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What I Wish Applicants Knew

by Jennifer Stewart | Jul 16, 2014 | Advice

The advantage studio owners have over potential employees is that we know what it’s like to be on the other side. I don’t think anyone could go through the job search process without having that painful time burned into their memory banks. It’s tough trying to look through job posts, reading through boring lists of requirements, getting excited about a particular company only to find that you don’t qualify, seeing a position you do qualify for but finding the company rather boring. It’s rough being the applicant, but it’s also pretty rough on the other side. Having been a studio owner for over five years now, I’ve been surprised to learn that this side of the equation is a bit of a hair-pulling experience as well, so I thought I’d share my insight for anyone who wants to know how the other side experiences job hunting.

I Wrote That Job Description for a Reason

Think about writing a job description for a minute. As a studio owner you have to create some imaginary person in your head who will have all the qualifications you need, the internal desire to get the work done, the commitment to do it right, and none of the bad habits that will make you want to set fire to the studio and get a job in insurance instead. It’s fricking hard. Writing a job description and then the corresponding job post takes days if not weeks. So when you send me an application saying that you don’t fit the qualifications, you basically say to me “You think you know what you want, but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong,” or “I didn’t really bother to read what you wrote.” Guess how that makes me feel about you?

Tell Me WHY You Want to Work HERE

When you write a cover letter to any small studio, you are probably writing to the owner. When you are writing to the owner, you are writing to a person who probably spent the first 3-5 years of their company’s existence working 100 hour weeks and living in complete poverty as they tried to keep their lives together. An owner who probably still routinely pulls 60 hour weeks and is still pouring their every ounce of energy into that studio which is likely their dream. So when you write a cover letter that in no way indicates that you have researched their company, or give a damn about what type of work they do, or indicates why you would like to work at that specific studio, you are much like a person who is applying to nanny a child, but believes all kids are the same. You think you’re looking for a job, but a small studio owner is looking for someone to help take care of their baby.

Show Me Your BEST Work

The stuff you make in your freshman year of college is probably going to be crap, right? So why would you display it? Yes, perhaps you only have one project displaying your app design skills, but if you know the type is too small and the buttons wouldn’t even fit an infant’s fingers, then take it out. Leaving bad work in your portfolio alongside good work is like a chef boiling two pots of water and making a perfectly poached egg in one and a pile of boiled cat feces in the other. Yeah, you can cook anything, but you also have no taste. I’d rather see a few solid projects than wonder why you think your crappy project is good enough to show.

I Have No Time to Respond

Yesterday I spent four hours after work going through resumes and portfolios. I made it through twenty-five. I expect our job posts will garner about 200-300 applications. This is what economists mean when they say job searches are expensive for companies. I work really hard to respond to those who have made an effort to send me a thoughtful application (and I completely ignore those who obviously made no effort), but I now totally understand those studio owners that just don’t respond to applications at all. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they can’t find the time.

If You Don’t Qualify, You Don’t Qualify

We’ve all heard stories of people getting jobs they don’t qualify for, but what you don’t know is how they got the job. More than likely they knew someone who got them in. I say this because any job post will have a giant stack of resumes that fit the position description perfectly, so why look at someone who doesn’t? That’s not harsh, that’s just logical. If you want to get a job that’s a stretch, start networking.

I Don’t Want to Hurt Your Feelings

Occasionally I will have someone follow up with me, asking why they were not selected for interviewing. I understand these emails, but I hate them. Sometimes it’s easy because I can just point to the obvious gap in their work or skills and help them understand where they fell short. Plenty of times, however, I don’t know where to start because the entire portfolio is bad. Remember that person in your design class who always produced work that made you wonder what they were thinking and why they wanted to be a designer because they obviously had bad taste and no talent? Yeah, that person applies to work here too. How would you critique their portfolio? See my dilemma?!

While writing this post was a bit cathartic, it was also written in an effort to show a little more transparency in the hiring process, which I know can be rough for everyone. It’s my hope that a little more transparency can help both sides understand one another and maybe make it all a lot easier on everyone.

Happy applying and good luck with your job search!

(PS – If you’re interested in helping take care of our baby, check out our Contact page for any open positions.)

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.- Mark Twain