They are similar, but a pain letter focuses on the needs of an employer, while a cover letter focuses on a job seeker’s accomplishments. A pain letter shows that you have researched the employer’s company and understand its needs. It draws on your experience in the context of the employer’s pain points.
While you don’t have to write a pain letter, it can help grab the attention of a hiring manager. Most applicants will send a traditional cover letter as part of their job application, making a pain letter a good option for those who want to stand out from the crowd.
It doesn’t hurt to write a pain letter, but it doesn’t guarantee a callback. Pain letters may be more effective when applying to senior positions where candidates will be tasked with helping the company solve some of its biggest problems. As with traditional cover letters, the persuasiveness of your writing is key.