Your value proposition letter

You have 5 or 10 seconds to make your first impression with the hiring manager or recruiter. In those crucial 10 seconds, a ‘value proposition’ has more power to grab and hold the reader’s attention than anything else you can write. It demands attention by clearly stating in a few sentences why a manager should hire you instead of the other qualified candidates in the stack.

Below, I’ll give you a blueprint (and some examples) for creating a persuasive value proposition letter that you can use in place of a cover letter or send on its own without a resume. If writing is not your strong suit, consider asking someone to help you create your letters.

In business jargon, a value proposition is a summary of why a consumer should buy a particular product or service over another. Instead, I’m going to talk about why a hiring manager should buy you over the rest of the competition.

Creating your own personal value proposition is one of the most effective ways to get hired.  It works because it:

•    sets you apart from the competition
•    uses persuasion and sales techniques  by focusing on the benefits you offer an employer
•    clarifies and deepens your understanding of the recruiting equation – what employers want and what you have to offer

How do you add more value or better solve a problem than anyone else? What is your worth to a company? These are the key questions you’ll address in your letter. Only when you truly understand what you have to offer, will your interviewer “get it” too.
 
Are we talking about a cover letter? No! Where a cover letter traditionally highlights what you’ve done in past positions, a value proposition letter states what you’ll do in this one.  Grammatically speaking, you’re shifting from the passive tense (done) and focusing on the active tense (do).

Active people get noticed. By using a value proposition letter in favor of a standard cover letter you are issuing a call to action.  Think about that for a moment.  While many, if not most, of the other cover letters are simply stating past activities, you’re already identifying what you can do when you’re hired.

To find your value, all you have to do is fill in three blanks, three benefits you’ll bring to Company ABC.  This isn’t a list of skills, but rather a personal mission statement you will use to sell yourself:

1.    How will Company ABC benefit financially by hiring you?
2.    What experience can you offer that may provide value to Company ABC?
3.    What additional skills do you have that set you apart from the other candidates?

For some people answering those questions is easy.  In a sales role, for example, you may have numbers to illustrate your financial benefits or overall value.  Unfortunately, most people don’t have such raw data to work from.  How does one put a value on day-to-day tasks?

An example: A friend of mine (lets call her Samantha) worked at a coffee shop for several years.  Each year the company would have a “Camp Day” to raise money for children’s charities.  Samantha worked on Camp Day every year, setting up games and the like for kids who showed up with their parents.  There wasn’t much effort needed in setting up the activities, but as more and more people took notice, all too quickly the coffee shop was bustling with activity.

With this simple scenario we can answer the three questions needed for our value proposition:

1. How will Company ABC benefit financially by hiring you? 
Samantha can setup an event that will increase customer traffic and sales.

2. What experience can you offer that may provide value to Company ABC?
Samantha can coordinate charitable events for families, engage children in activities, and bolster the public image of the company.

3. What additional skills do you have that set you apart from the other candidates?
Samantha knows how to face paint, which kids love!

You never know what slight edge over your competition will get you hired. This simple example above shows how you can break down a task into the key value proposition points.  At the same time, when considering your own value-add to Company ABC, never sell yourself short; don’t feel like you’re limited to the biggest, most elaborate tasks you’ve ever completed.  Day-to-day activates are equally important.

Find some quiet time to appraise yourself. You need to spend some quality time reflecting on what you do well to craft a winning value proposition letter. There is one place that’s perfect for personal assessment – the shower. Your morning shower is the perfect place for solitude, away from husbands, wives, kids and the world in general. Everything you have to offer is standing right there – it’s not about your clothes, your tools, your education or your work experience, it’s just about what you can do for the company.

The blueprint:

  1. Begin with a question like: “Do you need …” or “Would you like …” (questions are engaging and create a connection if you hit a hot button).
  2. Address a problem they might be having in your question or first paragraph.
  3. Give three bullets that prove you have the solution to the problem (strongest bullet at the top)
  4. Use the word “you” twice as often as “I”.
  5. Use short sentences and paragraphs to keep your reader’s interest.
  6. Use specific numbers and facts to build credibility.
  7. Bold two or three strong words or phrases to draw attention to a few key items.
  8. Write in a friendly, conversational, personal, tone of voice without using any buzzwords or overly technical language.
  9. Aim for 100 words and don’t exceed 150.
  10. Format with Times New Roman 12 point font for easy reading.  Use simple bullets (no fancy ones) and don’t exceed two lines with any bullet.

Snail mail works. By all means, use your value proposition letter as a cover letter when responding online to a posted position. But, use it too on its own in a targeted direct mail campaign to top execs!  This is worth spending your money on, if done well. A physical letter addressed to a decision-maker on good quality stationery and signed in blue ink will get read!  Letters like this are rare and not spam. Follow-up your most important letters with telephone calls.

You can buy a targeted mailing list at Hoovers and use Microsoft Word’s mail merge feature to create your mail campaign. Your letter mail campaign will be more effective if you provide a URL to your blog or website where the reader can find your resume online (instead of including a hard copy or attachment of your resume).

Putting your resume online, instead of mailing it out, allows the exec to discover you, to experience you in more than one format, and allows you to bring the exec into your world online where you can showcase yourself in a more compelling way than on two sheets of paper.

Conducting your own direct mail campaign also has some advantages over using a recruiter or staffing agency:

  • When you go direct you save the employer the 30% recruiter or agency fees
  • Your letter might arrive before the employer engages a headhunter or agency
  • The employer may create a new position for you – this does happen often.

E-mail works too, but not for everything… You can be effective sending customized e-mails one by one in response to posted positions, but don’t forget:

  • You are applying where the greatest competition exists.
  • Your e-mail is most likely not addressed to the final decision-maker, but rather a recruiter or assistant that does the screening.
  • E-mail is not elegant or classy and the effort you put in is perceived to be low.

If you send hundreds of unsolicited e-mails using your own computer, you’re almost certain to get blacklisted by one of the spam databases and you’ll end up having trouble reaching anyone by e-mail. You may also have your e-mail account disabled by your ISP. You could pay someone else to send e-mails for you eliminating these risks, but in the end, it’s spam and less cost-effective than snail mail.

Still want to send some unsolicited e-mails? Here’s how to find almost anyone’s e-mail address – just be careful.

Examples:

Note these examples are written from the perspective of a job seeker conducting a direct mail campaign – these are letters that will get mailed out to hundreds or thousands of top execs. That’s why we’re asking the exec to pick up the phone and call (instead of promising to make a follow-up call next Tuesday).

 

Example #1

 Amy Anderson
1234 Elm Street
Springfield, CA 90210
Tel: 123-456-7890
Email: amy_a@email.com

[Date]

[Full Name]
[Title]
[Business Name]
[Street]
[City, State Zip]

[Greeting],

 Are you looking for a way to boost your company morale and employee satisfaction?

 As a seasoned Human Resources Generalist, I spearheaded corporate initiatives that directly influenced and promoted employee engagement and performance.

 My accomplishments to reflect this include:

  • Employee retention rate increase of 14% in 3 years
  • Workplace compensation payouts decreased by 7% over 2 years
  • Implemented a company-wide benefits and stock options package

Please call or email and let’s explore how I can help you. Thanks.

 Sincerely,

Amy Anderson
Human Resource Generalist
Company ABC

Example #2

 John Booth
1234 Elm Street
Springfield, CA 90210
Tel: 123-456-7890
Email: john.booth@email.com

 [Date]

[Full Name]
[Title]
[Business Name]
[Street]
[City, State Zip]

[Greeting]

Do you need a significant boost in productivity on your production line?

My skills as a Production Team Lead will increase your line employee output considerably, not only saving you money but also finding time to invest resources in other business initiatives as needed.

Here are some high level details of what I can bring to your team:

  • Exceeded daily parts quotas by 6% on average
  • Maintained consistent output with a team of seven, ordinarily 10 to a line
  • Reduced workplace injuries by 3% over 1 year

With the impending sale of our company, I’m being proactive in looking at new opportunities.  Please call and let’s talk about how I can help. Thank you.

Sincerely,

John Booth
Product Team Lead
Company XYZ

Example #3

 Betty Foster
1234 Elm Street
Springfield, CA 90210
Tel: 123-456-7890
Email: b_foster@email.com

 [Date]

[Full Name]
[Title]
[Business Name]
[Street]
[City, State Zip]

[Greeting]

Want a lightning fast IT infrastructure that’s well ahead of your competitors?

I can help.

For the last decade I’ve acted as an IS Project Manager and put in place mission critical network systems for small business and enterprise clients alike.  Some highlights:

  • a 25% increase in computing productivity among staff
  • a reduction in IT support costs of 7% with upgrades to hardware and software
  • enhanced online security measures by 11% over two years

Please call or e-mail me and let’s explore the opportunities you have with your systems and network.

 Sincerely,

 Betty Foster, IS Project Manager
Company XYZ

 
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  • Robert Tanner Leonard

    Eric,

    Thank you for sharing this innovative idea. As the job market continues to be tough finding something meaningful to create the competitive advantage to differentiate myself among other potential candidates is exactly what I need. I enjoyed the real work examples. This advice is real world ready and I will start working on my own. I will update you on my results.

    Thank you for sharing this with me. I am excited to take the advice and put it in practice.

    All the best,
    Tanner Leonard

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In 1997, Eric Shannon launched the first job board for bilinguals who speak English/Spanish at LatPro.com. Eric still serves as CEO of LatPro Inc., developer of JustJobs.com. He lives in Boulder, CO with his wife and two girls.

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