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I'm a bit of a hoarder and somewhere, buried in my filing system, are some "letters of reference" from my past. They all start with the salutation "To Whom it May Concern ..." which was a pretty standard thing to do a million years ago, before the computer age, never mind the internet age. It was pretty clear these letters were typed (on a typewriter ... which you can probably research on Wikipedia). They were also "carbon copies" ... which was the means to create multiple copies of a document using a typewriter.
The world has changed ... a message I keep delivering.
If you are creating "generic", "To whom it may concern" types of messages then you are wasting your time.
We live in an age where people expect messages to be tailored to them. In fact I would suggest that we get so many messages targeted at us that the chance of a generic message being actually "heard" is very small.
We are even handed many tools that allow us to deliver targeted messages and yet very often we deliver "generic" messages, using those targeting tools. How much sense does that make?
Here is an example ...
LinkedIn allows us to invite people to our network. This is possibly a first step to creating a dialogue with someone of interest and yet MOST people continue to use the generic LinkedIn message, "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn". Really? I get messages like this from people I don't know, many of whom suggest that I am a "friend" (because otherwise they can't send the message). My automatic reaction to these is ... delete!
If you want to get the attention of somebody, whether it is to connect on social media, or to open a dialogue, or to set up a meeting or whatever ... you need a tailored message that will achieve your goal.
Generic messages don't do it. When you send generic messages you are saying that you are not willing to put in any effort, that you want something but are not willing to give anything (whether that is the case or not).
So ... here are some suggestions:
1. LinkedIn and ALL social media. Tailor invitations to at least make the person think, and show you made an effort.
2. Resumes. Tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. It might be as simple as picking out the very relevant experiences and highlighting them in your summary. If you have a covering letter (or email) make sure it is written specifically for THAT person.
3. Prospecting emails are tough ... but if you are going to send them then make sure they have some compelling business reasons from the prospect perspective NOT yours!
4. Charitable asks. I have been on both ends of these and it is important to be very targeted when you are asking for money ... there is a lot of competition. I get the generic mail campaign letters from just about every charity and they don't get my attention. I choose my charities because they interest me, because I feel I can make a difference and they are well run. Generic messages won't get much traction.
5. Mass mail campaigns are an interesting one ... because I actually believe that some of them work. However those few that do work will convince others that it should work for them. In the internet age it is possible to focus advertising on the individual through their internet habits etc. We have all had that situation where right after doing a search for a vacation, a new motorbike or whatever you receive ads for Hawaii, the Caribbean, cruises, Harley Davidson motorbikes etc. A little creepy, but an example of the "one to one" marketing your competition will be using.
It takes more effort, but a focused effort on a smaller number of prospects WILL be more successful than a "shotgun" approach to many prospects.
"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." ... Beverly Sills
Kevin Dee is Chairman and founder of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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