Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Feral Genius Applies For A Government Job

No joke, people, and no exaggeration: that staff writing gig with the Department of Homeland Security I told you about yesterday offers a vastly higher salary and considerably better benefits than any writing or journalism job I personally have ever held. Minimum starting salary $62,000 per year! Maximum salary just a hairsbreadth below 100K! And a pension, and long paid vacations, and all sorts of health and dental insurance, too!

Not that I expect to be hired, but I’ve decided to apply for it anyway – thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can send off application letters and even entire clipfiles without having to pay any postage costs. I already have a resume tailored for writing/editing jobs in general, and wrote a cover letter for this one in particular. Here’s mine, and if you have any suggestions for improvement, please tell me in the comments. I really need/want this job:
My name is Jennifer Abel and I’d like to be the writer and editor you’re looking for with job announcement number FS-505757-SW11. As my attached resume indicates, I have ample experience in writing and editing; more importantly, I have ample experience dealing with angry clients, irate parents and other people with ruffled feathers in need of smoothing, and thus know how to defuse tense situations, a very important skill in making DHS/TSA practices palatable to the American public.

As a high school teacher, I assured many sets of parents that “Your child is destined for a happy, competent adulthood characterized by wise, intelligent decision-making, all thanks to your excellent helicopter parenting.” As an editor for a vanity publisher, I repeatedly tell authors “Your writing suggests you are neither functionally illiterate nor insane, and burning all the hard copies of your book and deleting all the computer files of it would be a very bad idea.” I once briefly worked for an ad agency where I convinced consumers “My client’s product is not worthless overpriced junk, but a useful bargain you should absolutely spend your money on.”

Ridiculous as these examples sound, I still convinced people to believe them. In other words, I’m very good at taking crap and convincing people it’s chocolate, and can surely convince travelers that being groped by government agents is perfectly compatible with life in a free country. I am also looking to replace “low-paid journalist” with a more respectable and stable career serving my government and my country, in that order, by working for the Department of Homeland Security. The ad for this job said “[Y]our services touch every US citizen,” and I personally am willing to touch as many US citizens, resident aliens and foreign tourists as necessary to make Janet Napolitano feel she has the whole “terrorism” thing safely under control.

I currently live in Connecticut but am willing to relocate to the Washington, DC area, and I can pass a drug test with only 30 days’ advance notice.

Thank you, and I look forward to discussing this position with you in greater detail.

Jennifer Abel


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know you could seriously mess with TSA by really applying for this, going through the process, being rejected not because you aren't qualified but because you won't drink the homeland security cool-aid, appealing your rejection, having the decision overturned and then refusing the position!

4:27 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I am very serious about applying for this, Anonymous. This "broke and underemployed" thing is bullshit and I'm tired of it. And I'd love if they actually called me down for an interview.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

Okay, so you're really going to do this?

Then your cover letter should specifically address how you fulfill at least one of the qualifications sections. Identify the section by letter and title, refer to the subsections by number, and re-use all the keywords. (Make sure the same keywords appear in your resume.) Pay attention to the exact requirements of the submission, and provide evidence or statements showing your compliance. I.e. Since they want "journalism, creative writing, or English literature" education, point out that you have such a degree, or explain why your degree is applicable, or why your experience is a suitable substitute for the degree.

Put this section first in your cover letter, before the snark. This looks like a civil service position and the hiring process is designed to be strict and objective. There's a good chance the front-line screener is just hunting for keywords and as soon as they find enough of them to see that you match the objective criteria, they may just pass you on to the next level without reading the rest of it.

Remember, as funny as this is now, it gets funnier if you make it to the interview.

And don't worry about that Secret clearance. Unless you have a serious criminal background or ties to foreign nations, a Secret clearance is no big deal. *I* had one.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Artor said...

Oh, you should totally get this job. Is it too late to tone down the snark at the end of your letter? It would be awesome if some TSA flunky failed to Google you and you got the job. You'd be perfectly placed and motivated to be a whistleblower.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

Oh, and if you get the job, I expect you to milk it until you get a book-length tell-all project that gets you into a whirlwind tour of all the libertarian news shows. That's right, Stossel and Alonya.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I haven't actually sent it yet -- I really do want feedback, and will take Windy's advice about stuffing keywords at the beginning of the letter. But I must keep the overall tone as is; like Sinatra and Sid Vicious, I must do this My Way (i.e., as obnoxiously as possible).

It would require an incredibly implausible series of comic oversights for me to actually be offered the job, though.

Hmm. I wonder if maybe I should take the Guardian off my resume? Most of my most vociferous anti-TSA stuff is there.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Charles Pergiel said...

I don't think you will be able to apply for the job in a manner consistent with federal group-think. In other words, you need to at least pretend to drink the kool-aid, and I don't you can, at least not without taking some powerful drugs.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

More than likely a candidate for the position was already chosen or being considered before the advertisement or notice even appeared, but they have to go through the motions anyway. You might even be called for an interview, but you likely wouldn't get the job - not even if you leave out the snark in the letter - you'd have to be "connected" for that to happen.

1:14 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Simeone said...

Hilarious. Stuff it with the suggested keywords and send it.

(P.S. I hope I won't be alone in begging you to please change the white-typeface-on-black-background view. It's so hard on the eyes it makes them spin.)

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Artor said...

By all means, snark the hell out of those fuckers, but it would be so awesome if you could actually get the job, go for subtle. Insult the bastards to their faces, but do it with a smile and make them like the shit sandwich you serve them.
I have faith that you could pretend to drink the kool-aid while loudly proclaiming just how tasty it is, all the while snickering into your cup at the TSA fools who think you're serious.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous CCPhysicist said...

Fix the first sentence!

"... and I AM the writer and editor you are looking for ..."

10:29 AM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

I think the smartass sob is probably right. In government, this sort of high-visibility work normally only goes to someone who can be trusted not to make Janet Napolitano look bad. Someone known and owned.

Sigh. I suspect you'll just get a form letter letting you know that the position has been filled, thanks for applying, your resume is on file, etc. But if you get anything more, er, personalized, you have *got* to let us know!

10:45 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Behold, the only snark-free statement I have written (or am likely to write) abut the DHS job: the jobs I apply for that I seriously want, or seriously hope/think I might get, I do NOT discuss here on my blog, or anywhere else online. The very idea "I'm applying for a DHS gig" I take with the same seriousness as I did my phone sex gig: I expect to make no money off this; it's all about the lulz.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Russ 2000 said...

What they want is blandness, any tone other than blandness will scare them. I would replace the snark with sarcasm.

Not sure what to do with the Guardian reference. It might scare them since it's foreign, but "Guardian" sounds gate-keeper-like so it might impress them.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Russ 2000 said...

Also, since it's a department of security, make sure you demonstrate the skills they are looking for by liberally applying the use ass-covering passive voice.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Not sure what to do with the Guardian reference. It might scare them since it's foreign, but "Guardian" sounds gate-keeper-like so it might impress them.

My concern is, if anyone Googles my name and "Guardian," the first umpteen thousand hits are all variants of me telling TSA to go fuck itself.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Russ 2000 said...

I think you are making the mistake of assuming the TSA thinks like you. The TSA will probably do a background check that doesn't involve a low-cost approach like googling. They probably outsourced background checks to a defense contractor who merely fills out a checklist of things and can't offer actual opinions. For example: past employment verified, no criminal convictions, bounced checks, exotic dancer, etc.

I worked several years in a building that housed a TSA training facility. The types of people I saw on a daily basis were essentially dullards - somewhat pleasant but brainless. My favorite was the TSA trainee who stopped me in the hall to ask me where to pick up the bus. My reply was, "Probably across the street from where the bus dropped you off this morning." If one just looked out the door, one would see the bus shelter. If I were a terrorist, I would feel extremely safe.

TSA - Terrorist Safety Administration.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

Social media background checks are legally tricky because they might reveal things about you that employers are not supposed to use to make hiring decisions because of Equal Employment laws, so employers usually contract them out and get back only a report of relevant bad stuff. (They're mostly looking for confessions or advocacy of criminal acts such as illegal drug use.) This makes the process complicated and expensive enough that they don't do it until fairly late in the employment process. You'll be eliminated for your obnoxious attitude way before then.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Lisa Simeone said...

Here, Jennifer -- better brush up on your acronyms -- DHS has lots of them (most, needless to say, utter bullshit):

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a current government worker, I will tell you that the government hiring process, even for a writer, does not take into account creativity and cuteness in a cover letter.

In fact, in the initial round your cover letter will be thrown away and your resume uploaded to a database. This database will analyze your resume to pick out keywords that match the job description. If it finds a sufficient density of relevant keywords, especially ones that exactly match ones in the job description, it will spit you out as "potentially qualified". The qualified resumes will then go on to an HR representative not involved in any way with the actual team that is looking to fill the position (in fact, perhaps not even in the same building), for further qualification checks (based on strict rules designed to remove subjectivity). If you make it past round 2 with the HR representative, your resume will finally be passed on to the manager who is looking to hire.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Greensleeves said...

Go for it. We need a mole on the inside. Just remember tho that Obama can Gitmo you for any reason or no reason.

11:43 PM  

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