“Dear Program Director . . .”

Every week I get an e-mail newsletter for freelance writers. Last week’s edition contained what the list manager called “the world’s worst book proposals.” You might find it hard to believe that anybody would send such sloppy nonsense when making a serious inquiry about starting a business relationship. I don’t, because I have seen things just as bad, and occasionally worse.

When I was a radio station program director, I was continually amazed at the number of packages I would receive from job-seekers that were filled with typos. I got letters and resumes corrected with ink or pencil. I got xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes. I got letters and resumes resumes typed on lined notebook paper and on paper pulled from spiral notebooks, fringed edge and all. I got letters and resumes containing employment histories with gaps of several years, or containing the names of references but no contact information for them.

The content of the cover letters was often questionble, too. Sometimes the letters were barely literate, and more than one was subliterate. Some candidates were as unsubtle as used-car salesmen, promising on-air work that would raise my ratings beyond the stratosphere and commercial production work that would make me six inches taller and more handsome. (This sort of pitch often came from people who were looking for their first job out of college.) And like the resumes, these letters were occasionally handwritten, hand-corrected, and/or obviously xeroxed, generic letters with my name filled in after the salutation, or, even worse, with the generic salutation “Dear Program Director.”

But the people who took time to craft their cover letters could make an equally bad impression by pushing a good idea a little too far. People generally expect DJs to be a little bent, which gives us wide latitude for behavior. This often extends to cover letters, which are often a bit more flippant than they would be for other job applications in the working world. Letting a bit of your on-air personality show in the cover letter can help get the recipient’s attention, and make him want to listen to your aircheck tape. But it can backfire.

So anyway, I was hanging out in my boss’ office one slow afternoon when he asked me if I wanted to see the applications that came in from other candidates for the job I eventually got. In the stack was the following letter, which read as follows, in its entirety:

On [such and such a date], I was fucked without the benefit of foreplay by my now-former employer. Hire me and I’ll deliver the female demographic.

Wrong in so many ways, yes, but strangely beautiful, too, for its economy of language, and for its bottomless impropriety. I’d like to think it created another ex-DJ-turned-used-car salesman, but I fear that somewhere, some other program director got that letter and thought, “Hey, that’s just the kind of guy I’m looking for.”

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