As someone who both reviews job applications (as an Account Lead at Grenadier in Boulder, CO) and helps students prepare theirs (as a teacher of Creative Account Management at the University of Colorado Boulder), Eric Forsyth is the perfect person to turn to for tips on applying for a job. (His 6.5 years at CP+B in Boulder, London and Miami help too!) Let's get into it—here's Eric.
As you’re preparing to send out those introductory emails and cover letters, here are 5 tips to help you stand out from other hopeful contenders and more successfully land that job:
1) Reconsider sending many of those longshot intro emails. A focused and customized approach will put you above a “spray & pray” applicant every time. It can be liberating to let go of a lot of effort that yields lousy results and frees up precious brain power and time for outreach that’s more likely to result in good conversations with shops that are a good fit. If you can start with an in-person introduction, intro from a mutual contact, phone call, snail-mail letter, or even a small box of cookies, do that first. Don’t start with the unsolicited cold email if you can help it. Quality over quantity.
2) Prove that you know your audience. Know who they are and what they do. Anyone who truly cares is going to put in time to research the details that prove they aren’t sending a fill-in-the-blank, copy+paste intro. And don’t make it seem like you just discovered this agency (even if you just did). If you had a dime for every email I’ve received that used the exact words “I stumbled on your website,” you wouldn’t need to look for a job.
3) A “value letter” instead of a cover letter. Some are calling these “pain letters”. It’s the same idea, but with a positive focus: point out the ways in which your presence in the hiring manager’s life would be invaluable in addressing everyday hurdles. You’re not just a person that will show up, work, and accept a paycheck. You’ve got a very particular set of skills, and here’s how those skills would make their life demonstrably better. Again, being specific requires research and time. See a theme?
4) Keep it short, clear, and not too formal. As the widely attributed quote goes, “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” Take the time. It’s worth it. While you’re deciding which crucial words stay and which can go, don’t forget to be yourself. Overall self-awareness will really help in keeping it authentic, but still appealing. (In my case, I need to remember to be myself, but the least annoying version of myself.)
5) Know exactly what job you’re going for. This seems to be a tricky one for young and hungry students looking for their first break. It’s good that you’re willing to do grunt work anywhere in the agency—don’t lose that scrappy fire! Even if you don’t quite yet know what you want to be doing in 10 years, that isn’t the employer’s problem. They need new hires to have a motivated focus and geek out on becoming the best [account person/ strategist/writer/art director/producer] they can be. It’s safe to assume you’re competing with a stranger who's buttoned up and focused. The solid smarty pants that's ready to jump in a specific open slot will win over the flexible “hard worker and fast learner” 9/10 times.
You got this!
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