Getting a new job can at times be frustrating and extremely time consuming. This is true whatever industry you’re in and especially in the current climate. Opportunities are scarce and competition is fierce. Earlier this year we advertised for an admin assistant and received over 800 applications.
After going through the recruitment process numerous times over the last few years I’ve read over 1,000 applications. In addition to some truly creative and inspiring applications I have seen a number of mistakes that appear time and time again, regardless of the position advertised. I have therefore put together some top tips for applying for a job in digital, whether you’re entering the industry for the first time or just looking for a new challenge.
Read the Instructions
It sounds like common sense doesn’t it but I’ve lost count of the number of people who don’t do this. Recruitment ads explain how to apply. Some companies will ask you to submit an application form, some prefer a CV. Our ads tend to be fairly short and succinct and therefore we ask people to send an email in the first instance to request the full job description. How do you know whether the job is for you and whether you have the relevant skills if you don’t read the full job description and person specification?
The next step in our process is to submit a covering letter and CV. We make this as easy as possible by stating clearly what we’re looking for in the covering letter. Despite this we still receive a significant number of CVs without a covering letter. We like to be as fair as possible and always go back to people to prompt them to send the covering letter. However, it immediately raises questions. Can this person follow simple instructions? Do they have the necessary attention to detail that the job requires? Are they interested in the job or just firing off random applications?
Punctuation and Grammar
Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation carefully in all written communications. Another seemingly obvious point but you’d be surprised. This is a real bug bear for me and I know I’m not the only one. Careless dashed off emails with little or no punctuation, the use of a lower case ‘i’ when referring to yourself give the impression that you’re careless, have no attention to detail and can’t really be bothered. It’s the fastest route to the ‘No’ file.
The Covering Letter
If an employer asks for a covering letter treat it as a gift. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and show why you’re the right person for the job. Again, go back to the instructions and find out what the company is looking for in the letter. If they just ask for a covering or supporting letter then go back to the ad and job description. Pull out the requirements and demonstrate how you meet the specification. Provide examples.
If there are some areas where you feel you don’t have the relevant experience, talk about similar experiences and how these skills are transferable.
Don’t Begin with a Negative
Don’t begin your covering letter with a negative. ‘Although I don’t have a degree . . .’, ‘I have been unemployed for x amount of years . . . .’ immediately creates the wrong impression. Start with a positive and focus on your abilities and achievements.
Address the Relevant Person
Most ads will provide a contact name. Make sure you address the contact using their correct name and title. Don’t use ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ when a name has been provided. At best it looks careless and at worst it appears rude.
Many jobs will have a section where they refer to ‘desired’ skills or experience as opposed to ‘required’ skills / experience. If you have the relevant desired skills and experience make sure you include examples. This will make you stand out from the competition.
Keep it Short
When writing covering letters there is a tendency to cram in every skill you have and every bit of work experience. However, your application will be much more effective if you write succinctly and if you are selective.
Unless this is your very first job and you have recently left school the employer doesn’t need to know about your first paper round and how asking for tips at Christmas demonstrates your people skills and persuasive technique.
Unless otherwise stated an A4 sheet or a little over should be sufficient. It’s extremely time consuming reading through job applications and the employer will thank you for being concise.
Enthusiasm and Passion
Potential employers like to see enthusiasm. If you’re applying for a digital position refer to relevant hobbies and personal projects. When we’re looking for a web designer or developer we would expect the candidate to have some sort of online portfolio of their work. This need not be an all singing all dancing website. There are a number of applications that can be used to showcase your work. Consider setting up a blog or a Tumblr or set up a profile on Deviant Art or Dribble.
Remember the 800 applications I referred to earlier? How do you ensure that you stand out and make the shortlist?
- Keep referring back to the job description / person specification and ensure that your CV is tailored to these requirements. Provide a different CV for each job you are applying for. Avoid sending out blanket responses. This suggests that you’re not particularly interested in the company and that you’re looking for anything available.
- Formatting is important, especially if you’re applying for a job within the creative sector. Keep your font simple and easy to read.
- Keep colours to a minimum using them to highlight and enhance your work.
- Keep it simple. Write in short paragraphs and bullet points rather than long winded passages. Be concise and selective.
- Use subheadings and split your CV into relevant sections making it easier for the employer to find information.
- Don’t leave gaps in your work experience or education.
- Be creative, especially if you’re applying for a creative position. I’ve seen some fantastic examples of CVs recently. Take a look these for inspiration.
- Refer to examples of your work. If you’re a web designer or developer include links to projects you have worked on and make it clear what your involvement was.Make sure that any online portfolio or showcase is up to date and includes your most recent work.
- If you’re sending your CV electronically make sure it is saved in a format that is easily accessible such as Word. Pay attention to your file name. I have received CVs that refer to other positions within the file name. This is off-putting and immediately suggests a lack of interest in the company and a lack of thought / attention to detail.
Applying Straight from School / Uni
If you’re applying for a position straight from school or university it will be more difficult to provide examples of relevant experience. Therefore consider including the following:
- Include examples of work experience where you used skills similar to those referred to in the job description. They may not be directly related to the position but could be transferrable.
- Consider including examples of part time work or holiday work. However, make sure that this is relevant to the job description. E.g. If the role calls for good customer services skills you might want to refer to working part time in a department store serving the public etc.
- If you’re looking for a design or development role and don’t have examples of commercial projects, refer to personal projects you have undertaken. You may also wish to consider undertaking some free work for local charities to build up your portfolio.
- Include examples of awards or achievements.
Check everything carefully before hitting the send button. If you have time leave it for a day, sleep on it and then read through it again before sending it.