Job Application Basics and Tips

Why Resumes Get Deleted: Job Application Basics

Applying for a job in a creative field?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily mean you get to be creative with your job application.

We recently dismissed 90% of the applications I received for an assistant-level position at Pressler Collaborative.  In other words, where I am open to entertaining varied work experience and career goals (versus a manager or director position, which usually requires relevant experience), which isn’t common from employers in this talent-rich market, I have to draw the line at anything less than an impeccable first impression.

I do love creativity in introductions – a personalized logo on a resume or clever turn of phrase in an intro letter — but you don’t get to branch out until you master the basics.

And here are the basics.  Most of this goes for unconventional professionals like actors and artists as well, so listen up!

If Your Resume Was Deleted, It Was For One of These Reasons:

You did not have a cover letter or introductory email.

Your letter or resume has a spelling or grammar error.

Your intro email was poorly written.  I can’t trust you to communicate on behalf of my company if you can’t do so for yourself.

Nothing in your cover letter/email indicated that you are aware of the job or company for which you’re applying.  Cut & paste doesn’t cut it; it only takes five seconds to insert the company name and position into your letter – that’s the minimum that should be done to personalize your intro.

Your email address is not very close to the format [firstnamelastname {at}].  I know of some companies, especially in the tech field, that delete anyone with hotmail or yahoo addresses, and while that’s probably not happening everywhere, you should probably not use “” or “”

You used anything other than a basic, readable font.  You added frivolous images.  You used a (gasp!) stationery background color or some other visual that indicates you are not aware it is 2011.

You’ve had too many jobs in too short a time period, and didn’t explain why.  You’ve had lots of internships and no jobs and it isn’t clear why.

You are overqualified.  The problem with overqualification is that we can’t afford to pay you what you’re worth, or we fear you won’t be happy in this role and we’ll have to hire again in a few months.  If you’re truly willing to move backward in your career/income level, you must explain why.

You are from another industry.  I’m a big champion of changing careers or industries if it’s a deliberate, passionate decision, BUT if you’re truly willing to move backward in your career/income level, you must explain why.

You are clearly still pursuing another career.  If you are an actor or musician looking for a day job, tell me and explain why this will benefit my company.

You live in another city and did not explain why you are looking for work in this one.

Some Very Basic Tips to Get To Round 2:

Submit your resume in PDF, not Word.

Clearly label your resume with your entire name at minimum.

Have an introductory letter that explains why you are a unique candidate.  Focus on how you will solve my company’s problems over telling me what you are seeking.

If you have an inside contact or connection to me or my company, indicate this in the subject line or first sentence of your email.

There must be text in the body of the email.

Extra Credit Tips

Bullet point your top 3-5 qualities or experience in your letter.

List your skills.

Always, always be honest.  Don’t try to guess what we’re looking for; be honest, clear, and descriptive so we can make an informed decision.

If you really want the job, search someone from the company on Facebook or LinkedIn and find out if you have a contact in common who can put in a good word for you.

Some of the best applications I’ve seen very honestly explain traditional “no-no’s” – gaps in employment, lots of turnover, transition from another career or industry.  Control your own image by narrating your own story.

Bottom Line: It’s a competitive market in any field. As with all things in business, make others’ lives and jobs easier and you will be more successful. Good luck!