As the owner of a creative services firm which has managed over 3,000 productions in my day, I've seen a tremendous amount of resumes and job inquiries come across my desk. On average, I receive between 10-12 per week. At a rough translation, that means I see about 500-600 per year. I'm certainly grateful that there has been this much interest in joining my team but I do have one piercing observation: Landing Your Dream Video Production Job Takes A Little Work!
First, let me describe what usually arrives in my inbox. It's the result of filling out the form below, which is what prospective employees or freelancers are presented with when they view our careers page:
EXAMPLE APPLICATION FORM
Amazingly, when these applications come through, I usually only see their name, contact info and resume. No personal note, no demo reel....just the bare minimum. And typically, the resume itself becomes an Easter egg hunt of trying to figure out how to decipher what a given person's core skills are and how they might be able to help out with our ongoing needs. You've got my attention - the person who may consider hiring you for a dream video production job - so please don't make it difficult to connect the dots!
The good news is, I've hired quite a few freelancers and full-time employees that began with them filling out our web application form. Each one of them got my attention by taking the time to address a few critical points and the rest, as they say, was history. Many of them have went on to have splendid careers, both with Richter Studios and beyond.
So, you ask, what did they do to stand out? Well, I'm glad you asked...
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH: If you really want to get a prospective employer's attention, take the time to review their website and get a sense for how you can help their company. I can't stress this enough. Read their blogs, view their portfolio, review their team page and get a great sense for where their sweet spot is. Take notes and put some real time into thinking about what your message should be to them. They are the gatekeepers to what could potentially be an incredible creative kingdom for you, so plan your approach with careful consideration and respect. Their time will always be very limited and, quite frankly, they aren't waking up everyday thinking about how they can help you. Your research and subsequent inquiry to them should be about how you can make their life easier and more productive. Do your research first!
2. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM, NOT YOU: This is a particularly HUGE pet peeve of mine. Without trying to sound abrasive, the cold, hard reality is that most production companies don't care to hear about your life story. What they do want to hear about, though, is how you can help them. This sentiment applies to the 95%+ of inquiries I receive that include a sentence along the lines of "I think it would be really great to work for your company so I can improve my skills and grow my career." An alternative approach I would recommend - one that will likely get you a much better response - would be more along the lines of "I want to contribute to some great creative and make a real difference for your company." You would be surprised how successful your efforts will be if you shift the focus from yourself to them…
3. INCLUDE YOUR DEMO REEL: In the production industry, your demo reel is the single most important thing you can share with a prospective employer. Make it an engaging summary of your skill set and aim for it to be two minutes or less. If you don't have one, spend a weekend sorting that out ASAP. Be descriptive where you can, mentioning the specific After Effects tools you used for a featured animation treatment, how quickly you edited a killer sequence, etc. Long story short, make it easy for others to understand your skill set and, even more importantly, what specific parts of your demo reel you actually did yourself. Yes, more leg work is required to do this but this is your dream job we're talking about!
4. INCLUDE A GREETING: It's always a good idea to introduce yourself when passing along a resume. Include a sentence or two for this and then get to the heart of the matter. Specifically, this is the opportunity for you to spend a majority of your words talking about what you can do for the prospective employer to make them more successful. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and avoid the mistake of "Faking it until you make it." If you are not sincere in your sentiment or intent about trying to helping them, your efforts are likely going to be fruitless. If you write/say it to them, mean it and your career will very likely return the favor in kind at some point down the road.
5: FOLLOW-UP FREQUENTLY: Nothing beats persistence. After you've submitted your resume, stay on your prospective employer! Just hitting them up once and hoping to win the lottery is never a good strategy. Follow-up once a month to keep the conversation going. As an example, I always tell freelancers to stay in touch and send frequent updates of other projects they are working on. The ones that do almost always get an opportunity to work with my company. As I receive hundreds of inquiries annually, there's no chance I would remember all of them. However, the ones that stay on me and keep demonstrating their value have a much better chance of getting frequent work.
Jeremy Richter is the CEO of Richter Studios, a boutique video production firm based in Chicago. In business for nearly 20 years, they offer a full-range of creative services. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @jeremyarichter.