favor.

People beat the odds all the time!

Stephen Spielberg got his first gig at Universal by jumping off the tour tram and setting up in an office. He just pretended he belonged, and soon enough he did.

My friend Tiffany Brooks was working as an administrator in my children’s school last year, trying hard to get her interior design firm off the ground. Now she has her own show on HGTV. She has no degree in design, just a damn good eye and the confidence to put 100% of her spirit into sharing it with the world.

A couple of months ago I worked with a CFO of a state agency. Did he have a CPA? No! He didn’t even have a bachelor’s degree. And after our work together, he got the job he was after, CFO of a federal agency. And we’re talking government here—they are known for not going outside of the box in terms of qualifications requirements. He had worked his way up from the role of executive assistant.

I could go on (and on, and on—really there are so many examples), but I think you get my point. Are there times when you need to be realistic? Sure. If you’re 80, it might not be the time to pursue your astronaut career. If you want to be a doctor, you should gear up for medical school.

Take a realistic look at your prospects. But once your decision is made, throw realism out the window. Being “realistic” is often code for a defeatist, pessimistic mentality. You don’t have time or energy for that if you’re going to shift paradigms and beat the odds.

Guard your coffee, and replace negative thoughts with positive ones that involve all the senses. 

Whether it’s a close family member or well intentioned career coach, do not let anyone hijack your dream. Envision what you want for your career, create statements that support that. These targeted statements will add momentum to your goal and crowd out the negative input. Take some time to write out statements like:

“I see myself in my new role as _______. I love my desk, the view from my window, the people I work with. I am well compensated. I am amazed and grateful for the seemingly coincidental happenings that got me here. The company I work for feels very lucky to have me—and they are! I’m so happy I can telecommute when I want. This is just the flexibility and autonomy I need to be fulfilled and productive. Oh, and they have really good coffee in the break room!”

Visualize yourself a year from now, telling a good friend about your career journey. See the restaurant you’ll be in. Decide what you’ll eat, how it will taste. What is the view? Is there a live band? What kind of music?

You might also try guided visualization/mediation, if that’s your cup of coffe. It does wonders. You can get a free guided meditation on trust (i.e. having faith that God/the universe will always provide for you in abundance) here.

Get practical!

Along with a positive attitude, you’ll need to put some strategy and action into place. If you have a question you’d like me to answer on this blog, contact me. You can find out more about working with me one-on-one right here.

After all, my dream is to help you fulfill yours!

July 25, 2013 at 4:28 pm 1 comment