The purpose of a cover letter is straightforward: convince the people reading it that YOU are the right person for the job! While this article can’t guarantee that you’ll be accepted every time you apply, it will give some general tips to improve your cover letters for future events.
Cover letters for judging events are quite different from cover letters in other fields. For one thing, there’s no need to put your name and address at the top like you would for a traditional letter. That information is automatically included by JudgeApps when you apply, along with your JudgeApps profile photo.
Cover letters for events should generally be kept short. Conveying information succinctly is almost always more important than excessive writing. As a consequence, you don’t need to spend space on an elaborate introduction or conclusion. Judge Managers already know that you’re excited to work for their event, so mentioning this is generally superfluous. Don’t make people do more work to get to the meat of your application.
A cover letter is your first impression when applying to an event. Typos and grammatical issues appear unprofessional and make Judge Managers question the level of attention to detail you’ll bring to their event. “Joke” cover letters make Judge Managers question your maturity. Take the extra minute to make sure everything looks correct before pressing submit.
It’s also important to make sure you actually answer all the questions called for in the application. Read the Event Information carefully to make sure you address all requested information. Some common questions are how many days you’re willing to work for multi-day events and whether you’re willing to accept standby sponsorship. When answering any extra questions, be complete and unambiguous. Do not answer “Do you have a specific goal for this event” with “yes.” Pay attention to the posted questions so that Judge Managers have enough information to give your application the consideration it deserves!
Experience, Goals, and Needs
Everyone writes cover letters a little differently, but successful cover letters often include these common elements: your experience judging, your goals for the event, and any special needs you have. Figuring out how you would answer these three questions is a great place to start.
If you choose to use this structure, you can write a cover letter that simply consists of three paragraphs that are explicitly titled Experience, Goals, and Needs. This is an easy way of ensuring that the Judge Manager can find exactly what they’re looking for in your application.
When most people think about their experience as a judge, they probably think about all the events they’ve worked. In actuality, your experience encompasses much more than just your event history. The Judge Manager can review your event history on your JudgeApps profile, so your cover letter should focus on specific details of your experience.
An Experience paragraph is a great place to humbly but confidently state any particular strengths, skills, or perspectives you bring to the event. This is true even if you haven’t worked any Competitive REL events. New judges sometimes simply state that they don’t have any experience at Competitive REL yet and don’t put much other information into their letter. This strategy is simply not very effective because it doesn’t provide any compelling reason for a Judge Manager to take you.
Remember: the point of a cover letter is to emphasize what you can do for an event. Rather than focusing on what you haven’t done, emphasize what you do and will bring to the event. Do you run a lot of Regular events for your local store or playgroup? Have you read the IPG? Are you a whiz at rules interactions? Do you know the basic deck archetypes and answers to common rules questions for the format of the event? Focus on what you will contribute to the event, not on your shortcomings.
If you have worked some events, you don’t need to list all of them one-by-one. Consider grouping similar events together and expressing them as a single sentence that succinctly summarizes your overall experience. For example, this:
“EXPERIENCE: I’ve Head Judged three GPTs at my store, and I’ve floor judged an SCG Open and a PTQ”
is much easier to parse than this long list:
- Sealed GPT at ConnectiCon – Head Judge (5/4/2014)
- PTQ Magic 2015 in New York (5/10/2014)
- Standard GPT at ConnectiCon – Head Judge (5/11/2014)
- Standard GPT at ConnectiCon – Head Judge (5/18/2014)
- SCG Open Baltimore: Standard (6/1/2014)
References and RCs
An important part of judging is making connections. If you’re just getting started, mentioning who certified you and/or some judges you’ve worked for in the past can be a big help. You can do this in the Experience section, or a separate References section.
Avoid name-dropping just for the sake of name-dropping. Make sure the judge you’re referencing actually knows who you are, and can say good things about you! If the Judge Manager talks to the judge you mention, and that judge actually doesn’t have anything positive to say, name-dropping can work against you.
Another good resource for you is your Regional Coordinator. Regional Coordinators (RCs for short) are experienced Level 3+ judges who help guide judges across a particular geographic area. Introducing yourself to your RC is a great strategy, not only because they’re fantastic resources in general, but also because RCs are asked to provide feedback on applications to certain large events such as Grands Prix and SCG Opens. If your RC is able to put in a good word for you, that will make your chances of being accepted much greater!
Being able to articulate specific, measurable, realistic goals is one of the major ways you can distinguish yourself when applying for events. For example:
“I’d like the opportunity to meet and review a judge that I’ve never worked with.”
“I would like to be on Logistics Team and learn how to do End-of-Round Procedure.”
If you have a medical condition, food allergy, personal habit, or travel limitations that are relevant to your ability to serve on staff, you should disclose those for consideration. Putting these requirements into a paragraph labeled “Needs” is a good way of making sure the Judge Manager can’t miss them when reviewing your application. For example:
“I have to monitor my blood sugar throughout the day and may need occasional mini-breaks to get a snack.”
“The earliest available bus to the venue arrives 10 minutes before the event starts.”
Have a Useful Profile Photo on Judge Center & JudgeApps
Your profile picture pops up when scrolling over your application in JudgeApps. With over 5,000 judges in our program, there’s a good chance that your name is not uniquely identifiable. Even if the reviewers don’t know your name, a reviewer might recognize your face and recall working with you.
Conversely, when there are multiple applicants without profile pictures, the text tends to blend together. This requires extra concentration to clearly identify the candidate. Including a picture helps the reviewer consider you as a full person, rather than a name on a page.
If you haven’t already done so, take a profile picture in professional judge attire such as black judge shirt, black dress shirt, or judge polo. Your face should be clearly visible and you should look like you normally look at events. “Fun” pictures are okay within reason, such as posing next to the Wizards of the Coast dragon, but remember that your picture represents you when you’re applying to events. You can then upload this to both JudgeApps and Judge Center. Using the same photo in both places helps provide continuity, although you’ll have to upload it to each system separately.
If you’re a Level 2 judge, please remember to take photos of judges you certify and suggest they join JudgeApps!
Your cover letter should be specific and accurate. Don’t fill your cover letter with blanket statements that can be perceived as unreasonable or over-confident.
For example, consider this hypothetical excerpt from an L2’s cover letter for an upcoming Grand Prix: “I’m looking for leadership experience for insight into my L3 Self-Review. I’d like to be considered for Deck Check Lead. I’ve served as DC Lead for three past events, including a large event with positive feedback from Paul Baranay.”
This is great! It includes a specific goal and informs the reviewers that the applicant is working towards a long-term goal of advancing to Level 3. Using just two sentences, the author has included verifiable facts, provided a reference, and given an impression that he or she is adequately confident in their ability to handle the responsibility.
As a counterexample, consider this hypothetical excerpt from an L1’s cover letter to a PTQ: “I’m pursuing L2. I have a keen eye for logistics and will bring much-needed efficiency to the event.”
This is not as good. It doesn’t give the reviewer a clear understanding of your current situation or how much preparation you’re putting into advancement. It indicates that logistics is an area of interest, but does not include a way to gauge your abilities. Also, you may or may not be in a position to impact the overall flow of the event and you’re possibly making promises beyond your scope.
Not Being Accepted
Suppose you’re not accepted to an event. What then?
First of all, reflect on why you may have been declined. Perhaps your application could have been improved, or maybe your experience level wasn’t yet in line with the type of event you were applying for. It is extremely unlikely that your application was denied due to personal reasons, so try to not take it personally.
Second, consider asking the Judge Manager or RC if they have any feedback on your application. Perhaps the style or content of your cover letter could be improved. Judging is a constant quest for self-improvement, and improving applications to events is no exception.
Most of all, persevere. Everyone has been declined from events at some point or another. Many events receive more than twice as many applicants as they can possibly accept, so great applicants are often declined for the simple reason of not having enough space.
Regardless of whether you were accepted or not, please refrain from sharing your acceptance status on social media or the JudgeApps forums. If your application was accepted, sharing this can come across as insensitive to those who were declined. Likewise, posting about being declined will often be perceived negatively by others. Saying nothing is the most professional and courteous option.
While applying for events can seem like an arduous task, we hope you’re now feeling more confident about what to put in that blank space on JudgeApps. This article is not intended as a formula for writing cover letters; you will eventually become more comfortable expressing yourself effectively and find a style that works well for you. The most important things in an application are to be clear and to be yourself!
If you’re applying for a larger event such as a Grand Prix, consider reading Gregory Schwartz’s article on how to improve your chances.
As always, feel free to post any questions or comments in the forum. Good luck!