After you go through all of the time to find job listings, polish your resume and submit it, it can be soul-crushing not to hear back at all. What’s going on? What are you missing? And how can you fix it? Read on…
Today’s questions comes from Anthony C. who asks, “I’ve sent in my resume to a couple of different places and haven’t gotten any calls back. What am I doing wrong?”
Well, the bad news is that there are some pretty common things that keep people from getting calls for interviews after they apply for a job. But the good news is that it’s all entirely fixable.
Let’s dig right into that list, shall we?
1. You don’t have an online portfolio.
If you’ve been following our site for a while (or if you’re a member of the Academy), then this one probably isn’t a surprise. On the other hand, if this is news, let me break it down for you: You absolutely must have an online portfolio. Your online portfolio shows prospective clients and bosses that you are capable of writing copy the way that you say you can. It “pre-sells” you, so to speak.
If you don’t have an online portfolio, you won’t be taken seriously as a professional copywriter. Case closed.
But again, this is entirely fixable. Sites like virb.com, wix.com, imcreator.com and squarespace.com make it pretty easy to create an online portfolio even if you have no design skills, whatsoever. (You can go the wordpress.org route, too, though that has a bit steeper of a learning curve.)
2. You don’t have experience.
This has a couple of components: You don’t have any paid copywriting experience and the subsequent ads on your site, you don’t have any spec ads up on your side, and/or your resume is loaded with things that have nothing to do with copywriting.
The problem with applying to a job with no experience (and, as this implies, no training or real knowledge of copywriting) is that it essentially says to the creative director, “I don’t know how to do this, but how hard can it be?” And that’s really not the message you want to send, right?
Of course not. So, if you haven’t gotten training yet, start there. The big mistake a lot of would-be copywriters make is to think that because they know how to write, they know how to write copy. It’s a specific career skillset; of course it requires training! And worthwhile training should also teach you how to create your spec ads and get your first paid copywriting work. (A training like that used to be hard to find—that’s why we created ours.)
3. You’re applying for too high a level—without explanation.
This scenario comes into play when a company or agency is looking for a senior copywriter and you apply for the job, even though you’re at a junior level—and you don’t reference that level difference at all in your application, you just send in your application with your fingers crossed.
Well, the big problem isn’t that you applied for the wrong level; it’s that you didn’t say anything about it. Not mentioning it implies that you don’t understand that you’re applying for a level that’s beyond where you are right now. Plus, you’re wasting a creative director’s time.
On the other hand, if you send in a note that says, “I know that you’re looking for a senior copywriter and I’m not at that level, but I wanted to offer my services in case you need any help until you find the right candidate” you’re actually being useful. Sure, they may not take advantage of your offer—but then again, they just might. And they might find that they don’t need a senior copywriter after all; they just need you!
4 You sent a boring cover letter.
You’re a writer! And you’re applying for a job wherein people would pay you to write! It is absolutely inexcusable to send in a boring, average, templated cover letter.
Your cover letter needs to be interesting and dynamic—and, most importantly, it needs to sell you as the best candidate for the job. You know benefits are crucial in copywriting, so what’s your benefit to consumer? What do you bring to the table that no one else does? What’s your USP? Use all of this to create your cover letter and give your creative director something that’s really worth reading!
5. You sent your resume to the HR person.
Or, you submitted it through the website. “Wait,” I hear you saying, “Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? That’s what the job listing says to do!” And that’s true. That’s what they want you to do, because they want the HR person/internal recruiter to weed out all of the people that aren’t right for the job before resumes get passed on to the creative director.
But the problem is that the internal recruiter isn’t a creative. He or she doesn’t understand all of the nuances of experience and, most likely, was given a list of “must-have” words by the creative director and is tossing out all resumes that don’t have those words in them. Well, you and I both know that that’s not how creative work actually works. Just because you don’t have financial experience doesn’t mean your tech experience wouldn’t make you a fabulous writer for this company.
The internal recruiter is the gatekeeper. And whenever possible (whenever they don’t explicitly say resumes won’t be accepted outside of their online submission system), try to bypass that gatekeeper and get your resume right to the creative director. The creative director understands that experience is transferrable—and will probably have special appreciation for your willingness to go the extra mile. Do an online search and find out who the creative director is, then send your info to him or her.
Are these all the possible reasons you might not get called back? Of course not. Maybe they found a great candidate right before they saw your resume. Maybe you just don’t have the experience they’re looking for. Maybe it’s Tuesday, and the creative director sets fire to all of Tuesday’s mail. (Okay, that’s probably least likely, but you know what I’m saying.) There’s no way to know for sure why you’re not getting called back, but fixing these five mistakes will give you the best chance at success.
Your turn! What’s tripped you up in the job application process? Let us know in the comments below!