Design insights & tutorials.

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
Discover More by Oliver Barrett

Discussion

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  • Adam

    Hey Oliver –

    Great article! Your last line’s a good one.

    I once read about an applicant for an advertising agency who sent in an envelope bulging with rubber body parts and fake blood. Inside the message read: “I’m dying to work for you”.

    A bit far.

  • Adam

    Hey Oliver –

    Great article! Your last line’s a good one.

    I once read about an applicant for an advertising agency who sent in an envelope bulging with rubber body parts and fake blood. Inside the message read: “I’m dying to work for you”.

    A bit far.

  • Eric

    Very good advice! I have been my own worst enemy by doing some of the same things.

  • Eric

    Very good advice! I have been my own worst enemy by doing some of the same things.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff

    Good article, but I’d like to add a few things:

    Samples or critical. When I wake up in the morning and I have 15 applicants in my inbox trying to get the job I do this:

    1.) Read the first few lines of the email and skim the rest. Does this person sound professional and serious? Can I take them seriously?

    2.) After that I usually either click their website link or open up their samples they sent. I ignore the resume until I’ve looked at the samples.

    3.) If the samples are good and what we’re looking for, I then look at the rest of the attachments. I am now interested in learning more about this person.

    4.) I go back and reread the letter if I am still interested. If not, I just skip to the next applicant.

    5.) When I reread the letter, sometimes I notice that this very talented person lives in Sweden or Australia and obviously is not interested in moving to the US. They want to work freelance or for us to hire their company. Seriously? They just wasted my time! I am not looking for a freelancer, I am specifically looking for a full timer to relocate to Cleveland. This was in the job description!

    People just don’t listen. Some people are super talented, but if they can’t move here and work in the studio with us, then what good are they? Sure, we hire freelancers occasionally, but it’s for stuff we cannot currently do in house. Our company is not built around hiring everyone else to do the job, we get the job done ourselves! We are looking for people to join us in that venture.

    5.) If I’m interested in calling or interviewing the person, I’ll star the email and get back to it later. I sort through all the email and reply to everyone (even the bad ones) and tell them we received their stuff. I hate it when I send portfolios and resumes out and nobody writes back to me. If I didn’t get the job tell me.

    6.) Of all the 100 applicants, we probably will invite 5 people for an interview. Most people who apply to us are in the following categories:

    a) underqualified
    b) decent, has potential
    c) impressive, will fit right in
    d) amazing, a must hire
    e) amazing, a must hire (but want’s freelance)
    f) spam
    g) terrible garbage, no samples, no cover letter, just a one liner – “thanks let me know what you think…”

  • http://www.gomedia.us Jeff

    Good article, but I’d like to add a few things:

    Samples or critical. When I wake up in the morning and I have 15 applicants in my inbox trying to get the job I do this:

    1.) Read the first few lines of the email and skim the rest. Does this person sound professional and serious? Can I take them seriously?

    2.) After that I usually either click their website link or open up their samples they sent. I ignore the resume until I’ve looked at the samples.

    3.) If the samples are good and what we’re looking for, I then look at the rest of the attachments. I am now interested in learning more about this person.

    4.) I go back and reread the letter if I am still interested. If not, I just skip to the next applicant.

    5.) When I reread the letter, sometimes I notice that this very talented person lives in Sweden or Australia and obviously is not interested in moving to the US. They want to work freelance or for us to hire their company. Seriously? They just wasted my time! I am not looking for a freelancer, I am specifically looking for a full timer to relocate to Cleveland. This was in the job description!

    People just don’t listen. Some people are super talented, but if they can’t move here and work in the studio with us, then what good are they? Sure, we hire freelancers occasionally, but it’s for stuff we cannot currently do in house. Our company is not built around hiring everyone else to do the job, we get the job done ourselves! We are looking for people to join us in that venture.

    5.) If I’m interested in calling or interviewing the person, I’ll star the email and get back to it later. I sort through all the email and reply to everyone (even the bad ones) and tell them we received their stuff. I hate it when I send portfolios and resumes out and nobody writes back to me. If I didn’t get the job tell me.

    6.) Of all the 100 applicants, we probably will invite 5 people for an interview. Most people who apply to us are in the following categories:

    a) underqualified
    b) decent, has potential
    c) impressive, will fit right in
    d) amazing, a must hire
    e) amazing, a must hire (but want’s freelance)
    f) spam
    g) terrible garbage, no samples, no cover letter, just a one liner – “thanks let me know what you think…”

  • Carlos

    This is great!! I am currently in the market for a new Web Design or Graphic Design position. I have been doing Web Design for the past year and a half. But I am moving to Colorado not Ohio in about 2 months. Which, if I were, Go Media would probably be the greatest thing to happen. But the advice is extremely well taken and will follow all advice I can get.
    Also, I know this is not good for me to do, but, if anyone knows of a company in Colorado that is hiring let me know. It is all about networking, right?

    Thanks

  • Carlos

    This is great!! I am currently in the market for a new Web Design or Graphic Design position. I have been doing Web Design for the past year and a half. But I am moving to Colorado not Ohio in about 2 months. Which, if I were, Go Media would probably be the greatest thing to happen. But the advice is extremely well taken and will follow all advice I can get.
    Also, I know this is not good for me to do, but, if anyone knows of a company in Colorado that is hiring let me know. It is all about networking, right?

    Thanks

  • Caleb Kekahbah

    Great Advice!
    I haven’t got to meet chris yet haha.
    Seriously good advice for those of us just starting out!
    _caleb

  • Sebastian Strauss

    Oliver,
    Really good article!
    I have found the advices extremly useful, but I fear that I might be one of those few exceptions you mention.
    I am 15 years old, live in Uruguay, South America, master English language to perfection and have been working on web design for the past 7 years. Nevertheless, because of my age, added to my limited location possibilities, my chances to get a job are reduced and my applications discarded at first sight.
    I cannot write a resume, because I am too young to have a degree, for example. My online portfolio is currently being redesigned, so I attach a Flash meanwhile.
    If you could help me out and give me some advice, I would seriously appreciate it! Thank you,

    Sebastian
    cbaa. design

  • Sebastian Strauss

    Oliver,
    Really good article!
    I have found the advices extremly useful, but I fear that I might be one of those few exceptions you mention.
    I am 15 years old, live in Uruguay, South America, master English language to perfection and have been working on web design for the past 7 years. Nevertheless, because of my age, added to my limited location possibilities, my chances to get a job are reduced and my applications discarded at first sight.
    I cannot write a resume, because I am too young to have a degree, for example. My online portfolio is currently being redesigned, so I attach a Flash meanwhile.
    If you could help me out and give me some advice, I would seriously appreciate it! Thank you,

    Sebastian
    cbaa. design

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    The story about the fake blood is awesome.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    The story about the fake blood is awesome.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    Sebastian, you are in a great position because you are starting out so young. If you keep working you should be in great shape when you are looking for a full-time job. That being said, I don’t think you need to be looking for a full-time job. You would be better off freelancing and building up your portfolio.

    So if you’ve been freelancing for the past 7 years, that makes you 8 years old when you first started. I could not even tie my own shoes at that age.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    Sebastian, you are in a great position because you are starting out so young. If you keep working you should be in great shape when you are looking for a full-time job. That being said, I don’t think you need to be looking for a full-time job. You would be better off freelancing and building up your portfolio.

    So if you’ve been freelancing for the past 7 years, that makes you 8 years old when you first started. I could not even tie my own shoes at that age.

  • d

    Great stuff guys, keep it coming.

  • d

    Great stuff guys, keep it coming.

  • Elle Driver

    Wow, the anecdote about your Professor creating a résumé booklet that causes other applications to “slide off” of her own? Deliciously evil and brilliant!

  • Elle Driver

    Wow, the anecdote about your Professor creating a résumé booklet that causes other applications to “slide off” of her own? Deliciously evil and brilliant!

  • Caleb Kekahbah

    Great Advice!
    I haven’t got to meet chris yet haha.
    Seriously good advice for those of us just starting out!
    _caleb

  • Sebastian Strauss

    Thanks Oliver!

    Of course I am only applying for freelancing jobs, but without a resumé or an online portfolio I have very little work coming!
    For your information, I couldn’t tie my shoes either when I was 8, but I could definitely find my way around Marcromedia and Adobe tools!
    So, if you ever get to need some cheap, young, far away web designer, just email me. :P

    Sebastian
    cbaa. design

  • Sebastian Strauss

    Thanks Oliver!

    Of course I am only applying for freelancing jobs, but without a resumé or an online portfolio I have very little work coming!
    For your information, I couldn’t tie my shoes either when I was 8, but I could definitely find my way around Marcromedia and Adobe tools!
    So, if you ever get to need some cheap, young, far away web designer, just email me. :P

    Sebastian
    cbaa. design

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    Well Sebastian, that’s impressive. Best of luck with everything!

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    Well Sebastian, that’s impressive. Best of luck with everything!

  • http://www.chrowmdesigns.com Chile

    can i plz has dis job ne wayz?

    hahahah

  • http://www.chrowmdesigns.com Chile

    can i plz has dis job ne wayz?

    hahahah

  • allenjc11

    Does anyone know of any good resume reviewers in the creative/design field? Because it is a design industry, I often contemplate creating a more creative resume, but I keep reading articles from resume experts to “keep it simple and professional”. Any advice? Comments from people who hire would greatly be appreciated.

  • allenjc11

    Does anyone know of any good resume reviewers in the creative/design field? Because it is a design industry, I often contemplate creating a more creative resume, but I keep reading articles from resume experts to “keep it simple and professional”. Any advice? Comments from people who hire would greatly be appreciated.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    Keeping it simple and professional doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Maybe you should go ahead and make that more creative resume and show it to some people and get some opinions before you send it off to potential employers.

  • http://www.gomedia.us Oliver

    Keeping it simple and professional doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Maybe you should go ahead and make that more creative resume and show it to some people and get some opinions before you send it off to potential employers.

  • Carla

    great advice! =)
    but i’m always afraid to appear informal…
    i guess it’s all about finding the right way to say things depending to who you’re sending your resume to.

  • Carla

    great advice! =)
    but i’m always afraid to appear informal…
    i guess it’s all about finding the right way to say things depending to who you’re sending your resume to.

  • Pingback: w.y.s.i…WTF? » Blog Archive » More job-seeking advice from GoMedia

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

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