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I have been reading a lot about writing a cover letter, "How would you solve their problem", where clients want you to apply and require their work to be done. For example, a job posting may look like this:

We are looking for a talented and motivated developer with superior PHP/Zend framework skills to work on the oDesk Corporate site. This is an exciting opportunity to work directly on the platform you utilize as a freelancer!

This position is part of a worldwide development team, that works collaboratively in an agile environment. You will play in an important role in developing new features for our site, as well as enhancing existing code. The projects are managed by the Product Architects based in the United States, so good English skills are imperative.

We look for individuals who are able to commit full-time (35+ hours per week). You can work whatever schedule is best for you, we just will need you to be available a few hours in the Pacific Time Zone for meetings.

Skills Required:

  • PHP, Zend Framework, Unit testing, OO design - expert level
  • PSQL and some Perl experience is a plus
  • JS/HTML5/CSS3 - strong knowledge
  • Good Experience in GIT
  • Backbone.js/Angular.js is a big plus
  • Sass/Compass is a big plus
  • English - good

All candidates must be willing and able to conduct interviews via Skype/video/chat. This is a long term gig of 6+ months and we would want this role to be your first priority. No agencies please.

Now in this kind of job, there is no stated problem to solve, as many people say to mention in cover letter to tell them.

  1. How can you fix the problem or help them achieve what they want?
  2. How do I tell the client, how can I do what they need to have done?
  3. How do I ask them questions, like in a effective cover letter?

How would I write a effective cover letter, one that is above the rest or can get you noticed? An example would be great.

  • Also, am I the only one who finds title opposite to the question body? – Peter MV Apr 29 '14 at 19:25
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    I just don't see how anyone could have a crystal ball and know in advance what a client specifically needs. You convey your skills and hope they fit the client needs. – Scott May 6 '14 at 18:43
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I suppose you're going to have to construe "problem" a bit differently than in the usual sense of a technical problem. In your example, the hiring company has a problem -- a staffing problem. They have more work than they have hands to do it, and they expect to get more work in. They know what technologies that work will involve, but they don't yet know all the details of what it will entail. Actually, they may not know anything of what it will entail at this point.

So what their problem is, is that they need an employee with skills in a bunch of core areas, who will be versatile and responsive to whatever work they throw his or her way. They need someone they can rely on to rise to the occasion, and be the productive team member the team needs.

Allow me to stress that "team" part. Consider how much of that listing was about being part of a team:

This position is part of worldwide development team, that works collaboratively in an agile environment. You will play in an important role in developing new features for our site, as well as enhancing existing code. The projects are managed by the Product Architects [==who aren't you] based in the United States, so good English skills are imperative.

We look for individuals who are able to commit full-time (35+ hours per week). You can work whatever schedule is best for you, we just will need you to be available a few hours in the Pacific Time Zone for meetings.

This company is saying loud and clear that they have no use for loose cannons and prima donnas. They want someone who can take direction from leaders, cooperate with peers, and be okay with it, emotionally, that their work is only one fragment of a larger whole.

This suggests that they have had a problem with that in the past. And, well, they're oDesk; they have a nigh-infinite supply of potential employees, all of whom were too independent to tolerate being directly employed and that's why they became freelancers. ;) They've probably had a lot of unhappy experience hiring unmanageable or unintegratable employees from their own pool of talent.

It seems to me, beyond any specific technical skills you bring to a job like this, the problem you need to explain how you'd solve, is the one about their needing a new team member.

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This is pretty tricky since the client is odesk at their own site. On the other hand, it also means that they are serious and have quality people who will inspect each application.

So, if you have a good reputation there, I would start the same: introduce yourself, ask them to check your previous jobs, check portfolio, etc. You can also state why you want to work for them, etc.

Regarding questions, I would ask questions which concern "PHP, Zend Framework, Unit testing". They seek expert level so if you're expert, you gotta have a few questions which will intrigue them. I know, I would have.

Then I'd probably ask about work hours since they did not state that.

You can tell them that you have more questions, but you will ask that during the interview with odesk expert.

I hope I helped your getting some ideas how to approach to this job.

EDIT

oDesk likes South-Asia workers so if you're from India or Pakistan or other such countries, you should not fear that they will reject you because of your region and region-specific expressions in English language.

Concerning other clients like this and who post jobs like this on Freelancing websites like oDesk, I approach to them in 2 ways:

  1. Write official proposal stating how experienced I am, send a few links to my best work and in a few sentences describe why I am the best choice for them.

  2. I don't write much just ask them to contact me if the like my portfolio. And then I describe myself in a few sentences and my experience.

Now, when I choose 1 and when 2 - there is no rule. I simply read the proposal and then ad hoc decide which way I will approach. I act on my hunch here. This is because some companies who like friendly tone (way 2) post official project text, and some companies who like traditional applications (way 1), post friendly project text. So that's why I act on my hunch.

  • an example would be great? – Nofel Apr 29 '14 at 19:34
  • What example? Of how I would write a proposal? – Peter MV Apr 29 '14 at 19:54
  • yes a winning example of a proposal. – Nofel Apr 30 '14 at 7:17
  • I cannot do that, it's kind of a secret of a trade. But I already explained what my proposal consists. Also oDesk likes South Asia workers so if you're from India or Pakistan or other such countries, you should not fear that they will reject you because of your region and region-specific expressions in English language. – Peter MV Apr 30 '14 at 7:21
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1.How can you fix the problem or help them achieve what they want?

They describe their problem form the very first sentence: "We are looking for a talented and motivated developer with superior PHP/Zend framework skills to work on the oDesk Corporate site."

2.How do I tell the client, how can I do what they need to have done?

By being available, by being talented and motivated, and by having superior PHP/Zend framework skills. This may sound a silly answer, but these are their expressed requirements. Show them that you have read them, understood them and that you can address them.

3.How do I ask them questions, like in a effective cover letter?

I ignored that a cover letter was a place to ask questions. I thought more it was to draw the recruiter's attention and have your CV be put on top. Can you explain ?

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