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Dictums for Direct Mail Success

I have never have figured out why direct mail is such a hard sell.  I have told numerous job hunters to use it, yet most resist. 

  • Some consider it demeaning – they think that it cheapens themselves in the marketplace if they are asking for a job or openly advertising for a job.
  • Others figure it simply won’t work.
  • Still others, and I think this is the majority, view it as too much work.

The last two groups are partially right – direct mail doesn’t always work. 

And it is one hell of a lot of work. This may come as a surprise you, as the fair-haired boy for whom success always seemed to fall gently from heaven, but sometimes it takes a hell of a lot of work to be successful.  Especially when job hunting in today’s economic mudhole.  (If you’re still dubious, click here to read about two friends of mine who just found great jobs with direct mail, despite our current Great Recession.)

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Direct mail almost never works if you don’t follow Job Magician’s Dictums for Direct Mail Success:

  • You target the wrong companies.  Direct mail is most effective if you target the industry you’re in, or related industries.  An engineering director with a metallurgical manufacturing background will rarely be successful with direct mail if he scatters his résumé to manufacturers outside his field; a hospital CFO will have a tough time moving into manufacturing, as hospital financial management is a world of its own, driven by insurance company reimbursement strategies.  Lists of companies in your industry can be purchased from InfoUSA.
  • You send your letter to the wrong person.  You need to mail your resume to your future boss.  If you’re going to be working for the President, mail to her.  If it’s a larger company, and your target position is Director of Sales, find out who the VP of Sales & Marketing is and send it to him.  This takes a lot of digging – you need to call all of these companies to confirm names, because mailing lists that you buy will have the correct name only half to two-thirds of the time.  Unless you’re in human resources, don’t mail your resume to the human resources department.  Your letter will wind up in the hands of a junior recruiter, who is unlikely to know that the CEO is fed up with his VP/Manufacturing and about to fire her.
  • You don’t send out big volume.  Most people who tell me they have been unsuccessful with direct mail have told me that they sent out two dozen letters.  Volume is necessary – the more you send, the better your odds.  250 is on the low end, 1000 is a desirable number, and 2000 is better in the Great Recession.  That means you normally have to be willing to relocate to make this technique work, unless your background is in a functional area such as finance or human resources, which are more easily transferable to other industries.  Even in these fields, companies are far more likely to hire someone with experience in their industry.
  • Your submission is crappy.  You need to mail a well-written cover letter with a cunning hook (see Cover Letters With Hooks Catch Employers), and include a full, straightforward resume (see Writing a Resume That Really Shows Who You Are).  Sending a functional, hide-and-seek, cover-up resume, or the latest trends, a letter with no resume or a one-page resume with no cover letter, risk a quick trip to the trash can (that’s where these go in my office).
Does direct mail work for everyone?  The answer is an unqualified NO.  Those of you who break the omniscient and powerful Job Magician’s Dictums for Direct Mail Success and send out only a few, mail to the wrong industries or mail to the wrong person probably will fail.  Many who do everything right will fail with direct mail as well.  In this job market, nothing is guaranteed.  You need to use every technique imaginable – Networking, LinkedIn, Direct Mail, contacting recruiters and even answering ads (which works on rare occasion) – to have a fighting chance in this economy.




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