After you’re exhausted calling your executive search firm contacts, friends, peers, and receptive ex-bosses several times each, it’s time to go back to the future to get in front of more executive job opportunities.

You need a “new” approach, direct mail job search, even if it’s more than a century old.

Major Benefits of Direct Mail Job Search

While the success rate admittedly is very low (requiring a substantial mailing), there are major benefits if the direct mail job search campaign is properly developed:

  • You will standout in the CEOs’ mailboxes since the volume of mail has declined so much;
  • Even if your letter isn’t initially read by the CEO, which is likely, it will standout when forwarded by his office to H.R. or a hiring manager; and
  • Your letter has the potential to arrive at the very start of a search, before you become one of a thousand candidates.

Success Requires a Killer First Sentence

You need to hook the reader into wanting to know more about you as both a person and businessperson. You can get an idea about this approach by thinking about these examples of first-sentence hooks:

  • I asked my last boss to fire me rather than my team.
  • Did you ever take a wrong turn that lasted three months?
  • I’ve loved the adrenalin of hitting home runs since Little League.
  • In high school, my coach kept trying to bench me.
  • I’ve liked every CFO and CIO I’ve worked with.
  • One of my peers called me the nicest hard ass he’d every worked with. I took it as a complement.
  • I like to work on declining businesses.
  • I keep volunteering to lead high profile and highly explosive projects.

The keys are to be both over-the-top interesting and relevant to the benefits you can deliver to your next employer.

There Are Just Three Steps to Direct Mail Job Search Success

1. Start by answering these questions:

  • Your target list of the types of companies that are most likely to hire you.
    • Categories and representative companies
  • Your likely job title/function
  • The single best reason any one of these companies is going to hire you vs. anyone else.

2. Next, develop your mailing list, which is targeted to reach those you have selected as most likely to want to hire your capabilities. Decide on your list of filters, such as:

  • Geography
  • Category
  • Company size/global or not
  • Intangibles such as the company’s lifecycle, culture, success, and pressure points
  • Potential magnets such as shared colleges or previous companies with the likely hiring managers

Start with specific companies and people and then greatly expand the list by adding hundreds of “lookalikes,” those who can be described similarly to your initial list.

Developing the list takes time and work. American Marketing Association Executive Circle members can start with OneSource on Everyone can work with your local library and use whichever database it has. Often, you can even access their data from home.

3. Now it gets difficult and requires creativity:

  • Select your first-sentence hook.
  • Write a letter that:
  • Is short and easy to easy to skim, no more than 4 paragraphs with large margins,
  • Compels readers to learn more about you,
  • Proves that you should be contacted,
  • Promises a follow up call on a specific day, but
  • Is not recitation of your key successes.

This is not a positioning or elevator pitch, although it must communicate your USP without sounding canned.

While it’s probably smart to include your Linkedin contact, do not attach a résumé.

The AMA’s Executive Circle is the indispensable community of executive level marketers who share their passion and expertise to ensure each member’s success.