As a freelance creative, one of the things that I do on an ongoing basis is promote my services. This is done in many ways and one of them involves having my website address and company name listed on several industry sites, such as this one. Because of this, I receive resumes from graduating students and designers looking for work on a regular basis. In fact, in April (when school lets out) I receive a ton of them. Now, I’m no authority on this subject but I can honestly tell you that most of the CVs I encounter have at least one major problem and if I was in fact hiring they would immediately be placed in the recycling bin I keep under my desk. I’m sure that most of you have noticed that when you send out your resume to an agency/studio it is incredibly rare to receive feedback, therefore I feel it is my duty to share with you some of the problems I’ve encountered with resumes that come my way.
1) Spelling mistakes are a major no-no.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have encountered resumes with typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. It is something that aggravates me every time I see one, especially from those looking to become copywriters. Being a creative in this business is all about being a perfectionist. Let’s face it, this industry hires a very, very small percentage of those that come through its gates. There is no room for error. One mistake and your CV is sure to go to the bottom of the pile. Think of your resume as a finished ad for a product that you have spent months, even years on. Imagine what it would feel like to find an error after all the printing has been done and the media has been bought and placed. Keep imagining, knowing that it will have to be redone, time and money were wasted, the client will be pissed, and your employer won’t be too happy with you.
Well, if you’ve sent out a resume with errors you’ve already been in the situation I just described, only you didn’t know it. The product you were selling that you screwed up on was you.
2) Research the company you are applying to.
It amazes me how many people write a cover letter indicating that they would love to work for me and that they see themselves as a great fit and asset to my creative department. Sounds great. Only, they got my email from a website, and that website has a link to my website, and if they spent even three seconds checking out my website, they will have seen my biography page which states that I am a freelancer who works alone.
I have no creative teams (except for a rolodex full of friends in the industry that I like to bounce ideas off of every now and then) because I don’t have an office. I work wherever I want and even if I like you, I’m not taking you to the cottage with me if I am working up there for two weeks. Research the company you want to work for, know the work that they do, and understand why you would want to be there. Also, it is generally a good idea to find out where the company is located. Do you really want to travel to Cambridge every day when you live in midtown Toronto? Recently, I had a resume sent to me from India. That would be one hell of a commute.
3) Know to whom you are sending your resume.
On many occasions, I have received what I know is a blanket cover letter with a resume attached. The cover letters are very generic and I can tell that they know nothing about who I am or what I do. The email starts with “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” and probably went out to every agency listed on this site (all several hundred of them). Sometimes, believe it or not, they will even have all the email addresses showing. Those that do this show a lack of effort and poor attention to detail. Find out to whom you should be forwarding your resume and learn who they are. If I see Dear Ms. Lebow on the first line (and I have), it will seriously piss me off. Addressing a cover letter “To whom it may concern” (and that’s “whom”, not “who” for all you copywriters out there) is fine if you are responding to a want ad where the contact name isn’t given.
4) Leave off everything that doesn’t apply to the position.
You want to be a copywriter, an art director, or a designer. Then why list your past experience working the till at a dry cleaners when you were 16? Will it benefit the creative department? I know many seniors in this business that still have a one page resume. It’s usually all you will ever need. If it’s useless information that doesn’t apply to the position, leave it out.
5) Don’t expect a reply.
As I already mentioned, I am blown away by the number of emails I receive from people looking for work given that I am nothing more than a small fry in this industry…. if that. I can only imagine the quantity that the top CDs are bombarded with each day. It must make their heads spin and it’s understandable why they don’t reply or return calls …they would never get any work done.
Remember that writing a resume is not rocket science. It just takes a little time, patience, proofreading, and some research on the company to put together a decent resume and cover letter. If you need some help, visit your local bookstore or search online for websites that deal with this subject. Hopefully this has helped even just one person out there. To you I say good luck, and may yours always be at the top of the pile.