Tuesday, 15 April 2008

How to sell yourself, when there's nothing much to sell

I've been idling away at job applications recently. I really don't know what to write, so many attempts go something like this:

Dear Employer-Hopefully-To-Be,

I am writing to apply for the position of Personal Injury Lawyer. My interests are in paper craft and my responsibilities at the moment include making coffee. Consequently I can relate to paper cuts and burns.



This attempt sounded really lame, so I decided to try to big myself up a little for the big law firms. Unfortunately they all seem to want copies of academic transcripts, something I hate being scrutinised. Who needs to know how I did in that elective, or that I took Post-Communist Law for an elective, or that I tried Time-Travel as an Arts subject?

Dear Very Big Impressive Law Firm,

I feel that I am most suited to your firm as my favourite colour is blue and your logo is also in blue. This could not be just a coincidence.

You have requested my academic transcript. Unfortunately a small terrier of my next door neighbour gobbled it up recently. I am sending a photograph of the terrier in lieu of the transcript.

Yours Sincerely,


I have tried to vary this a bit by changing the breed of dog, and sometimes going for a wallaby or hamster instead.

I got bored recently and threw off this attempt, but haven't sent it yet:

Dear Big Bone-crushing Law Firm,

I feel I would fit into your corporate culture as I am also an over confident paper-pusher and pathological liar.

Here is a copy of my academic transcript, doctored especially to impress you.

Yours Sincerely,



eyrie said...

My problem, I think, is that I always feel like I would much rather mark the statement of selection criteria and send that in. "Hmmm, implement used as a noun and a verb in the one sentence fragment. Do you realise that the phrase "demonstrated evidence" is a tautology and that decisiveness is a quality or characteristic and not an ability? I can only give you 49%". Then I have another hit of tea and restrain myself just in time.

My sister (who just got a job over in the US and is now going through the equally draining process of providing "demonstrated evidence" that she is not a terrorist) told me that the trick is not to think "I've got nothing to sell" or "Everyone else applying for this will have the same qualifications as me, so what do I have to sell?", but "I have the same qualifications as everyone else, so why shouldn't I have it instead of them?". This, apparently, is how you manage to assume something approaching the supreme arrogance HR departments favour.

eyrie said...

Oh, and my favourite words of wisdom from my sister "Anyone reading your application or sitting on the panel will be either cynical or stupid and happily these require almost the same approach".

Maria said...

I usually have the urge to write to employers who write "we are looking for a candidate with great attention to detail" or "excellent communication/written/English skills" and yet their own advertisement is littered with spelling and grammatical errors or typos, to either write:

1. Hahahaha
2. Do you need someone to prop up your obviously flailing business in these departments - was the ad a test?

Some I think are a matter of "see if you can find the fifteen mistakes", others are so bad, I think it's a matter of "see if you can find the three places I was correct".

eyrie said...

I've been toying with the idea that perhaps HR speak is a special dialect of English. Certainly, some of the noun-verb contructions are very curious and highly suggestive. Just the other day I read a sentence about how "Some of the duties revolve around...", which made me wonder if they had become dislodged from the other duties and were now orbiting them, like a moon.
But, alas, one must accept that there is no hidden metaphor or poetic streak in HR speak; it is not like rhyming slang.

"Strong results orientation" and variants thereof is the one that really makes me want to stab pens into my eyeballs. And then, when you've managed to bullshit your way through the application successfully, there's the challenge of replicating the bullshit in person and with a straight face.