First contact

Not a week goes by that I don’t receive correspondence from a graduate, and sometimes even someone with some work experience under his or her belt, asking whether we have any positions available at Fireloop Towers.

Not to want to sound like I’m getting on my high horse, but the number of letters and CVs we receive from jobseekers who have made some (fairly) simple schoolboy errors in their approach is ever increasing.

Now, I’m a fairly easy-going guy, but having done some stints at agencies across the UK, I know there are some Creative Directors, HR Managers and so forth out there who are a lot less understanding of these minor errors than I am, so in the spirit of Good Will to All Men (and Women), I thought it’s time for some of us to give a little bit back to those without the benefit of experience and post a Top 10 dos and don’ts of landing a job in the design industry, no matter what level you are at…

  1. DO find out the name of the person you need to send your CV to.
    There’s nothing worse than receiving a letter or email to ‘Dear Sir / Madam’, it’s probably the first thing that will get the back up of any prospective employer. It takes 2 minutes to call an agency’s receptionist and ask for the name of whom you need to send your correspondence to. I guarantee that 99% of the time you’ll be given a pointer of who to approach by the person who answers the phone, unless they’re having a seriously bad day, but if you don’t get one and are fobbed off, either try again later or check online, plenty of agencies have their staff on their sites. No matter what, try to get a name on your approach letter or email, it looks like you’ve made at least some effort and want to land a role there…
  2. DON’T copy or blind copy a bunch of agencies into your email.
    This follows on from the last line of point 1 – make your approach personal. We’ve received emails from jobseekers telling us how much they love our work and our company, how they really want to work for us and then noticed we’ve been copied in with 10 other agencies in to the ‘to’ field. You’re just shooting yourself in the foot. Okay, we know that you’re approaching 9 other agencies for a role with them too, just don’t let us know it. It completely undermines all of those nice things you’ve said about us as you’re telling everyone else the same thing.
  3. DO send some examples of your work.
    If you’re a web designer and don’t have a PDF to send, include some URLs in your cover letter, email or on your CV. The best thing, whether print or new media is your speciality, is if you have a portfolio site though, as spam filters can catch attachments. A link stands more chance of getting through and doesn’t block web connections either…
  4. DO make sure files are small.
    Again, following on from the last point, if you do send an attachment, put a bit of thought into it and make sure you’re not sending 50Mb files!
  5. DO follow up on what you’ve sent.
    Okay, this is the scary bit as everyone hates rejection. Call to check your CV / letter / email /showreel or whatever has been received and chances are you will be told whether there is an opportunity at that company there and then. At the same time, you may get fobbed off by a receptionist and fail to get through to the person you sent your CV to. Ask if there’s a good time to call them again, be persistent, but not annoying. If you fail to get a response after a few tries, send something else to them in two or three months like a postcard or email, there could be a chance they weren’t looking to recruit when you first contacted them, but could be later on.
  6. DO dress appropriately to an interview.
    Okay, so you’ve been invited to interview. Well done. There are two trains of thought regarding dressing for interview. The first one I subscribe to is that even if the job you are going for is a dustbin man, you turn up to the interview in a suit, but the rule of thumb these days seems to be to dress as smartly as appropriate, so smart casual if you are going for a creative role, suit if the role is client facing, new business or involves any interaction with the MD. The best advice – if you’re not sure, go for the suit…
  7. DON’T act inappropriately at an interview.
    A given really. Bribery, flirting, swearing, spitting, picking your nose should all be left outside the door…. even though they may be the cornerstone values of your previous agency!
  8. DO end an interview if you need to.
    I’ve never actually done this, but there have been times I’ve come out of an interview and wished I had done. If you feel you are wasting your time and the interviewers time, ask to end the interview. Okay, sometimes you have to expect a grilling depending on the level of company you have an interview at, or the personality of the interviewer, but if you are 100% sure at the start of it that you do not wish to pursue a role at the agency even if you are offered one, politely end the interview. It’s better to save face than suffer. Honestly.
  9. DO be positive.
    Another simple one, but I’ve lost at least one job role because of an off day and a negative attitude! If you’ve had a bad day, take 5 or 10 minutes before hand to take a breather and calm down.
  10. DON’T be late.
    Okay, traffic is getting worse across the country, but try and give yourself as much time as humanly possible to get to your interview. If you are going after work, just let the agency know you’re travelling in the rush hour; they’ll appreciate the heads up that you may be late. But do try and get their earlier, this will afford you some time to get your head together beforehand and calm down before interview.

And that’s it. Simple rules, but follow ‘em and you can’t go too far wrong in landing your new role at that agency you’ve got your eye on… Once you’ve understood this, the next step in the road to web nirvana is to understand that the customer is king online as much as they are in your shop, office, over the phone or at their premises even…

It’s a point I touched upon in the post where I mentioned giving your site visitors meaningful reasons to visit your site and to keep coming back. The strategy is a simple one – give your customer content you think they want, then follow that activity up by engaging them in meaningful dialogue that will tell you if you got your thinking right, then adapt your content accordingly to maintain their interest and develop brand loyalty.

The web exists as one of the best sources of market research for your business.

Nowhere will you find some of the most opinionated potential customers than online. The level of anonymity it affords the public enables them to express their thoughts with little repercussions. Whether this feedback is positive or negative, embrace it’s power – use it to make your offering stronger in the same way that brands such as Apple and Timberland do by allowing customers to make disparaging remarks about their products on their own websites.

These two companies see the power it gives them in allowing their customers to feed back, both positive and negative, and use that to ensure their customers come round and then keep coming back.

Engage your customer online, treat them like royalty, let them have their say about the content of your site and your product, use it for continuous improvement and they’ll keep coming back time and time again…


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