How not to apply to a creative job: DUH edition

I've recently found myself on the other side of the search for employment—checking out prospectives. It's amazing to me with the amount of information available on the internets that people still make such huge, majorly dumb mistakes when applying for jobs. Or are just so incredibly lazy when the job market is still as stagnant as it is (I keep hearing about recovery, but haven't really seen any evidence for myself, so I refuse to believe it until I do. Until then, I equate it with the believability level of the Easter Bunny). Here are a few pointers for recent grads looking for employment in the creative field:

1.) Don't apply for something that requires years more experience than you have. For example, if you're still in grad school or have a degree in something unrelated to the position you're applying for—don't apply to a senior position thinking that's how you'll "break into" the field. You will look like a moron and you will waste the prospective employers' time—something no one appreciates.

2.) Common sense: if you're applying for a creative position, DO NOT SUBMIT A WORD RESUME. This really shouldn't even have to be stated, but for obvious reasons, a Word resume makes you look inexperienced. Fonts change, line breaks are terrible, not to mention Word is aggravating. Design your resume so that it's clean and readable. Don't make looking at it any more work than it has to be. And if you're worried that the employer can't open a PDF, then they have yet to enter this century and you wouldn't want to work for them anyway.

3.) Don't write a book for your resume. Keep it short and simple. In the creative field, this is a bit different than others. Let your work speak for itself, and if the employer wants to know more about your responsibilities, they will ask. Nothing is more annoying than someone bragging in three paragraphs about their job at Big Hotshot Agency.

4.) Take the time to know who you are writing your cover letter or email to. Usually, this takes a full thirty second perusal of the employer's site. You can also search for jsmith@blahblahblah.com if you think you might know the person's email but can't find it on the website. Sometimes people are wily with their contact information, but show that you care. Do the research. Certainly don't address it "To whom it may concern" or "Dear J. Smith"—you'll again look like a lazy idiot, especially if the information is readily available.

5.) Use proper punctuation in your email. Even though email is usually considered a less formal mode of communication, when you are applying to a job, err on the side of being grammatically proper. Just because you like to type in lowercase on Facebook does not mean you should do the same in your email. "i have a lot of experience in the creative field. please take a look at my work samples." No.

6.) It's good to have an attention-grabbing cover letter that isn't what an employer might expect, but you can't make it too weird. I know it's a fine line to walk, but ask a friend to read over your cover letter if you're going for the funny/unexpected angle, just to make sure other people are reading it in the way you intend it to be read. Also, make sure to tailor your cover letter to that particular employer as much as you can. It's pretty easy to tell when people use a canned email to send out mass job applications, and it won't do you any favors.

7.) Have a portfolio site. Whether that's your own site or Coroflot/AIGA or Carbonmade, have samples of your work online. Also, if you have your own site, make sure that it works. Make sure that you have work on it, and not just a landing page. Otherwise, you're again wasting your prospective employer's time. If you don't have an online presence, you won't be taken seriously.

8.) Make sure you direct the recipient of your application to your portfolio site or at least send a PDF of examples. If you're applying for a creative position without work to back it up, you're automatically in the trash pile. An employer is not going to take the time to email you back and ask for samples when there are plenty of people who have already sent examples of their work in.

9.) If you do send a PDF of work samples, make sure the resolution doesn't suck. Make sure it is well designed and organized and doesn't make people want to stab their eyes out with forks.

There you have it. I can't guarantee this will get anyone a job, but it should get you through the initial rounds of "This person is clearly a total idiot and has no chance at this job." Hey, it's a start, right? You can thank me later.