Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Take Your Application Seriously (if you want us to take you seriously)

As Regional Coordinator, I am frequently asked to comment on judge applicants from the Northwest Region for events like Grand Prix and SCG Opens. Depending on the size and location of the event, other senior judges beyond the RCs may also be asked to comment. I've noticed a trend recently towards joke application cover letters. Some examples:
* A judge quoted William Shakespeare's "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech from the play "Julius Ceasar"
* A judge quoted the entire song lyrics for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up"

I get it. You've applied to a ton of events and you're tired of typing the same things over and over again. Plus, maybe you've worked for this particular TO before so you feel that they "know who you are and what you can do." Be that as it may, why go to the above lengths to intentionally test that theory? Have you considered that you aren't quite as great of a judge and indispensable to the event as you think to be able to pull this off? If you're tired of typing the same thing for every event, may I suggest just saving a template. Of course, if you do that make sure to change the city/event/organizer names in the letter.

There have been some pretty epic joke cover letters, but those are few and far between. One thing that sets them apart is that they are actually funny or it's clear that the judge put some real thought into the joke. In that case, if it is also a judge who we "know who you are and what you can do," I'm okay giving a pass on the joke. How can you tell? Well, it's the same way you have to get comfortable with judges on the floor before you start cracking jokes. I would just caution you to be more conservative in your cover letter joke than you would be in real life for the following reasons:
* you're not as funny as you think.
* jokes may not come off as well in text form.
* you don't know the full extent of your audience. What if you make an inside joke to the Judge Manager, but the Tournament Organizer doesn't find it as funny?

This trend of joke cover letters seems to fit in with a general attitude where judges don't take each particular event seriously. That's a shame. Yes, there's still plenty of lip service to good customer service, giving and receiving feedback, and working hard. And yet, I feel that more and more, many judges are just in it to grind, as if they might get Planeswalker Points for judging all of these events. Or at the very least, they feel they are gaining valuable experience.

Instead of making a joke, maybe you should be telling us (the people reading the application) what you will do to make this event special, and I mean really special, because like I said every judge promises that they will work hard. "My goal is to set the record for pushing in chairs at an event, which is currently 507" would get my attention because:
* it implicitly promises good work.
* it is a subtle joke. No, there isn't actually a record, but implying such (and setting an arbitrary bar) is funny.
* at least it is a specific goal, and not just "I want to have fun and meet a bunch of new judges," which is my least favorite "goal" because everyone should be doing that automatically.

If you just post song lyrics, all I've gotten is:
* you like Rick Astley and/or like to Rickroll people.
* you may spontaneously sing and dance on the floor of the event.
* nothing about what kind of judge you are and what you will do for the event.

Even if I know you and like you as a person, I'm not sure I want to staff the above person to WORK an event. A cover letter is your chance to sell yourself. Do you really want part of your lasting legacy to be this joke? Think about that. You're applying to judge an event, not for comedy night at the local club. For more information on what you should put into your cover letter, I refer to this excellent resource by my good friend Nicholas Sabin, The Killer App.

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