Creating Affinity With Your Job Search Audience

Creating Job Search AffinityI’m a résumé writer. You already know that.

But did you know I’ve taught piano since 1986? Did you know one of my favorite non-fiction authors is Malcolm Gladwell? Did you know that I’m all about finding the right fit and not forcing things?

Knowing these details about me may, or may not, create affinity with you. If I told you I’d run a marathon or climbed a mountain (marathon no, mountain yes), I might even elicit mild appreciation.

There’s some risk in telling you, though. By breaking a professional barrier, I’ve opened myself to criticism if you don’t think a great résumé writer can also be a great piano teacher.

But get this. I’ve also opened myself up to the opportunity for a stronger tie to you if you understand the connection these elements have in my life and feel greater affinity towards me as a result.

The same “affinity marketing” ideas can be mirrored in cover letters. Here’s how. 

Since about June 2009, I’ve been developing a new philosophy about the common cover letter – with positive client feedback so far.

Looking back at my experience on all sides of the hiring table since 1997, I can say this: job search documents – which I’m surrounded by every day – perform better when they have a strategic layer of affinity.

Let’s start by taking an “affinity marketing” lesson from the corporate world. After all, what’s a job search if not your most important marketing project?

The February 24, 2010 MarketingProfs “Wow, What Are the Odds Of That?” article cites research suggesting that “incidental similarity” (a.k.a. affinity marketing) may improve a company’s marketing dollar.

Example: “What are the odds that your birthday is the same as mine, let’s be friends!” Which is how we meet people in so many settings, isn’t it? You’ve got an instant connection. In commerce, that bond alone can translate into sales.

So how am I using incidental similarity – affinity – in cover letters?

I like giving recruiters a reason to read copy. On LinkedIn bios, I like offering something of interest beyond what they’ll find in a résumé. My own LinkedIn bio tells a short story, for instance. My résumé doesn’t.

Same goes for cover letters.

Too often, cover letters regurgitate material from the résumé. Nothing new. No rewards for having read it.

Today’s career strategists suggest you’ve got a 50/50 chance that your cover letter will be read. When I was recruiting senior players in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, I read far fewer than fifty percent.

Unless they were compelling. THEN I was all over them. (I even remember printing and taking one with me to dinner to re-read, it was so well written.)

And that’s our goal, isn’t it? COMPELLING COPY.

Interesting content is about making a connection with your reader.

In case you’re wondering, no, I’m neither talking about the affinity that comes from “I’m a member of X political party.” Nor, “I like my cocktail shaken, not stirred.” Too much … too much!

No, I’m talking about sharing a snapshot or two from your life. Weaving it into the narrative about your professional life and value proposition to company X.

  • Have you run a marathon? Share how it taught you something about your career and get some admiration points in the process. Tie in some metrics while you’re at it.
  • Has a New York Times article changed how you do business? Drop it into your narrative and get affinity from fellow NYT readers. Mention how it changed the bottom line.
  • Have you sky dived? Are you a licensed deep sea diver? Those items no longer land in those outdated “hobbies” sections of yesteryear’s résumé. But mention it in your cover letter – especially if you share how the activity refined the way you respond under pressure – and you can build affinity and admiration!

Since you’ve read this far, I’ve got my own little reward for you. Samples!

Here are two similar affinity-building approaches I used for two distinctly different clients. First, a product development professional.

  • COVER LETTER SAMPLE LANGUAGE #1: “Modeled on Apple’s iPod campaign, the [Company Name] family of products became a trusted household name in YYYY, doubling [Company Name’s] business with the most successful product launch in category history. Consumer acceptance of the innovative 4-year direct response campaign led to a multi-billion dollar footprint and stretched [Company Name’s] willingness to explore progressive marketing initiatives.”
  • And later: “While carefully studied and tested, we could not have dreamed that a late night brainstorming and re-naming session over a languishing product could transform our market share from 2% to 10% within one year, and again to 16.5% in the product’s second year.”
  • Take-away: The candidate tells a short story that says more in three sentences than most people say in a whole page. It’s compelling. It builds affinity. And it supports the candidate’s work style.

Next, a pilot. (This was a fun and unique project.)

  • COVER LETTER SAMPLE LANGUAGE #2: “Aviation has been my life’s passion. As a second generation pilot, I have maintained an unwavering enthusiasm for flying since age 4 when my father introduced me to his co-pilot. In primary school, I was clear that I planned to join the Air Force and later become a corporate pilot. Today, I am proud to be counted among the top 2% of Air Force pilots, offering [Company Name] a rarely paralleled record of flying excellence.
  • Take-away: This was super specific, resonating with the candidate’s readers because many of them possess the same shared and long-held love for flying itself.

Here’s another reason why layering affinity into your job search documents might be important.

Love it or hate it, it looks like social media is here to stay. Some of my favorite thinkers have a heavy social networking presence. So we all have to get more familiar and more specific with our audiences.

Industry leaders everywhere are also chiming in. Tried and true companies are getting nimble and starting to compete in an entirely new space. With new rules and emerging norms.

In my practice, I’m finding the same to be true at the individual level. Creating affinity more aggressively is one of the ways I’m seeing clients market themselves more desirably to their audiences.

But there’s a serious caveat here, too. With all that affinity building – exploring ways to connect personal examples with professional lives – make sure anything you reveal supports your professional goals.

P.S. Nervous about saying too much in your cover letter?

Consider creating an online résumé using It’s an emerging concept being embraced by leaders around the globe. Online résumés – with their ability to create dynamic visuals and embed video / print portfolio content – are unlocking the limits of traditional job search documents.

I’ve begun writing them for clients. Maybe I’ll blog later as results start rolling in.

Meanwhile, let me know how you’re using affinity marketing in your own self-marketing documents.

Until next time!

Jared Redick
Visit: The Resume
Follow: @TheResumeStudio
Call: 415-397-6640

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  1. […] Related post: Creating Affinity With Your Job Search Audience […]

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