Flatter, flirt, get real, & leave them wanting more

resume & cover letter Jun 15, 2015

I’ve been talking to my clients a lot lately about how looking for your dream job is a lot like dating; after all, love and a satisfying career are two of the most sought after and yet elusive concepts there are. To be successful in either requires self-reflection, empathy, and confidence. You have to know yourself and your audience in order to find the right fit.

Keeping with this line of logic, the one-page job proposal plays the role of the love letter in your career courtship. It’s a clever, compelling strategy to find a way into the hearts of the organizations you are targeting. Rather than focusing on what you do and what you need like a traditional resume does, the one-page job proposal focuses on the organization: who they are, what they do, and what they need.

But before you launch in, remember that you’ll also need to highlight what you offer, what makes you unique, and demonstrate your credibility. A 1-page proposal has four components:

Pitch to their challenge (Flatter, but not too flowery)

The first paragraph in your 1-page pitch needs to grab the hiring manager’s attention. Identify the organizations you want to target, and then do some research to find out as much as you can about the team member profiles and their recent initiatives. Especially take note of reports or press coverage to find out what there short and long term targets, risks and opportunities are, as well where they have come. Point out something you think they are doing especially well – compliments always set the stage for a great first date. Let them know what attracted you to them in the first place, on a date it might be “you have a great smile,” in sustainability jobs context it may be “your story about the children on the cocoa farm in Ghana was moving.”

Then, do some competitor benchmarking to research potential and innovative opportunities the company may not have identified yet. Imagine you already have a job in their team and devise a solution for them that you are uniquely placed to deliver. Make it clear that you know what they're trying to achieve, you have a solution and you have a plan to deliver it. Make it clear that you really ‘get them’ and understand what they need – the empathy.

Pitch to what you do (Flirt, but don’t play games)

The next four or five lines is what I call your "Elevator Pitch." This is a verbal tool I usually tell my clients to use in networking but in this case you are using it to convey your unique selling points (USP). It lays a few things right out on the table in short sentences:

  • Who you are and what you want the reader to remember about you
  • What value you can bring to them in terms of impact
  • Why bringing you on board will give a unique benefit to their business
  • How what you did is different from your competition, and finally
  • What you expect the reader to do for you and vice versa - your goal or ask.

Pitch your summary story (Get real)

The final paragraph of your one page proposal needs to really convey a strong sense of the authentic you. It is the same as your four-line profile of on your resume. Communicate why this company needs you and how you fit their company culture. It shouldn't be any more than four sentences, and should follow this formula.

  1. Sentence One is your descriptive title, the total number of years' professional experience you have and what your overall impact has been to date.
  2. Sentence Two is your top three skills and sectors.
  3. Sentence Three is what sets you apart (maybe languages or education or live/work abroad).
  4. Sentence Four is your objective — a 10-word reiteration of your first paragraph that shows how you will help them, not the other way around.

Get the name of a human (Leave them wanting more)

Once you've got your proposal together, your final task is to find the physical and/or email addresses and names of the relevant sustainability directors. Try to reach out by phone first to make human contact and then follow up with your 1-Page Pitch by email. Including graphics or a video always gets people's attention.

Success story in the flesh

A client of mine had been trying for months to get in front of three boutique consulting companies in New York. He had sent his resume, a formal cover letter and tried to call by phone to follow up with a few of his LinkedIn contacts. The closed door was setting him back in terms of motivation. So, thanks to one of his mentors at PwC who told him to make it super clear and easy for the hiring manager to see what his specific and tangible value add would be for their pain points – research, benchmarking, and reporting, he pulled together the 1-page proposal as outlined above. Within three days he was sitting in front of the MD agreeing terms for a short-term consulting assignment as a trial. It was just too difficult for them to turn away a tangible offer of help for their exact pain points. And they couldn’t see this clearly from a cover letter and resume.

Always think in the shoes of the hiring manager – what do they need and how do you offer that in tangible, measurable terms?

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