When it comes to job applications, there is a right way and a wrong way to apply. We often hear from frustrated job applicants who have applied for 50+ jobs and not gotten an interview. Sometimes, their resume is part of the problem, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. There are multiple steps you need to take to apply for jobs effectively, and we’ll walk you through them here.
Step 1: Identify openings that are appropriate for you. You might think the more jobs you apply for, the better chance you'll have at getting called for an interview from one of them. But hiring managers aren’t interested in candidates who don’t meet their needs or seem enthusiastic about the role, so there’s no point in applying blindly for any job you think you might be remotely qualified for just to see what happens. Instead, you should read job postings carefully and determine if the role is right for you. Do you meet most of the qualifications listed in the posting (without being overqualified)? Are you excited about the responsibilities listed? Are you interested in the projects the company is working on? If the answer is no, move on. But if this role feels like a fit, continue to step 2.
Step 2: Prepare your application materials. Determine what materials the job posting is asking for (typically a resume, often a cover letter, and maybe a portfolio or other work samples), and get everything ready to submit. To do this correctly, you’ll want to tailor your materials to the job posting. In the case of your resume, this means looking at the skills called for in the posting and tweaking the structure of your resume and/or verbiage of your summary or bullet points to highlight those specific skills. Similarly, make sure you write a fresh, new cover letter that explains why it makes sense for this particular hiring manager to hire you for this specific role. Avoid generic cover letters at all costs. And if work samples or any other materials are requested, choose those that align with the company or show’s brand (if they're not requested, don't include them). Keep in mind that this step takes time. Don’t rush through your application preparation!
Step 3: Formally submit your application. Follow the directions on the job posting precisely, and submit your materials exactly as requested. If there are any special instructions, show attention to detail by adhering to them. Then, write down the job ID number and/or reference number if you are given one. Most importantly, THIS IS NOT THE LAST STEP! As crazy as it sounds, this part of the application is not the most important. Typically to be successful in your Hollywood job applications, you need referrals. So make sure you don’t stop here – proceed to step 4!
Step 4: Prepare a list of referral targets. Sign on to LinkedIn, search the company you are applying to, and look up the list of employees who work there. Are any of them first-degree connections (meaning, you are connected to them directly and actually know them)? If so, put them at the top of your list of referral targets who you will reach out to ask if they can pass your resume along to the hiring manager. If you don’t have any first-degree connections, check to see if you have any second-degree connections (someone you know who knows someone at the company, ideally in a department that’s close to the one you are applying for). List anyone you know well who knows someone at the company, along with more distant contacts who knows someone either in or very close to the hiring department. A good rule of thumb is that you can reach out to anyone for help whom you'd be happy to help in return. Finally, look up any recruiters or other employees at the company who may be overseeing hiring for the role. If the role is posted on LinkedIn, you may even be able to see who posted it! With a list in hand, determine who to reach out to first. Ideally you’ll be able to get 2-3 people to refer you to a position. The people who know you the best are going to be your best bet, but sometimes their contacts don’t always pan out, so be prepared to work your way down the list.
Step 5: Reach out to ask for referrals. Send an email to any of your first degree contacts at the company to ask if they can pass along your resume directly to the hiring manager for a specific role. If you only have second-degree contacts at the company, email the first-degree contact who links you to ask for a warm intro or to send your resume/a referral to their contact at the company -- the specific ask will depend on how close you are to the first-degree contact and what team the second-degree contact is on. It's critical here to communicate via email and not through the LinkedIn messaging platform, and not to reach out to the second-degree contact coldly. (If you don't have any first or second-degree connections and you're reaching out to a recruiter, you can do so via a cold email or LinkedIn message, but that should be your last resort). In your email, make sure you are specific about what role you are applying for (including a link – very important!), and even though it might seem like overkill, add a small amount of background information about yourself and why you think this role would be a fit. This makes the referrer’s job easier, as they can simply forward your email along to the right person. Keep at this process until you have at least a couple of people who are willing to go to bat for you, or until you have heard back from a recruiter that your materials are going to be viewed by someone in the department. As with your application materials, this step is time consuming, but if you can stick with the process a bit to ensure your resume gets into a real person’s hands, you will have a significantly better chance at getting an interview than someone who stopped their application process at step 3.
As we said, this five-step process isn't always quick! It doesn’t allow you to apply for 20 jobs a day…and that’s ok! There’s no way that there are 20 postings up in a day that you are genuinely excited about. If you can target your search and put more effort into the jobs you are passionate about, you’ll have better luck getting interviews, and you’ll ultimately be much happier when you end up in a role that actually feels like a great fit.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan