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How to Gain Attention

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Your opening/attention getter is the lead paragraph in your sales letter. Your objective here is to get your reader's attention and lead into your purpose for writing. To do this, you can employ news, intrigue, shock, or any kind of unusual information, so long as you can relate it to your basic purpose for writing; to obtain an interview. Here are some examples of successful opening/attention getters:

  • "I doubled the work output of my department while cutting engineering man-hours by 25%."
This opening/attention getter was written by Tom J., an engineering manager for a large aerospace company. It was so effective that it got Tom interviews for engineering management jobs in both large companies and small, in several different industries. Tom had to explain in numerous interviews exactly how he did this. Tom's explanation: "Through lack of control, my department was working on unneeded subsystems. I reduced man-hours while doubling productivity on essential work."
  • "As a professor at the U.S. Military Academy, I taught Juice to Cows who were Goats; 30% of my Goats became Engineers in Juice within 60 days as a direct result of my instruction."


This unusual opening/attention getter was used by Tony B. when he applied for a part-time teaching position at a number of colleges and universities. Tony went on to explain that Juice was slang at the Military Academy for electrical engineering; Cows were college juniors; Goats were cadets with low academic averages; and Engineers were cadets with high academic averages. What Tony was saying was that he taught electrical engineering to juniors with low academic averages, and that 50% of his students achieved high academic averages in electrical engineering as a direct result of his teaching. Few hiring deans could resist reading Tony's sales letter once they had read that opener.

Chariie F., an international commodity salesman, used the opener:
  • "I spent 5 years in South America selling American coffee in Brazil and other South American countries." What an attention getter! That's like selling coconuts to natives of a tropical island. You can bet it materially assisted Charlie in getting inter views for a superior job.
Bob G. was a marketing manager with a small government contractor. Bob's opening/attention getter, which eventually led him to a superior job at a 20% increase in salary, told of a single exploit with that company:
  • "I captured a $1.5 million government contract from a giant competitor who had done all prior work. This led my small company into an entirely new business."
If you have been accorded special recognition for some business achievement, here is an opening/attention getter that will fit many different situations:
  • "Perhaps only once in a lifetime career as a _does a man (or woman) have the opportunity to participate in an event so unique as to warrant special recognition and acclaim. Not long ago I was one of the fortunate, I was commended for_."
All good attention getters have one thing in common: they capture the PE's attention at the start and compel him to read on to discover why you are writing to him.

How to Write the Interest Element of Your Equation and Why It Is Important

Once you have aroused your PE's interest by your opening, you will raise one major question in his mind: Why is this person writing to me? The Interest element will answer this question and will encourage the PE to read on. Here are some sample explanations for your sales letter:
  • "I am writing to you because you may be in need of someone with my training and experience as a marketing manager. If so, you may be interested in some of my other accomplishments."
  • "This letter will serve to introduce me and to inquire about your needs for a financial specialist. If you have such a requirement, here are some other things I have done."
  • "I am writing to determine if you have a need for someone with my capabilities as a salesperson. If you do, you may be interested in additional details of my experience.
  • "I am corresponding with you directly in case you need someone with my qualifications as a general manager. Here are some of my other accomplishments."
  • "Your company may be in need of a vice president of engineering, and therefore may be interested in additional facts a out my expertise in this function."
  • "I am writing to alert you to my availability as a business development specialist. Here are some of my other accomplishments in this field."
The Interest element of your superior sales letter equation is critical. In addition to telling your PE why you are writing, you will be stating the specific job position you want. Your entire sales letter from Attention to Action must be built around that specific job. As I have mentioned before, many job hunters fail to focus their campaign on a specific job, often because they are afraid of missing out on another job that may be available. As a result, they write something like this: "I am writing in case you need someone with my qualifications for any position that might hold interest for me where I can make a contribution."

Don't make this mistake. You will seriously weaken your chances of getting a face-to-face interview. Instead of presenting yourself as a uniquely qualified individual with an outstanding background for the PE's immediate need, you will appear to be a jack-of-all-trades. That's not a compliment in job hunting, even if you do have multiple experiences in several fields. Almost every competitor will appear to be more expert than you for the position job that is open. Remember, you are superior to all of your competitors in some way. However, it is equally true that every one of your competitors is superior to you in some way as well.

You must be perceived to be superior for that single job that the company has. The only exception is if the company (and you) are looking for a jack-of-all-trades position. These are rarer than you think.

Mention one position and one position only in your sales letter.

Concentrate your resources on a single objective. You have only so much space; make every word support the single job that you have already decide you will accept. . . and no other..

This is so important that I want to repeat it. Aiming for a single position works when the "I can do anything" approach does not. This is because you are aiming your sales letters at the precise bull's-eye of PEs who have an immediate need and want to hire someone in your specialty. Failing to be specific can only weaken your image and dampen the impact of your sales letter. Citing your specific job position objective with supporting background and accomplishments will    get you high-quality interviews.

How to Create a Desire for Your Services

In the first part of the Desire element of your sales letter your objective is to create a strong desire for your services. You must make your qualifications so attractive that your PE feels compelled to invite you to his or her company for an interview. You will do this by describing outstanding accomplishments, taken from your resume, that support your job objective.

There are two approaches you can take. One is to state what you have accomplished in the function you have decided upon as your objective. Here is an example;

As a missile design engineer, I
  • Patented five separate inventions, all of which reached production.
  • Designed more than 140 components of a major guidance subsystem.
  • Saved the company more than 5 million in production costs by redesigning a critical gimbal.
  • Developed the methodology of computer redesign of old missile components. This saved more than II million in design time the first year of operation and is expected to save more than $10 million company-wide in three years.
  • Authored 7 technical    papers    published    in    house    and professional journals. Two were presented at professional society meetings, and one was incorporated into the textbook Missile Design Handbook.
The other approach is to list similar functions, all of which support the job you are seeking:
  • As director of research and development in a small company, I headed the R&D division. In 1 year I built funded research and development from 0 to a sustained level of $ 1 million per year.
  • As subsystems manager on a major aircraft project, I was responsible for $50 million in engine subsystems and coordinated the activities of 65 engineers. I prevented a $5 million overrun and a 12-month slippage.
  • As program manager o{ 9 small development programs totaling more than $2 million per year, I was commended by the vice president of engineering for "being on target, on cost, and on schedule while demonstrating exceptional executive ability and decisive leadership
In developing the Desire part of your sales letter, don't be afraid to use the word /. Granted, most successes are team efforts, but would you have been the one pointed at had things turned sour? If so, there is no reason not to state your accomplishments in the first-person singular.

A job campaign is definitely not the time for modesty; if you don't tell your PE what you did, no one else will. This is not the time for modesty or to share credit.

Always use short, dynamic, action words such as directed, led, developed, ran, and managed. A thesaurus will be of assistance in choosing the proper words.

Keep your sentences short and to the point. Write objectively and in a hard hitting manner, with few adjectives. Let the accomplishments speak for themselves. For example, instead of saying, "I increased sales an incredible 200% say "I expanded sales 200%." Rework your sentences until you get them just right. Check all words for spelling. This is best done using a computer spelling checker or someone else. It is difficult to catch your own mistakes.

Don't cite any accomplishment, no matter how great, unless it supports the job you are seeking. For example, if you are looking for a job in finance and also have an outstanding record in market research, do not describe any of your market research accomplishments unless they relate to finance. Try to state every accomplishment in quantitative terms. Instead of saying, "I gave interviews to a large number of journalists," say, "I gave interviews to 27 journalists." Instead of writing, "I cut cost of sales by a huge percentage," write, "I cut cost of sales by 23%." Don't say, "I prevented a major slippage," say, "I prevented a month slippage."

How to Develop Credibility with Your PE

The second part of Desire is developing credibility. Your PE must believe what you say in your letter. It is extremely difficult to check on the accomplishments that you claim. If you are like most, you had to stop and calculate these dollars, figures, and percentages especially for your campaign. Further, most companies will not release percentage figures, even if known. Nor will they talk about their business in quantitative terms with an executive from another company, especially if that company is a competitor. As a result, many of the accomplishments you have so carefully worked out in quantitative terms cannot be checked. Your PE knows this.

How, then, do you establish conviction that everything you said is true? You can do this by stating facts about that a PE can check. The best way to do this is with your educational qualifications: "I have a BA in journalism from California State University," or "I have a BS (1972) and MS (1984) in business administration from the University of Wisconsin, specializing in marketing." Or "My BS is in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1964)." Or "I completed my BA in communications at New York University in 1992."

One question that frequently arises is whether you should slate your year of graduation. The answer depends on your situation and the kind of job you are seeking. For example, if you are seeking a chief executive officer's position and you are relatively young, you may want to omit the year of your graduation; if you are older, you may want to include it to emphasize the depth of your experience. Before deciding, consider whether your PE would most likely prefer an older or a younger candidate. Any other information that would document your age should be included only if it is in your best interests. Remember, legal or not, this could be a knock-out factor in the mind of your PE. But once you get the interview, it usually won't matter.

Whenever possible, tailor your education to the specific job. If you have an MBA specializing in marketing and are seeking a marketing position, state the specialty. If the position is not in marketing, state only that you have an MBA. If you have a BS in industrial engineering specializing in human engineering, do not state your specialty unless the job you are seeking is related to it. The principle, as always, is to insure that every bit of information contained in your sales letter supports the single job objective you have chosen.

What if you haven't graduated from college or haven't attended college? Find something else in your background to use. If you have a professional license of one kind or another - CPA, professional engineer, and so on-use it. If you attended a school but did not graduate, state your educational qualifications in this way: "I attended the University of Minnesota (mechanical engineering)." If you attended more than one school without graduating, you can use this format: "I attended Baltimore City College (business administration), the University of Maryland (business administration), and the University of Pennsylvania (business administration and management)."

If you are not a college graduate but feel you must have a degree in order to obtain a superior job, you might consider enrolling in one of the many non accredited institutions across the country. These schools are variously called "universities without walls" or "nontraditional colleges." Some are clearly "diploma mills," though few would admit to being in this category. Many are simply what they say... nontraditional. They offer non accredited degrees based to a varying extent on life experiences. In some cases, depending on the school    and your experience, you can become a college graduate fairly rapidly.

Twenty years ago, I contacted the California Board of Education and discovered that California, like many states, has several classes of college-type institutions. The highest is the one we are all familiar with: an institution that has been accredited. Next on the list is an institution that the state has recommended for accreditation, but has not yet been accepted for accreditation by an accrediting body. Then comes the lowest class: the state "empowers" or "authorize" the institution to grant degrees, but makes no comment on the quality of the education given. At the time of my call, the basic requirement for this legal "empowerment" was incorporation under state laws with $50,000 in educational equipment.

Naturally, this figure is subject to change and undoubtedly varies from state to state. Also, you can bet the dollar amount for educational equipment has increased significantly.

If you are interested in this type of program, check Hoe Wall Street Journal, the business section of your local paper, or the Yellow Pages of your phone book. You can also call your state's Board of Education. A number of non accredited schools are available to choose from.

I am mentioning these schools primarily because of the relative ease and speed with which they can make you a "college graduate." However, I should also state that in some cases the quality of the education they offer is quite high and no less an institution than Harvard accepted credit-hour transfers from one of these non accredited schools.

The last element in the formula for a superior sales letter is Action. You must indicate to your PE exactly what you want him to do namely, to invite you in for an interview. Here are several variations:
  • "I would be happy to discuss further details of my experience in a personal interview."
  • "I am prepared to discuss additional facts concerning my background in a face-to-face interview."
  • "Please call me after 5:30 any day for a personal interview."

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