Not everyone is cut out for the life of a freelancer, and running your own business means you’ll spend more time managing that business than you will actually taking photos. If that sounds like you, then an in-house position as a photographer, videographer, or all-around multimedia person sounds right up your alley. I spoke with 2 people who have been hiring people like you for years, and they shared with me some deal-makers and deal-breakers when it comes to a potential job candidate.
My resources for this article included Christopher Billick, who has been a Supervisor at creative agencies and is now the Director of Digital Media at the University of Michigan. It also includes comments from Jennifer Meunier, who has worked in Human Resources for over 15 years with various businesses across the US, and is now an HR Specialist at Osprey Packs Inc. I asked them a long list of questions, and then rewrote their comments as the tips you’ll find below.
Both have had experience dealing with the hiring of creative talent, including multimedia personnel, which includes photography. And this leads me to the first tip.
In-house positions called “Photographer” or “Video Editor” can sometimes be loaded descriptions.
Having a well-rounded set of skills can make a strong impact on your potential employer. Most in-house positions will not only call for skills and experience in the job noted in the title, but other creative areas. For a photographer, this often means video shooting and editing skills, some graphic design experience, and in some cases web coding and design skills.
The devil of the cover letter is in the details.
A cover letter needs to contain sincere interest while conveying a sense of humility. Not only that, but it needs to be customized to the particular job and employer. If it’s calling out for more skills on the post-side of things, be sure to mention that.
The design of your resume can impact your chances to be hired.
The key here is to not go overboard. Keep things subtle and clean. For a creative role it can be a bonus, but it isn’t necessary as a portfolio will do the talking. Something that is easy to read, but has an interesting touch can set a resume apart form the rest of the pack that might have been written in Time New Roman or Cambria.
Having an “Objective” can be a waste of space altogether.
Something that will immediately result in a resume going into the “no” pile is a misaligned objective. It can sometimes be best to omit them altogether. The cover letter may be a place to discuss aspirations, or during an in-person interview.
First comes the cover letter, then comes the portfolio.
Don’t underestimate the value of a well-written cover letter. It’s often the first stop for people in the hiring process, and if you have omitted one when the application has specifically requested one, don’t expect to hear back. If your cover letter is readable and free of errors, you’ll likely have your portfolio reviewed.
Once the links shared in the application have been viewed, then additional information from business websites or links to other Vimeo, Flickr, etc. resources may be viewed. It helps to point out exactly what your role was in a creative process as well.
If you get a phone or skype pre-interview, do your homework.
Having a copy of the job description handy, doing homework on the company and creating thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer(s) is key. Make sure to be patient and listen to questions asked, writing them down to make sure answers stay on track. And DO NOT call in from or give the number to, your current employer to have the phone conversation from.
Having your work on Vimeo or Flickr is OK, but a personally made and professional-looking digital portfolio is best.
Generally speaking, YouTube, Vimeo, or Flickr are standard elements that are seen when hiring for creatives. Saying that, having at least a simple collection on a portfolio site goes the extra mile.
Physical portfolios aren’t generally wanted unless specifically requested.
Large cumbersome prints or media packages sent ahead of time by a candidate’s initiation… and then them asking for the portfolio materials to be sent back… don’t do that. Digital presentation is best for people in digital multimedia departments. And when you do submit those, make the links direct. When the recruiter must go from link, to link, to link to view what someone intended to present, or if they have compatibility issues and won’t display right for everyone… that’s going to be a big fail.
If you get the interview, dress a touch better than you would if you already had the job.
If it’s a super casual place of work, then designer jeans and a tailored shirt look would do. However even if you might wear jeans and a t-shirt in the position, stepping up your appearance is a signal that you’re taking the process seriously. The custom can be different regionally and by industry, so it really pays to do your homework for this step.
Having questions for the interviewer is vital.
An immediate dealbreaker is not having anything to ask the about the position or company. You have to have a genuine interest, and the people you’re meeting with can smell BS a mile away. Don’t walk in overconfident, or ever misspeak about the company’s products or audience– it reveals that you haven’t done your homework.
Be an active participant in the conversation, and keep it relaxed.
Sincere interest in the role and obvious research done by the candidate about the company is appealing. If the interview turns into a lively discussion rather than a Q&A, you probably nailed it.
It doesn’t hurt to send a follow up note.
As old-fashioned as it may be – sending a note of thanks (e-mail is fine) within a day of an interview still makes a good impression – unless the company specifically requests that no communication be initiated by the candidate. Also, if you don’t get the job, be gracious. Just because you didn’t get role you just interviewed for, it doesn’t mean the company won’t keep you in mind for another job they have down the road.
Thanks to Christopher and Jennifer for their helpful input on this topic. For everyone else, best of luck on your next interview!