Application advice for creative jobs

Because we’re looking to expand our staff here, I want to off some key advice to anyone applying. IT IS ALL ABOUT PRESENTATION!! Some of these things are common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think about what they are doing when applying for a job. If anyone has committed any of the career crimes that I’m going to mention, don’t feel bad. I’ve made some of these same mistakes myself and learning from them helped me out immensely.

Angel artwork by Oliver BarrettThe first impression is key. A bad first impression will almost kill any chance of someone even looking at your work. For example, if you are emailing your resume, do not simply say “See attached” and that’s it. You come off as both lazy and uninterested. Why would someone want to hire you if you don’t make the effort to introduce yourself? You don’t have to write your entire life story in that first email, but say something professional about yourself and that you’re interested in the job. You could mention that you’ve worked in the industry for X amount of years, you just graduated, you’re a fan of the company’s work, etc. Do NOT mention that you are looking for a salary hike. It will never help you to mention money immediately. Also, NEVER EVER EVER cut yourself down no matter how bad you think your work is. If you think you stink, then we will think you stink. Drawing negative attention to yourself will not get you hired out of sympathy. It will draw even more negative attention toward you and the company will laugh at you. Okay, so maybe we won’t laugh at you, but we definitely won’t hire you. I’m not trying to sound like a jerk, but I’ve made some of these same mistakes and some well-timed verbal abuse really straightened me out.

A big no brainer in the first impression department is FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS. If a company is asking for 5 samples, don’t send a 9 samples, don’t send a text-only resume, SEND 5 SAMPLES! That’s a bit annoying, but nowhere near as annoying as when someone emails soliciting freelance design services when a company is looking to fill a full-time position. If the job description says “full-time,” it doesn’t mean “full-time, but maybe freelance too.” FAIL!

There are also obvious things like spelling and grammar. If there is someone specific that you are addressing, make sure to spell his or her name correctly and don’t screw up a prefix if you can avoid it (Mrs. and Ms.). Make sure you are articulate so that the company doesn’t question whether you made it through junior high.

Use complete sentences and avoid internet shorthand. “HI, U GUYZ R DA BEST DESIGNARS. CAN U PLZ HIER ME? C MY RESUME PLZ!” deserves a slap in the face. If you have actually done this, and I know some of you have, please write this on your forehead: FAIL!

The resume is obvious a very important part of getting hired and I think many applicants are not paying enough attention to it. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve received resumes created in Microsoft Word using the default settings. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it won’t help you stick out in a sea of applicants. We work in a creative field, so a well thought out resume is a great way to get noticed.

Treat your resume like a design project. Try different dimensions, colors, compositions, etc. I took a class in college called “Business and Professional Practices” and the Professor told the class about how she got her first design job. She had made a small booklet containing both her resume and some samples. She was creative with an intricate spiral binding of the booklet and made it so that anything placed on top of it would slide off. That forced her resume to be on top of the pile. A cool looking resume is a great way to capture the company’s attention.

The content of the resume can be just as important as its appearance. I would advise keeping your resume to a maximum of one page. There can be thousands of applicants for a job and no one wants to spend time flipping through a 15 page resume. You don’t have to put every job you’ve ever had on the resume. You only need to list the positions related to the one you are currently applying for. It’s a waste of space to mention that you were a soda jerk in ’98.

Samples are probably the most important part of your application. Make sure you are submitting your ABSOLUTE BEST work. If you are unsure of a particular piece of work, then don’t include it. You should be absolutely ruthless with yourself when putting samples together. Detach yourself from your work; don’t be afraid to cut your babies loose. Also, try your best to match what the company is looking for. If a company is looking for a web designer, include the best web work you can.

There are exceptions to everything I’ve mentioned, but not many. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this. Again, some of these things may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many crappy applications we get. If you’ve read this and still send us a stupid application, I will come through your monitor and wring your neck.

About the Author, Oliver Barrett

I'm a designer, art director, illustrator, bowling captain, bass player, shortshop, strategist, and much much more. Follow me on Twitter and check out my Flickr

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