I have been unemployed for the best part of the last three years. Despite some creative successes I was told that it wasn’t viable to lead a valid existence on the back of these, so I had to look for a real job. I did try to achieve this, but I wasn’t getting any results and was then told that perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough. So earlier this year I really went for it, spending most of my days filling out application forms and tweaking cover letters, only resting to occasionally glance at the Gilmore Girls double bill on TV (for I find it stems the flow of hopelessness brought on by rejection emails). Alas, I still had no luck, and no amount of Lorelai and Rory escapades could console me, so I threw in the towel.
However, I was rather frustrated and I didn’t want to give up entirely, so in a moment of reckless abandon I responded to a couple of job ads with the following cover letter:
Later on that day I received an email from one of the companies, I was expecting a rejection email, or perhaps an angry note telling me off for wasting their time or for being generally obnoxious, but to my surprise, it was an invitation to an interview. I was confused. Perhaps they were testing me, seeing how far I would take the joke. Perhaps the application process followed a reality TV show format in which I was ‘the wild card,’ someone who was clearly terrible but had to be included for entertainment purposes (much like Stevi on the X Factor, in which case I would break down during the interview and say ‘you don’t know how much I want this’ through intermittent sobs while a Coldplay song plays over it).
It turned out that they weren’t testing me at all, and I ended up being shortlisted for a second interview after the initial one. I found the idea of this to be quite absurd, and this absurdity was underpinned by three questions. The first question was that if I could get an interview just by sending out a joke cover letter that took me all of three minutes to write, why had I spent three years using conventional methods? Maybe the job application process was changing, and now all you had to do was get noticed in any way you could. This makes sense when looking at it from the employer’s perspective. They receive so many applications that they are likely to remember the ones that stick out, no matter how absurd they are. Of course, this doesn’t bode well for applicants that are sending off proper cover letters that they’ve taken time over.
I ended up sending off two more joke cover letters, one written in the style of Jane Austen, and another as a script for a Broadway musical. Both had led to interview invitations, which left me not quite knowing where I stood, leading me to my second question. Suppose I come across a job that I really want, am I compromising my chances by sending a joke application and not taking it seriously enough, or am I actually compromising myself by sending a genuine, more conventional application and being too serious? This is the problem I face now, for there is always that thought at the back of my mind that, ‘maybe I could have been successful if I had just sent off a serious and proper application,’ for if I wanted the job enough, I guess my cover letter would be interesting and engaging enough to stand out. But then again, over three years of job application failure might be enough to tell me that this method doesn’t work, not for me anyway.
A point I had overlooked was that I was only getting interviews with arts organisations. I had taken it for granted that the industry I was applying to be part of was perhaps more liberal and open to ‘unique’ applications. I imagine it would be a different story if I had applied to law firms, in fact, I sent several of these jokey applications to companies on the Reed website, which consists mainly of accountancy firms and the like. Not one of them got back to me, which wasn’t surprising as it would have been a little naïve to expect the same reaction from a Hillingdon shipping company that I got from a design company in Shoreditch.
On the way to one of the interviews I wondered if I would be asked to demonstrate some of the ‘skills’ I mentioned in my cover letter, and as I walked through Old Street station I proceeded to practice my best Scottish accent just in case. The truth was that I didn’t really want the job, but I was going through the motions because I felt I wasn’t in a position to turn down an interview and potential employment. I was also going because I wanted to see how far I could take the joke, and if, six months down the line I was miserable in an admin job, part of me would feel a little smug that I had got this job by essentially joking around. Victory would be mine, sort of.
I didn’t get the job after all, but I still feel quite smug that I managed to get as far as I did. I haven’t sent off anymore joke cover letters of late, but I have just recorded a song entitled, ‘It’s My Dream (To Be an Admin Assistant),’ which is essentially a cover letter in musical form. I intend to apply for a few jobs with it and see where that gets me, but like X Factor’s Stevi who was kicked out of the competition last night, perhaps there is only so far a ‘wild card’ can go. However, this whole thing has actually made the usual soul destroying job application process quite enjoyable, which I guess is a small victory.