Large events are a fantastic experience, as a player and a judge, but competition to get on staff is fierce. Being passed over for an event can be disappointing, but in my experience there are many cases where the difference between acceptance and rejection is completely out of the applicant’s control.
I’ve declined talented, experienced judges to give the slot to someone that needed the experience more. I’ve chosen one person over another simply because I wanted judges from different regions. I’ve chosen judges I know well because I have specific roles and goals in mind for them, and also turned down similar people because I wanted someone highly recommended that I haven’t worked with. Balancing the needs of the judge, the needs of the event, and the best thing for the judge program itself is a very complex task. We are very fortunate we have such a healthy program and there are always an abundance of applicants for major events, but that means declining good people.
Fortunately, there is still a lot that you can do to improve your chances of being selected. Now that I know a bit more about how selection works, I’m happy to share the best recommendations I can to help people make themselves as attractive as possible on their next application to a Grand Prix or SCG Open.
Work with your regional coordinator
Your Regional Coordinator (RC) has a pretty big voice when it comes to staffing large events. It’s impossible for Tournament Organizers or Judge Managers to personally know every judge that is applying for their event, so the recommendations of your RC are important. I only go against those recommendations for very good reasons, or the request of the tournament organizer I worked for. Your RC can also help you a great deal with the next tip:, having goals. If you are unsure who your RC is, visit the Regions page on JudgeApps or contact them via the Magic Judges Blog.
Have strong, well-articulated goals
Knowing what you want to do in the judge program, and how you plan on achieving that is an important part of growing and becoming a better judge. The best candidate for working at a Grand Prix will make the event better, improve themselves and their fellow judges, and take those lessons back to their local Magic community. Once you have a plan, you are ready for the next tip: the cover letter.
Create a concise, well written cover letter for your application
Time to show off your communication skills! Take the time to write out the best cover letter you can. Proofread it. Cover the important points of your goals. Sell yourself to the judge manager. You are essentially applying for a job, so treat it appropriately. Include your availability, flight times, and any special requests you may have. If you are working on your Level 3 checklist, make sure to include those needs. Include relevant special skills, particularly if you are bilingual, or are fluent in American Sign Language.
For more guidance, see Writing Effective Cover Letters.
Be ready to test
Large events offer a lot of opportunities for testing for your next level, and not everyone has easy access to a judge that can test them. If you are well prepared, and your RC thinks you are ready to test, you will get higher priority for being selected. Note: If you are a Level 1 judge, this may be the only way you can get on staff for a Grand Prix, and will considerably improve your chances at an SCG Open. When I was staffing an event with 65 judges, only 3 were Level 1, and all of them were testing that weekend.
Be willing to work on Friday
This applies primarily to Grand Prix events. Staffing the first day of the event is often the hardest part. Many people choose to fly in on Friday, and can only work the latter half of the day. If your availability includes all day Friday, you are much more attractive candidate.
Make your own overnight arrangements
Hotel costs and compensation are a big part of the expenses of running a large event, so there are a limited number of rooms available. Large tournaments are a commercial venture, so if you can bring the appropriate skill set at a lower cost to the organizer, you will have a better chance of being chosen. It is like having the best tiebreakers. If there is a choice between two judges otherwise equally qualified, the one that hasn’t applied for room sponsorship will win.
That covers the best tips I can provide to help you be more appealing to Tournament Organizers and Judge Managers selecting staff for large events. Hopefully, armed with this information, you can improve your chances to be on staff at the next event you apply for. Good luck with your next application!