We can all agree that getting a new job is an extremely stressful time in one’s life, where stress is compounded by rejection letters and cover letters get ignored. They take time to write and should be tailored specifically to the role and company you are applying to, which inevitably takes more time to create the perfect cover letter. If you are struggling to get replies and getting to that next all important stage of a face to face interview or phone interview, it may be time to change your strategy as failure to do so will mean being stuck where you are. The strategy being discussed here is as follows:

  • Problem
  • Agitate
  • Solve

The best bit about mastering this technique of writing means you can use it for any number of things where you are trying to convince someone to do something. Let’s break this formula down, strictly looking at it from a hiring manager’s point of view.


The hiring manager wants their next hire to come on board and solve any number of issues that arise in that particular candidate’s field. What is that problem? This is where the research comes in, you want to find the problem and this will be the readers (hiring managers) pain point. It’s like being in sales or developing a new product or service, you identify their problem first and foremost. A startling statistic shows that 55% of recruiters don’t even read a cover letter (source below). That means you really need to capture their interest in the first few sentences (or words) and you do this by finding their pain point and showing them you understand.

The usual approach of ‘I’m an extremely well presented hard worker that will get the job done while multitasking and doing anything else that is required of me and going above and beyond expectations,’ just won’t work anymore. If you are able to work for a company or in a field that you’re passionate about you will find it much easier to gather the needed information, or may even already know exactly how to get them yearning for an interview with you. We encourage working in a field you love so definitely go for that, whether or not they are hiring at the time, you will know how to get them interested in you and they may contact you when they are in need of someone to join the team.

In the problem section of your cover letter you need to know what the problem is and why they need it to be solved. If you can figure all of that out (it won’t be easy) you’re onto a winning recipe. A perfect example of showing knowledge of a problem to an accountancy firm looking for a tax specialist would be something along the lines of: “As a seasoned Auditor, I know how demanding the work load is around year end.”

This sentence shows you know what their problem is and you have been there and done that. Both of those things are music to the recruiters ears.

This is the part where you make them remember how painful this problem is, how much discomfort it causes them. An important side note to think about throughout your entire cover letter is that there should be no fluff, get straight to the point and be specific. A good example of this for a fashion company looking to hire a PR consultant it may be something like,

“If you are looking for someone who has contacts within x,y and z and someone that has their own fashion lifestyle blog where I deal with PR on a daily basis” and so on. This is to the point, shows what value you can bring and where your strengths lie, it also importantly shows them that you will offer them a great return on investment. This is all any company or hiring manager care about, for the amount of money they will invest in you, what can you offer them in return?

A flip side to all of this is if you are new to the industry or the role in question. If that is the case, assuming you have done your homework, ask them questions and tailor your cover letter to what they say. This can be done by calling in advance of applying and having an informal chat, this phone call helps to put you in control so you can ask whatever you need to, so make it count. Calling ahead of applying and informally registering your interest also helps to put you on the hiring manager’s radar, so when you do put your application in, they’ll remember how enthusiastic (hopefully!) you were about the job.

This is the crucial bit. By now you should have them wrapped around your little finger (if you’ve nailed the first few parts). In this part, you need to be creative and think of what skills you have, whether it is qualifications, people skills, experience, connections or even just raw work ethic. What is it that will make them remember you when they are making the final CV cuts? It is important to state that this can’t be executed properly without properly understanding the company and the basic core functions of the job role. Once you know that and you have done some extra research into their pain points, you’re onto a winning strategy.

A good example of a solution to the hiring manager of a manufacturing company looking for a account manager would be something like:

‘Since I’ve been at X dealing with their key accounts, I have direct points of contact with whom I’ve built great relationships with over the years. I have a real passion for working with (insert their product sector here) and I believe in (insert something to do with their core values). I am excited about your upcoming (insert their new product(s)) and would love to learn more about it. I have over exceeded my targets for the last 3 years achieving over x% over my targets for the previous financial year.’

When it comes to the close, you want to sound confident without sounding cocky; there’s a fine line. Show that you’re interested about learning more about their company/product/culture and how you can fit in and ultimately, make a difference. Simple. Let’s look at an example for a large hifi stereo manufacturer looking for a business development manager:
‘I’d love to learn more about the upcoming x range and how it’s multi-room technology fits in with the current online services being offered for wireless audio. I’m keen to see how my background in AV can benefit your business and your future growth plans.’

Remember, as important as cover letters are, you should also make sure your CV is always up to date and ready to be presented to anyone at any moment in time. CVs are extremely important and must be succinct, yet informative.

Your perfect 3 step formula for getting that interview and moving into that job you desire. Problem, agitate, solve and repeat. GSY