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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  • Anthony Cooper

    Eric Eric Eric….

    I assume by the no response in the last to years that I will be another to go without. Even so, I wanted to share so that others could hopefully pull something from my words. A colleague of mine (meaning another unemployed college graduate) and myself moved to Los Angeles over a year ago to chase dreams of working in our field of public relations. Here we are, many experiences later, back in our home town due to an auto accident I had which drained both of us financially.

    Regardless, we’re back and on the hunt for a good position in our passionate areas of interest. With what feels to be nothing but failed attempts and defeat, we are both realizing we are now out of date on our educations for entry level, under experienced for higher level jobs, and ultimately in a ‘limbo’ when it comes to showcasing our abilities. We are now considering lower jobs than we ever wanted to work, but with financial turmoil we don’t know how to move forward otherwise.

    With both of us in a different city, we have started the journey of finding our own work, or creating it if you will. The problems we see, and concerns ultimately, are as follows:
    –Would a side job to pay bills be working against us, adding to the work experience and time gap that is not in PR?
    –Without money, transportation, or connections here, what would be our best foot forward in selling our services?
    –In the wake of some success, would our own website and mini ‘firm’ be detrimental to landing a desired position?
    –Yet in leaving it out, does that even bigger gap now hurt us even more?

    Despite this mountain of a challenge, we keep climbing in hopes to reach the clouds. Somewhere we cannot see into from our current vantage point, with dreams that we will someday help the world with our passion. Good article to read at 3:30 in the morning, in a time of needing food for thought.

    Best,

    Anthony Cooper

  • Ian Grey

    The value proposition described in this article pertains to job-seeking, but I think the concepts extend to other situations where you’re trying to influence a decision-maker, like a hiring manager. I will be starting college in the fall, and have been applying for several scholarships. Most of them require an essay about a given topic, but in many cases also, I have to send them under a cover letter (oops, should I still use that word???). Instead of demonstrating your value or worth to a prospective hiring manager, you have to demonstrate your value as a candidate for scholarship awards/resources.

  • Great points indeed. The key to showing value and getting noticed is to do a lot of homework. Once the candidate knows what the employer or recruiter wants, they can then fine-tune their pitch and sell themselves without being generic.

  • John F. Reid

    Very informative, thank you.

    • yolanda burgos

      Thanks, great and helpful information. Keep up the good work. I”ll definitely will used this information on my job search.

  • Manohar Jagasia

    Hello Eric,
    This is excellent- You really have a lot here- I don’t think I have put as much effort as you indicate needs to be put in – to find the job that I want. I am looking for a mostly a job ( as I am retired after 35 years in automotive field mostly) without too much of commute time.
    So, after 3 year stint in a non-technical job with state of Michigan, I am unemployed for ~ 10 months- without too much success. I have good people skills- but I don’t know what companies could even hire me.
    But I think you definitely have a very engaging article(s) & perhaps books as well.
    Thank you!!

  • Sharen

    Eric,

    This is great information! In this job market one needs to think out of the box. My son has recently graduated from college in advertising. How can he apply this way of thinking if he has not had that first job in his career? Thanks for any suggestions I can pass on.

  • S. vd Leeuw

    Dear Eric,
    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences on this website. It will prove to be most helpful for me as well, since I am currently in some job application processes. Coming from Europe, it is very valuable for me to get some insights from inside the job hiring positions. In the recent past, I have definitely also noticed that a cover that is well written and also combines a very personal – and significant – example (a ‘model’) with a more professional tone, has the greatest effect. I will definitely use your suggestions in the future.
    Thanks again!

  • Guest

    Eric,
    Thank you so much for sharing these experiences. Coming from Europe the American job market is quite a challenge, and your comments will definitely prove to be most helpful in the future. Indeed, I have already noticed that the best way to

  • SRMH

    I found this information to be very insightful. I am very glad to have been led to it and intend to revisit periodically.

  • Rayshunda Childs

    This site is awesome advice for any job seeker. I would have never known to use the what I can do for you approach. Job search takes time and work but the average job seeker will not take out the time to even read this article. This is a sure way to get noticed by employers because you get back what you put into something. If you are lazy and not willing to take the time to do a productive search and blueprinting, then you become just another average applicant.

  • Angela Coleman

    Eric;

    I have been job seeking for sometime and I have really gotten no results. I am happy to get an insightful understanding from your page about this topic, which I will apply to my job seeking process. I am still positive about my future and landing a job that is right for me and sets me apart from others. Thank you.

  • Wendy Gotte

    Great information, it has been frustrating applying for positions, sending cover letters, but never getting any response. I like the idea of slow mail, but some positions that are perfect for me go through search engines not direct to the company, so slow mail may not be an option at times. However, I do like sending directly to companies my information so that HR gets me separate from the normal email, and I will stand out. I think I am going to try that out.

    • Wendy, your goal should be to reach hiring managers directly, not the HR department. You want to address yourself to your future boss!

  • This entire site has been a huge help in making a change in how to function in a business setting and even in getting that dream job. Eric your article was fantastically insightful and rocketed my resume response rate. Thank you and keep up the helpful information!

    • so glad to hear it Erin, thanks for the feedback:)

  • I really enjoyed the articles involving techniques for getting job interviews. I was particularly interested in the section on cover letters. Its been rough searching for jobs and applying, and not knowing what to say and what not to say…. Really good information here! Great site!

  • stept

    Eric you have enlighted me in so many ways with is guide. I have really enjoyed reading it.
    Thanks

  • kuleeo

    “impeding sale”? Not hired.

  • Tamika Holmes

    This is very useful information. Writing a cover letter takes a lot of thought because it is an applicants way of selling themselves. A good cover letter can make a difference between getting an interview and being overlooked. This approach is useful for all who are seeking employment. The steps to writing a great cover letter are very important.

  • Eric,
    I have struggled for a couple of years and have tried different methods to make myself stand apart from other’s. I never understood why I was not receiving any phone calls for interviews. I really like what I have learned from this page. Thank you and I will be using this approach from now on. The what I can do for you is an excellent approach. I will also send my letter with resume by snail mail from now on. It is to easy to send via e-mail and you never here from them again. This will set me apart and again thank you.

    • Glad to hear it Jennifer! Thanks for sharing.

  • I always end my cover/value letter with “I will follow up with a phone call next week, to further discuss how my skills and experience can benefit your company”
    ___________

    Assertive, pro-active.  I have no doubt in my mind I can benefit the company I apply to, I am not desperate for a job.  In addition, when I make my follow up call, I can say to the receptionist,  “Hello my name is Andrea, may I speak with Ms Smith, she is expecting my call.”

  • Mary Whitaker

    I love your simple adivce and the cartoon captures the idea very well. Your points of expressing values is so important today in a job search. thank you for haring.
    mary Whitaker

  • Eric, I encourage clients to include a section (Key Achievements)
    at the start of their CV detailing what they can do for an organisation, by showcasing
    what they have done.  I really like the
    idea of changing the language on the cover letter to “I could do for you” and
    then having the CV as an evidencing document.

    I work in the UK market and I feel the wording of the letter
    may need a tweak to be well received by UK employers.  It can be hard to persuade clients to directly
    contact organisations they want to work for, they feel that it will be seen as ‘junk’
    communication.  Using this idea of ‘I can
    do for you’ may be a way to help them overcome this idea.

    Kirsty Robb, Liverpool, UK 

    • This is ironic:

      “It can be hard to persuade clients to directly contact organisations they want to work for, they feel that it will be seen as ‘junk’ communication”

      An old-fashioned letter is so rare – it will get read because so few take the time to do it. What is now junk is the standard e-mail or online application…

      Thanks for sharing Kirsty!

  • Lorrie Digiovanni

    Yes Eric, I agree . . . candidates need to be more in tune to what they can do for a company as well as  what they’ve done, especially in this competitive market.  Thanks for sharing this and all the examples – great information.  I have been coaching clients in job search for almost 20 years.  For many, this will require them to make a major shift in the way they think.   Many individuals, especially those with non-executive, non-management and non-sales jobs, have difficulty identifying their accomplishments so this would be an added challenge but well worth their time to figure it out.  But even senior clients who can readily communicate their achievements need to be able to better express how a company will benefit by hiring them – too many just focus on previous accomplishments and don’t take them to the next level.  Thanks again – great advice for every level of job seeker.

    •  “Many individuals, especially those with non-executive, non-management
      and non-sales jobs, have difficulty identifying their accomplishments so
      this would be an added challenge but well worth their time to figure it
      out.”

      Well said Lorrie!

  • Malwatt

    Far better to point towards a meeting in the last paragraph, such as “I’ll give you a ring next Tuesday (the day after the letter would have been received) to see if you’d lik eto discus how I may help your company.”

    • In some situations, yes. In others you may not have a way to reach the reader by phone or, if you have sent out 3000 of these letters, you can’t possibly call everyone.

  • Perry0141

    Jack, Eric, I am sold on this information! I work in a computer lab career center, assisting clients in a computer lab who are writing cover letters and completing job apps online…I will apply this reasoning with certain clients who will benefit greatly from using this style of cover letter. I LOVE the cartoons!
    Thanks for the knowledge. A. Perry, Greensboro, NC

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About the author

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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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