Avoid these 8 proposal-killing approaches

By Adam Porter (@AtlasProWriter)


Occasionally, I have too much work. Not so often I’m complaining, mind you, but there are times when I have to call in the cavalry. Even when the other AMI writers are busy, after 15 years, I have a dependable group of pros I can call in a pinch. This has not always been the case. In the past I have had to place job ads and interview freelancers, which would, inevitably come in two sorts: Obvious Pros and Usual Suspects. Now, when I say “Usual Suspects” I’m not talking about the same people. I’m talking about different people who make the same sort of mistakes.

I was reminded of this recently when a colleague of mine, who had recently sent out an A.P.B. for writers, showed me the responses, applications and other “Pick Me!” missives she received. She suggested that I post a few glaring examples so that other prospective writers learn to avoid similar mistakes. These tips will also work for anyone trying to get a job, make a pitch or get an introduction to a decision maker.

So, here are 8 actual self-promotion misfires that kept applicants from getting real gigs. Learn from their mistakes, avoid them, and you could soon be hearing “you’re hired.” And, just so we’re clear, I’ve made one or two of these mistakes myself. Hey, it happens…but it shouldn’t happen more than once.


#1 – Mr. Curious says: “Tell Me More?”

Mr Curious

“I am very interested in your opportunity. Please send me more information to I would love to talk more about this job.

This is your opportunity, Mr. Curious. They are offering you something. What can you offer them? Do some homework and learn exactly why you may be a great fit.

LESSON: Research the person or company so that you have specific context to add to your request for information. This approach shows initiative, and it also shows that you made the additional effort to, potentially, disqualify yourself based on certain aspects of the job in question.


#2 – Rambo says: “I’m a one-man army!”


“…feel free to look over my website and my credentials and my references. I have an entire team for social media and we’re very affordable. Contact me via the contact form at (WEBSITE) if you’re interested in talking more.”

First, the gig in question called for one person for a set amount of time. There was no need to call in a team, much less a “team for social media.” But that’s not what really struck me about this application. Here we have a case of inserting the “Royal We” after passively establishing you are a one-man operation. My site. My credentials. My…team? He could be fronting a coalition of creators…but if that were the case, why are HIS credentials the only resume submitted?

LESSON: Just be yourself. If you have a team you work with, terrific. Mention that only where applicable. If the job only calls for one person, go after it individually, even if using the company name. For example:

“Hi, this is Adam Porter with Atlas Media Ink, and I heard you were looking for a writer…”


#3 – Miss Superfluous called from the Department of Redundancy Department


“Hello. I would be interested. Please send me information. I work in Marketing.”

First, the marketing field is ginormous. Saying you are in the marketing field tells the hiring agent nothing about either your qualifications or your understanding of the job being offered. Second, the job is in the marketing field, so why the nonspecific declaration? The job in question is specific to that field. It’s sort of a given you aren’t an underwater basket weaver…although they can be good at marketing too. This sort of thing makes me wonder if dairy farmers get calls like this:

 “I have some cows to sell. They are milk cows. Do you need milk cows?”

LESSON: When you reply to a job posting by restating the obvious while NOT explaining how your skills and experience might be a good fit for that job, you are wasting that person’s time. Be precise. Be specific.


#4 – Ms. Excitement says: “Pick me…I guess.”


“I may be too broad-based for this slot but…you may search the web to see my past work and technological innovations. Happy to chat about this or other opportunities.”

Here’s what my colleague said about this one: “I stopped reading at ‘but.’ Why even continue when there are so many other applicants?”

There are a couple of things going wrong here. First, this person showed zero enthusiasm for the project, so why would anyone associated with it ever call him to “chat about this or other projects”? Second, the weak attempt at self-promotion (that bit about tech innovations) is targeting the wrong demo. The hiring agent does not care about this person’s alleged “innovations.” While it’s clear this is what he really cares about, nobody is listening.

LESSON: Don’t troll on other sites trying to promote yourself. Only post if you are legitimately interested in the gig.



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