How To Apply For a Creative Job Via Email

I did some research to see what other people were saying on the topic of email applications. I found heaps of very similar advice, like this gem from the Huffington Post on the correct way to say that you’ve attached your CV to an email;

“Below my signature, I have included a copy of my resume which I am submitting for your East Overshoe Senior Customer Service Representative position, # 12345. A Word 2010 version of the resume (YOURNAME-Customer-Service-Rep-resume.doc) is also attached for your convenience. Please let me know if another format is preferred.”

Fuck me.

I think your tone should be different if you’re after a creative role. Maybe the above corporate speak works for ‘normal’ people. If you’re looking to get a job with me or other business owners that I know, I can’t imagine anything more likely to make our eyes glaze over as we throw your email onto the ‘no’ pile. That being said, don’t be overly pal-ey either, we hate that too. You’ve got to walk a delicate tightrope of professionalism.

Yeah, we don’t make it easy for you guys, do we?

My company Graffiti Life recently advertised for a graphic designer. After spending the last two days sifting through nearly 200 applications for the position, I’ve come up with some tips to help your next job application, based on the most common mistakes I’ve seen.

1. Stand out from the crowd.

If you’re a job seeker there is a lot of competition. We advertised on just one website and received 190 applications. The winning applicant doesn’t necessarily have to be better than 189 other people, but they do need to stand out. We received an incredible, fully edited, video application, a hand-painted skate deck through the post and lots of hand tailored work made specifically for the application.

If you’re going for a position that you really care about then spend a little bit longer on your application. In the time it takes to spam apply for 50 jobs you don’t care about you could write a brilliant application for one that you do. “People buy people” is a famous business cliché, but it’s true. Think about how you can get your personality across as well as your talent.


2. Be careful with copy & paste.

If you’re applying to a bunch of jobs it’s fine to copy and paste text to use as a base, but make sure that you tailor the text to the company you’re speaking to. It might work for you on Tinder, but trust me, we can spot generic messages a mile away.

Equally important is to make sure you check your formatting. Here’s an excerpt from an application we received:

“…make me an excellent candidate for the position at Graffiti Life. As specified in my CV…”

As soon as we spot that you’ve added our company name to your generic text because you didn’t change the font we don’t feel special. Delete.

3. Make the employer’s job as easy as possible.

We get a lot of cold emails, along the lines of “hi, do you have any vacancies?” We’ve employed two members of staff off the back of cold emails, so it can work. However, the vast majority end up in the bin. Send your potential employer everything that you think would be relevant, don’t wait to be asked for it. I’ve lost count of the number artists who email us to ask if we’re taking on new artists but don’t include a link to their work…. I wish I had time to email you back and ask you for your portfolio. But I don’t, so include it.

Keep words in the body of the email down to a minimum, use your cover letter to make your pitch. If you write paragraphs of text in the body of the email, trust me, no one is reading it, especially if they have 189 other applications to get through. Keep it short – but herein lays the challenge, catch their eye (see point 1). Think about how you consume content. When you’re reading a blog post you scan the page, read the headlines and decide if it’s worth your time to dig deeper. Guess what? We do the same when we read your email.

If you are including a portfolio (or a link to one) make it clear and easy to locate and view. Don’t bury important info in a sea of words. State if you want full time or part time, links to your social media and relevant work experience for the specific role. Be clear.


4. Get it right first time.

Triple check your email and make sure you’ve attached everything before you press send. One premature communicator forgot to attach a CV and had to send it in a second email. He said this was because he was “so excited” at the prospect of working with us that he had gotten “carried away”. Nice try.

Check for typos. Use Grammarly. Use spell check. Ask your mum to read it over. If you don’t pay attention to detail in your application, the hiring manager will subconsciously wonder what else you might miss if they hire you.

You have approximately 30 seconds to get my attention. If you do, I’ll go deeper, read your cover letter and visit your portfolio site. My job is to narrow down candidates, I have no choice but to be ruthless; meaning that one false move eliminates your application. I’m actually glad when I hit a mistake because I can delete you and move on to the next email (sorry). Get the little details right the first time, don’t give them an excuse.

Next time you email a job application, if your work is good; follow these four steps and you’ll get noticed.

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