the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Tag: job hunting

Dealing with rejection

by MDY

Rejection is the norm. When I started out as a writer-for-hire, I used to send out at least ten cover letters a week for different freelance gigs and odd jobs I’d spied. Sometimes that number was closer to ten a day. Each letter was carefully tailored to the specifics of the opportunity (not “I saw your ad”, but “I saw your ad on Craigslist“), accompanied by a copy of my somewhat embellished yet obviously anorexic curriculum vitae and a pro forma offer to complete a test assignment completely gratis. My knowledge of Latin did not win me any favours. For every hundreds of letters I sent out in the course of three years, I was offered about seven or eight assignments of note. Out of those, I was paid meaningful sums (read: more than $2) for about four. The process taught me that talent can only get you so far. It also taught me to write a damn fast cover letter.

Rejection will crush your dreams. At the venerable age of 16¾, I sent out manuscripts of my novel to dozens of publishers, all of whom replied months later with form letters politely declining my work. I eventually realised that this was because it was total crap. Unfortunately, by this stage this novel had consumed 1825 hours of my life, 192 hours of my mentors’ lives, and the mass of a small Polynesian forest in paper and stamps. I didn’t want to write novels after that. So I wrote short stories. I sent them to cultured people and received more polite form letters. But when other dreams came calling, I was ready to chase them. Ideally, rejection not only crushes your dreams but your fear of failing them.

Rejection makes no sense. Just over a year ago I was quite sweet on this girl just as (I later found out) she was quite sweet on me. Then she hooked up with another guy because I hadn’t been forceful enough about being sweet on her. About six months ago, I was quite sweet on this other girl who was (rather obviously) quite sweet on me. Then she told me things wouldn’t work between us because I had been too forceful about being sweet on her. I’m still single. But I say “sweet on” because it sounds humorous and of the halcyon – which is how I want to remember those times, not all bitter and cheated like an Internet meme.

Sometimes hope works, or loud words, or the embrace of a special person. And sometimes they don’t. Personally, I deal with it in any way I can.


Selling yourself in 500 characters

by MDY

Today’s post deals with a rather unsavoury topic: selection criteria questions. These are the leeches of the hiring process: draining, mindless, and best taken with a pinch of salt. Personally, I’d rather slap myself in the face than apply to work for people who use standardised questionnaire results as a litmus test of talent. Then again, we can’t always get what we want. Here are some tips for when you can’t avoid having your soul bled dry:

NUMBER ONE: Bullet points. Questionnaires are usually online. They have character limits. These limits hurt – particularly because they negate one of your best assets, which is your unique voice. But also because they often include spaces. So what do you do if the rules suck? Remove their adhesive and BREAK THEM.

So instead of:

Describe a role where you demonstrated leadership capabilities (250 chars)

When working as Chief Security Officer in the Special Taskforce Group of the 21st Ninja Battalion, I oversaw a large-scale interdiction operation against around 800 pirates, co-ordinating several heavy weapons strike teams to I have less than 25 characters remaining.


Describe a role where you demonstrated leadership capabilities (250 chars)

-Chief Security Officer, 21st Ninja Battalion’s STG

-Stopped 800 pirates with 2 heavy weapons teams and 1 grappling hook

-Cool under fire, kept teams organised, held morale strong

We won. (185 characters)

NUMBER TWO: Get factual. Obviously, these selection criteria questions aren’t aimed to test your creative flair outside of egregious ASCII art (which, sadly, usually gets formatted out of all recognition by the time it gets to the target of your job-seeker’s ire). They’re looking for “quantifiables”, by which they mean “things which sound impressive”. Fluff-words like “synergistic concatenation” or “exquisite sales extenuations” are not impressive. Put down the core facts which answer the question, and move on.

NUMBER THREE: Answer the question.

NUMBER FOUR: Be sneaky. Already attaching your CV to your questionnaire? Reference it in your answers (with page numbers!) Got online portfolio samples, testimonials, or a decent-looking LinkedIn profile? Add the URLs. The questions may have character limits, but the Internet doesn’t.

NUMBER FIVE: Be terse. Certain situations demand certain tones of voice. Terseness is often considered rude, but it’s very appropriate when addressing hostage-takers, telemarketers, and selection criteria questionnaires. Cut out unnecessary adjectives, personal pronouns, and verbs. Not only does it save your breath, it demonstrates to the other party that you mean business. Don’t kowtow to the (wo)Man. Give him/her a respectful kick in the balls.


What do you believe your main strengths to be?

I like to think my key strengths are an ability to work well with others while also retaining strong leadership control in achieving deliverables targets. I try to be a “team player” in order to better imbue my colleagues with a sense of the important mission and values of the company, focusing on strategic-level goals while recognising the individual skills of my team.


What do you believe your main strengths to be?

Unswerving loyalty from team. Never misses a deadline. History of terminating obstacles with extreme prejudice. “No negotiation” counter-terrorism policy.

NUMBER SIX: What is this question actually asking you? Selection criteria questionnaires are as blunt and direct as a face-to-face interview, but without giving you the chance to start a conversation or ask a question. So you have to get it “right” the first time. Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast rule to reading the mind of a glorified online survey. But you can at least make a decent guess. Here are three common questions:

Tell us about an important achievement in your career. Good chance to extend the definition of “important” beyond promotions and sales deals. How about the time the school bully made you sniff his underwear? Or when you had to rescue your dog from the garbage truck? The really important experiences are the ones which only you could have had.

What is your greatest flaw? They want honesty, not fob-off answers. So speak what you think to be the truth, but also say how you’ve aimed to address that flaw. Trying to hide your weaknesses is a sign of greater weakness in itself: people who cover up their mistakes inevitably cause businesses to die. So don’t say you “work too hard”. You monster.

If you were a fruit, what would you be? This is when you hit the big “X” button at the top of your browser and NEVER APPLY FOR THAT COMPANY AGAIN.

In brief: I really hate these things.

Sexy Cover Letter Template

by MDY

Dear Prospective Overlord,

I saw your ad for “Sexily-Clad Minions” on the University of New South Wales’ job board and believe my experience puts me in good stead to more than fulfil the role’s requirements. I’m a professional freelance minion who most recently worked at Virgin Galactic as a space-faring hired gun for Richard Branson, a role which acclimatised me to conducting everything from boardroom negotiations to fuel procurement in skimpy women’s underwear. Some of my most notable achievements included:

  • Winning a Chinese rocket-propellant contract worth $6m for the price of a lap dance, meaning Virgin Galactic’s fuel expenditure will be $0 for the next 3 years
  • Developing and implementing Virgin Galactic’s cross-media marketing and PR strategy, resulting in a 20% sales volume increase in 6 months
  • Pillow fights with Dickie B

In doing so, I’ve honed my organisational and interpersonal skills to meet any challenge – whether it be animal, vegetable, or financial – which my overlords can slough into my enthusiastically-gaping arms. As you’ve stated in your ad, “total and utter subservience” is always a must within such roles, and I’ve been regularly commended by employers and clients alike for my ability to discard any shred of human dignity in service of their business KPIs, revenue growth strategies, and domestic housekeeping duties. To demonstrate that I do indeed “got it and flaunt it“, I’ve attached a photo taken during my stint as a skirt-wearing ninja minion for Shinobi Valley Executive Services (high-resolution copies available on request). I’ve also attached a copy of my full CV which details my time across the hospitality, travel, and professional assassination services industries, and can provide references if required.

If you have any other questions about my career background or criminal record, don’t hesitate to contact me on this email or my mobile at your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for your time.

Warm regards,

John Doe

PS: I won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

(Ed: Change underlined fields to reflect the position you’re applying for, and don’t blame me if you forget to do so before you apply)