The part of game theory which is a perfect fit for cover letters is this: When selling ourselves we develop our strategy based on what the competition is doing or we figure out might do.
We don't just sit at our computers and create our cover letter or pitch in isolation. The game is to demonstrate we have the distinct edge over the other 20 or 200 applying for that one job, contract assignment or piece of business for our enterprises.
Here is a recent example from real life. A 30-something graphic artist studied the help-wanted for a full-time position down South. She was based in the Midwest. Yes, it was a long shot.
She anticipated that the competition would simply address the requirements indicated in the help-wanted. That, they would assume, was what the employer wanted to hear.
She recognized that graphic design entails being on the money in tone and creativity. So here's what she did:
- In a few playful sentences mirrored the fun ethos in the ad. She was careful not to overdo that.
- Went beyond the requirements. That included highlighting her experience with trade shows. From her research, she knew the organization wanted more of that kind of business. Trade shows were not mentioned in the ad.
- Leveled the gender playing field. She explained how she had set up and tore down exhibition booths. Yes, she loaded and unloaded trucks.
- Offered to drive down for an interview on her own dime.
Forty-five minutes after she pressed "send," she received a call from that company. She could pull off the no-cost-to-employer interview offer because she had a relative in that southern city.
Next week, she loads the U-Haul and heads to her new job.
There are so many ways to outfox the competition in cover letters.
Another, devised by a public relations writer, had been a offer the recipient a "test drive." No, he didn't say he would work free. That would have denigrated his brand. Instead he indicated that if the new client was not satisfied with the first assignment he did, there would be no charge. His pitch, sent snail mail, pulled in new business.
What has been an effective approach for me has been to introduce myself as a player in the marketing/sales space since I was kid. At that time I worked in the immigrant family's retail and property management enterprises. The message delivered: Entrepreneurial mindset from the get-go. It was unlikely the competition positioned and packaged itself in that specific way.
Takeaway: We don't sell ourselves. We sell an entity which is better than what the competition can provide.
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