Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bad Odds

What do you do with bad odds? You beat them.

At my day job I'm sifting through resumes for a position we have posted. Whether due to the economy, the town, or some sublimated tectonic explosion of interest, we've been deluged. And I can only hire one person.

Tossing out the sloppy ones, or those riddled with errors, is an easy decision. As is eliminating those who have mixed things up and are applying for a different job. But then I'm faced with several dozen, very qualified applications, and I think to myself: I feel like an agent going through query letters.

Agents: I feel your pain, sort of. Because each one of these remaining resumes has a person's hope attached to it. The careful formatting, the agonizing over phrasing in the cover letter, the debates about font and margin spacing.

So I had to start thinking like an agent. This person has the wrong professional background? Out they go. This one has typos and misspellings? Cut. They may be accidental, but at the same time, this resume -- or query letter -- is a representation of you and your work. It better be spot on.

This one is personalized to the job opening or, better yet, our company? Hang on to it for now. This one answers everything we ask in the ad without going on and on and on? A keeper.

There's also a strange element, which I've sometimes seen agents note as well. Does this application, does this query letter, have heart? Is there a spark there? It's subjective and maybe unfair, but writing should have heart. A query should have heart. A cover letter should have heart.

And in the end, what do you say when the resume is perfectly fine but just not right for the job? Thanks, but this is not for me. We've all heard that from agents. It's not malicious or condescending; it's just that there are fifty other resumes to go through and I can't take time away other work to write a detailed letter of pros and cons for each person.

The odds are not good. Sorry, they're just not. Which is why, when I labor over my query and synopsis, and when I grind through another revision, I remind myself: Beat the odds.

Steve Martin once said the secret to success was to be so good they can't ignore you. There's no trickery to it. Just quality.


Sam said...

Yes yes yes! Don't worry, they will not be able to ignore you!

Barbara said...

It's your turn. That query letter is perfect. They just haven't gotten to it yet!