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Your interview started (or ended) the moment you clicked send

In an industry based on communication and relationship building, even more scrutiny is placed on both of those two things when you’re trying to get a job. So if your first point of contact is via email, or through an online social/professional network, you’d better take care to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in the trash sooner than you can click refresh.

Your best foot forward

According to an online job matching service that conducted a scientific eye-tracking analysis of 30 professional recruiters, each recruiter spent an average of six seconds reading each resume. SIX SECONDS… and reading resumes is their job. Essentially they scan the document for red flags like job hopping or green flags like minimum educational requirements and steady career progression.

A foot in the door

Sure, recruiters get hundreds more resumes per day than I do, but dealing with them in the fastest and most efficient manner is always a priority for me too. While I have a much higher average than six seconds, I’ll hit delete at the first chance I get. All it takes is a typo, an email that’s obviously been copied, pasted and sent en masse, a vague comment about “loving the great work your agency is doing” or worst of all, an arrogant tone. Believe it or not, some candidates honestly believe that because they’ve sent an email, they deserve the job. For example, I recently received a job application that simply said “I’m a copywriter who’s interested in working at your agency. Let me know.” That was it. Funnily enough, his application took me less than six seconds without any skimming.

Your foot in your mouth

It’s a fact, new business pitches are won or lost before you even walk into the room to present. Before you even meet the decision makers face to face. The same goes landing the job you want. Whether we like to admit it or not, it’s human nature to make assumptions based on whatever information we have at hand about any given applicant. Their name, education, where they grew up, the font they use in their cover letter and even what their email address is. Let’s face it, probably isn’t getting a callback for a client facing role.

So, in light of the current job seeking landscape where applicants have to get over their first hurdle with nothing more than an email and a link to set them apart from the pack, here are five tips that could help.

Become an eDM expert

When emailing about job opportunities, we often cobble together an email and a link, without dedicating the proper attention to a piece of communication with such gravitas. Before you even start the job hunt, it’s a good idea to create a url and an email address that help tell your story. Then dedicate enough time to curating your own catalogue of work. Even if you’re straight out of ad school, it’s a huge job which takes commitment, patience and careful editing. And finally, consider your subject line. Make it click-baity enough that the recipient can’t ignore it.

Talk to me, don’t spam me

When it’s time to send out job application emails, spend an extra minute or two and customize your message to the person you’re sending it to. Use their name, if you mention “loving their work” refer to campaign or brand specifics. Even go into as much detail as to identify what exactly it is that you love and why. Far too often, the old copy-and-pasted application email traps young, lazy players. They’re the kinds of emails that don’t get read because nobody reads spam. A tailored, direct and insightful email makes the author seem a lot more engaged and interesting.

Proofread everything

If you’re a writer with a typo in your portfolio or the body of your email, you’ll struggle to get hired as a writer. And don’t rely on spellcheck to save you. Check and double check everything. If you’re an art director and spelling isn’t your forte, get a friend to proofread your emails and portfolio for you. It sends a strong message about how much you care if your own website is full of careless mistakes, regardless of how beautifully laid out it is.

Don’t undersell but don’t oversell yourself

There’s no need to be apologetic or feel inferior about what you can contribute to the agency you’re applying to. Everyone starts somewhere and as an applicant for a junior role, no one is expecting you to be the one who carries the burden of the office on your own shoulders. You’ll be expected to play your part but it won’t all be up to you. So relax. At the same time, don’t try to convince an employer that you are the creative Messiah. You might well be the creative Messiah but the agency will soon figure that out for themselves through your creative output. As they say, don’t tell me you’re funny, tell me a joke and show me you’re funny. Prove your talents with some tailored proactive work for one of that agency’s clients. If nothing else you’ll get brownie points for trying.

Show me more than just the ads you’ve made

Taking on a role in an agency creative department means you’ll spend more time at that agency than you will anywhere else. You’ll see your colleagues more than you’ll see your loved ones. That’s why we look for people we want to spend time with, work hard with and have a drink with after the work has been done. So, while the strength of your advertising ideas is a major consideration, ideas manifest in all kinds of creative pursuits. Make sure you leave the reader knowing enough about you to pique their interests and follow up. Personally, I’m really interested in how creatives spend their time and exercise their creativity outside of advertising. Are you working on a side project or a hobby? Do you host a podcast? Do you have a business on Etsy? Do you cut stray dog’s hair at the dog shelter on weekends? I want to know. Not only could it come in handy for the agency or a client, but it speaks volumes about the candidate.

While I don’t miss the days of lugging around an actual leather-bound portfolio full of expensive and cumbersome proofs, I do miss the face to face contact that came with your presentation of it. As technology continues to save our time by reducing the need for human contact, the down side is obvious when human contact is exactly what we need. It’s really hard to stand out from a bunch of other emails in an inbox. Hopefully these tips will go a small way towards helping a new generation of creative talent crack the most important brief they’ll ever work on. Their own self-promotion.

Anthony Moss is the executive creative director of WhiteGrey in Melbourne, Australia.

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