AFPAAA - So You're Looking For Another Job ...
C. Get Ready, Get Set, ...
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. 8. Using Direct Mail  WHAT IS DIRECT MAIL? 

A direct mail letter is a targeted, convincing, one-page marketing letter that describes your major accomplishments and how these accomplishments might be of service to a potential employer.  The difference between a direct mail letter and a cover letter is that the direct mail letter does not include a resume.  The direct mail letter is longer, normally a full page which stands alone.  A cover letter normally is only three or four paragraphs and "covers" an enclosed resume.  A direct mail letter will typically be read while a resume and a cover letter are skimmed!  While this approach may seem new to you, we have found that this method is quite successful. 

Direct mail is a technique based upon the premise that less is more.  The average "read time" that a resume receives in the hands of a potential employer is 20 seconds or less.  Knowing that only 20 seconds will be devoted to skimming the information contained in a resume and a cover letter, it is safe to assume that the key data and accomplishments covered in a resume will not be noticed in great detail.  In a nutshell, resumes are skimmed.  Letters are read! 

It takes the reader an average of less than 30 seconds to read a one-page letter.  There is another subtle point to be made here.  When the recipient of the correspondence opens up the envelope, and a cover letter and resume falls out, the recipient immediately knows, without reading the correspondence, what the purpose of the communication is.  Simply stated, someone is looking for a position.  This is instantly known because why else are resumes sent to individuals?  This early and immediate indication of the purpose of the correspondence is a key fact to generating the response to skim the resume.  Conversely, a one-page letter does not by itself, when unaccompanied by a resume or any other document, "telegraph" its purpose. What happens next is that a strong motivating force takes over.  Specifically, the intended recipient's sense of curiosity says, "I can find out what this is all about in less than half a minute.  All I have to do is simply read the letter."  Therefore, the letter is read. 

The strongest yet simplest means of separating these two approaches -- direct mail, which is simply a one-page letter and a cover letter and resume is that one document is usually skimmed (cover letter and resume) while the other is read (one-page letter).  The bottom line is what type of input mechanism do you wish to give to the recipient of your marketing communications.  Do you want them skimmed, or do you want them read?  If you vote for reading, then the direct mail method, if it is done properly, can generally develop more interviews than a cover letter and a resume when sent together. 

The main objective of a direct mail letter is to get an interview by piquing the curiosity of the reader. In essence, the objective of the direct mail approach is the same objective of sending out resumes and cover letters:  to get the all important interview.  The use of a one-page direct mail letter rather than the cover letter or resume approach is considered more effective simply because it gets the attention of the targeted reader. It should be clearly understood that a follow-up or response to using direct mail may be a request for further information (i.e., we would like to have you send us your resume).  In a recessionary period, when there is a great proliferation of resumes, this marks a creative and yet simplistic alternative to market oneself in a very positive manner.  Additionally, it communicates the ability of an individual to write and express his or her thoughts in a coherent manner as indicated by the crafting of a well-written direct mail letter. 


  • Direct mail is effective for a number of reasons.  The primary reason that direct mail works so well is that it allows you to avoid the competition that exists in the published job market -- those openings identified through ads. 

  • Direct mail also affords you the opportunity to project your best image.  Direct mail does not account for your entire work history like a resume does.  The use of direct mail allows you, the writer, to selectively excerpt significant accomplishments from your background and communicate those accomplishments to the reader.  The resume, by nature of its format, does not allow as much flexibility in communicating key accomplishments as a direct mail letter. 

  • Direct mail also offers the best potential for you to obtain a position at a significant increase in earnings.  The reason for this is that with a direct mail letter, you will be contacting individuals at the executive level and these individuals have the authority to offer attractive compensation. 

  • Direct mailis effective for individuals who are seeking to go into a new field.  If you are looking to change careers or go into a new field, a resume will quickly highlight the fact that you have little or no experience in the new chosen field.  However, the direct mail letter allows you to select the experiences and accomplishments that you want to communicate to the reader.  It also allows you to highlight those experiences in your past that you feel will pertain or "translate" to your new chosen field. 

Most people do not use direct mail for several reasons.  First, most individuals are reluctant to put forth the extra effort necessary to write a strong, well-written direct mail letter.  Second, most people have been trained to believe that the "almighty resume" is the best way to get an interview.  Third, since direct mail letters are individually produced, and resumes are mass produced, the "easiest" way for people to market themselves is with the resume.  However, along with networking, direct mail is one of the most effective methods to uncover employment opportunities.  Finally, launching an effective direct mail campaign takes time, energy and dollars.  Most job seekers are not willing to put in the time and energy necessary to write an effective direct mail letter and launch a direct mail campaign.  Research indicates that the average unemployed individual spends less that two hours a day on his job campaign! 

Direct mail can be an effective source of job opportunities if correctly executed.  As a result of our extensive experience in consulting on direct mail campaigns, we have established the following guidelines regarding the technique:  

    1. Targeting your direct mail letter to the highest ranking officer at a particular site will always generate more results than mailing to any other individual in the company.  (This could be a president, a general manager, a plant manager, etc.)  For further information for the reasons for contacting presidents and senior level executives, please refer "Contacting Companies Directly" handout.  A mailing to presidents will always generate more results than a mailing to any other individual for the following reasons: 
      a. Fewer people will actually write a president.  Most job seekers do not believe that writing a president will be an effective use of their time.  Consequently, your chances of getting a response through the use of direct mail to a president or senior level executive will increase significantly. 

      b. Even if the president does not read the letter, he/she will route it to the appropriate department head for further action.

      c. Letters or memos received by subordinates from the "president" are acted upon expediently. 

     2. A mailing to individuals by name will always be more effective than a mailing to individuals addressed by title alone.  Consequently, you will need to do the proper research to identify the name and title of the person you will be targeting with this direct mail letter.  Remember the highest ranking officer at a particular location could be the Plant Manager, Division General Manager, or Vice President, etc. 

    3. A mailing consisting of a one-page letter by itself (i.e., a direct mail letter), will almost always produce higher results than a mailing which consists of a cover letter and a resume.  Direct mail letters should be limited to one page.  However, if you choose to use monarch or executive size stationery in your direct mail campaign, the direct mail letter could be a page and a half. 

    4. Mailings using a white or light shade of stationery, such as buff, seem to produce slightly better results than the same materials printed on other light colored stationery.  In addition, the use of bold, dark or other strong colors will always lower your response. 

    5. When sending a direct mail letter, do not include your current compensation or desired salary in the letter. 

Type all your letters -- never send a handwritten letter.  Always keep your sentences focused.  Do not ramble and do not pontificate.  Avoid the use of flowery words and be direct and to the point. 

Always send individually typewritten letters.  If you are seeking an executive position and resort to photocopied materials, you will be very disappointed with your results. 

Avoid the use of form letters where you type the name and address of an individual in a specific spot, unless you can really get a perfect, undetectable match.  If it does not match the rest of the letter, the individuals who receive them will only think you are a person who likes cheap short cuts.  Quality always counts. 

If you have a means to get them typed, do not hesitate to use long letters.  Letters which are too short rarely do well.  In a mass campaign, the ideal length for a letter which is being sent by itself, is one full page of single-spaced copy, a page and a half if you are using monarch size stationery. 

Sign your name with blue ink.  There is some indication that response is helped by the implication of forcefulness and positive image which color seems to give.  Blue ink gives a better image than black ink. 

Avoid too much showmanship and materials which are too bold in appearance.  The best letters are the ones of the "soft sell" variety.  Overselling can be just as disastrous as underselling.  This is because you leave the reader with an impression of "If this person is so good, why does he/she have to try so hard?" 

Avoid the use of the term "job hunting" and stress <strong>career</strong> rather than job orientation.  In addition, avoid any mention of either your present earnings or expected income in your first letter to an organization.  Also, as a general rule, people do better when they do not try to explain "why" they are looking but rather what they can "bring" to a company. 

Keep exact records of all of your direct mail efforts.  Avoid the temptation to mail out ten letters an evening.  Instead, have all your materials prepared in advance and mailed at the same time.  With the exception of holiday weekends, the best day to mail is Tuesday. This way they will normally reach the people either Wednesday or Thursday, which is the time they are most likely to be at their desks and have the time to read your letter.  Avoid mailing on Friday which will tend to arrive on a Monday.  Monday is the heaviest mail delivery day in the United States. 

While there is no single way to write a letter, you should outline your letters before you write them.  The most communicative and persuasive letters are the ones that are alive, cheerful, and enthusiastic, as well as personal, warm, and human.  They "read" just like people "speak."  They sound like they were "individually written" for just one person. Materials which are detached or cold never seem to do as well, even though you may think they are professional. 

Based on our experience, there are certain times of the year when a direct mail campaign is more effective.  These campaigns definitely have a seasonal nature.  Their success rate apparently does not relate to the published job market, or the amount of help wanted advertising that appears each month.  Our experiences show that January is the best month to launch a mail campaign and June and July are the worst.  A mailing in June will bring about half the response of the same mailing done in January. 

The chart below illustrates a direct mailing success rate average by month using January as a 100% successful campaign month: 

January  100 . July  40 
February 95 August 50
March 90 September 80
April 75 October 90
May 70 November 80
June 50 December 70
If you do not hear from a firm in which you have a particular interest, it might be worth it for you to follow up after three (3) weeks.  In your follow-up letter, you should restate your interest in the company and be sure to mention a contribution you feel you could make.  A good follow-up plan will sometimes bring results.  In fact, you may wish to duplicate an entire mailing.  For example, let's say that you sent a letter and a resume to the President of 1,000 consumer product companies.  If three (3) months later you were to send a resume and a cover to the same people, you would normally get about 80% of the number of interviews generated by your first mailing.  Remember, if the fish are not biting, do not change the boat, change the bait! 


    Dear : (Insert contact's name) 

    Seldom does a Regional Sales Manager have the opportunity to turnaround a depressed market to the point where the region is 56% ahead of order budget and 35% ahead of shipments. 


    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    Seldom does a company in a depressed market have a region which is running 56% ahead of order budget and 35% ahead of shipment budget. 

    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    In one of the most competitive fields of them all -- capital equipment sales -- I have increased product sales and developed new products amounting to more than $30 million in the past twelve (12) months. 

    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    After ten (10) years of diversified line, staff and management experience with IBM Company and the Construction Equipment Group of the FMC Corporation, I have decided to capitalize on my background and seek an executive management growth opportunity in the _________ industry. 

    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    The Print and Publishing medias are no longer the "frontier" areas of education and training I seek. 

    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    Turning cost centers into profit centers for the Construction Equipment Group of a $150 million corporation was not an easy task.  But, it was accomplished! Possibly, you may be considering the need for such an individual for your own organization.  As Regional Sales Manager, I refocused the market and sales efforts of the region to maximize market penetration by . . . 

    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    During the past ten (10) years as a Sales and Marketing executive, I have generated millions of dollars in profitable sales for two (2) different Fortune 500 companies.  To do this, I have had to find new effective marketing strategies, create new selling techniques, and train and develop new and existing company and distribution personnel. Here are four (4) of my accomplishments which required me to reorder priorities, develop new markets, and refine existing selling practices. 

    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    If your organization is contemplating major business decisions for implementation in 1985, possibly my ten (10) years of extensive experience in capital equipment and computers may be of assistance to you. 

    Dear:  (Insert contact's name) 

    As the Regional Sales Manager for the Construction Equipment Group of FMC Corporation, I have successfully identified and subsequently introduced new capital equipment to new and existing markets in the eastern half of the United States and Canada.  Possibly my background might be of interest to your firm. 

    Perhaps you might be interested in talking about an opportunity. 


    At 33, I am seeking a challenging opportunity where the rewards, both professionally and financially, are based on one's ability to produce.  Should you have an interest in my background, I would be pleased to hear from you. 



    From a distance neither one of us can ascertain if what I can offer would be an enhancement to your operation. Therefore, if you have an interest, I would be pleased to hear from you. 



    Presently I am exploring other career alternatives with an organization -- large or small -- where I can continue to be an integral part of an executive management team.  If your schedule permits, possibly we could meet and explore areas of mutual interest. 



    To date, my career has included a number of progressively more challenging and responsible positions.  If your company has an interest in a highly motivated, profit-oriented sales and marketing professional, I would be pleased to hear from you. 


January 1, 19XX  

Mr. Robert P. Reuss  
Chairman of the Board  
Central Telephone Company  
5725 East River Road  
Chicago, IL  60631  

Dear Mr. Reuss:  

Seldom does a corporate Advertising Executive have the opportunity to create a totally ambitious and different sales  promotion that in the succeeding 90 days produced $4,500,000 in confirmed sales.  I did in three weeks.  

In addition, I have successfully developed, produced and supervised a complete program of point-of-purchase displays  which when combined with a new and unique packaging concept and sales support materials not only produced $2,800,000 in new account sales, but won the 1979 Drummer and the National Retail Hardware Association Awards for Best Packaging and Best Display.  

My background includes extensive experience in creating and producing all print media including supervision of:  layout  and design, copy, keylining, photography, retouching, color separations, press proofing, printing and distribution. Currently, I am developing and supervising a $1,000,000 four-color catalog of over 1,200 items.  As part of this project,  I have designed a new system for controlling:  photography, photographic samples and the status of all items to be  cataloged which will reduce turnaround time four to six weeks.  

Previously, as Director of Advertising/Marketing for a data processing manufacturer, I developed and produced the first  direct mail advertising campaign.  Net Result:  Sales increased 38%.  Utilizing publishers/editors for product exposure  and publicity, I placed over 60 press releases in industry publications during a 12-month period which generated over 15,000 inquiries.  

At 41 years of age, I have a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Master's Degree from the  University of Southern California.  I am interested in joining a team -- large or small -- of advertising professionals where  I can be an integral part of a comprehensive marketing program.  If you have an interest, I would be pleased to hear from you.  


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