10 Tips On Applying For A Job In The Music Industry
Getting a job is tricky, eh? There’s no denying that and I’m not going to turn this blog into a meretricious left of centre jerkwater think piece on what government reform should be taking place in order for our generation not to be wholly bent over by a bunch of suits who thought the idea of quantitative easing would titivate the economy back to how it was in their glorious Etonian days…
Anyhow… Here at Sentric we’ve grown a fair amount since we launched this fanciful idea of a music publishing for all Shangri-La back in 2006 and as well as our main base in the glorious North West of England we also have staff in London, Germany, Holland and the States.
Basically, in the past few years especially, we’ve been doing a lot of recruiting and it was during this process recently when I realised a lot of folk applying were doing some very basic things a little daftly. With that in mind, I thought this post might be able to steer some people in the right direction when trying to get their foot in the door in this business we call music.
A quick note here as ever to point out that these are largely my musings (@Pursehouse – other folk at Sentric may disagree or have alternate thoughts), but it’s fair to say that most people reading your CV will be looking for similar things.
1) Research the company you’re applying for.
Know who they are, what they do (including other areas of the business that might have nothing to do with the role you’re applying for), what their journey has been and have a think about what they’re trying to achieve in the future. Something you can do with a bit of sleuthing and deduction regarding the roles they’re recruiting for and by…
2) Research(ing) the industry you’re hoping to work in.
The music industry is a big old beast and having a general knowledge of how most areas work is attractive, but the key is having a much more thorough grasp on the specific area you’re looking to work in. I’m not talking Rain Man levels of wisdom here, but it only takes a day’s worth of research for you to sound pretty clued up regarding the current happenings in a specific sector.
As an example; at the time of writing this post if you were to ask me during an interview what my thoughts were regarding the ‘Digital Pie’ debate and why publishers are seemingly getting the unpleasant end of an equally unpleasant proverbial stick then straight away I’d be impressed you were up to date with current music publishing news. Whereas all you might have done is listened to the CMU podcast on the train on the way to the interview and regurgitated the ever knowledgeable Chris Cooke’s reflections on the matter.
3) Research the position you’re applying for.
Why is the company recruiting this specific role? Has someone left? Is it down to growth? Does it reflect a strategic decision to move the department in a different direction? Mentioning in the covering letter what areas of the role you feel to be most important and also raising any areas that you feel they might not have considered, but should have, are all eye-catching for the reader.
As with point two, there might even be examples where you have an industry within an industry. If we’re recruiting someone for our sync team here at Sentric then not only does having a solid grasp on the basics of publishing important but also being conscious of the wonderfully weird world of music synchronisation is imperative.
4) Covering letters are important.
A copy and paste job full of generic hyperbole will fool no one. Personally, the time and effort taken over the content of a strong covering letter is potentially more appealing than the CV itself. A covering letter is the place where you can show that to put it simply, you “get it”. You “get” what the employer is looking for, you “get” the role that’s being advertised and you “get” the industry the company is involved in.
CVs are for key information. Covering letters are an opportunity to show off your personality and understanding.
An example. Here at Sentric we’re about to enter into our third year of taking on 12-month apprentices for various junior roles across several areas of the company with the help of the wonderful folk at UK Music. As well as the usual shenanigans of CVs & covering letters, we got each applicant to answer two very broad questions; “What are the biggest threats the music industry faces in the next five years” & “What are the biggest opportunities the music industry has over the next five years”. The answers to those two questions pretty much landed the jobs for the guys now working here and swayed our decisions much more than their CVs did.
5) Aim high, but don’t take the piss.
If the job being advertised requires “At least two years of experience within the field” and you have just six months then, yeah, go for it. It shows desire and confidence in your own ability. If you have none at all on the other hand, then you’re ultimately wasting your time applying for the role in the first place.
I simply can’t put into prose how much I wanted to apply for the job of ‘Junior Researcher’ at You’ve Been Framed when I left university, but no matter how much I could convince myself that my utter joyful passion of watching people fall off trampolines outweighed absolutely any experience using video editing software, I knew deep down I had to let the dream go.
6) Get yourself a proper email address.
I know, I know; when you were twelve the email address ‘GazLovesBabez(at)Hotmail(dot)com’ was a hilarious ice breaker to MSN messenger chats where you A/S/L’d every suspicious character in the northern hemisphere, but it’s time to let that go. Just get a second account that is just some variation of your name, or go ‘uber geeky’ and bag yourself a customized URL and set up a professional account over with Google Apps. Luckily for you, there’s a handy guide here on how to do that.
7) Keep your CV to two pages maximum and brownie points if you can even get it down to a single page.
Make those margins narrow on Mircosoft Word and tell the employer what they need to know. Literally no one cares what grade GCSE you got in Religious Education, so don’t waste a fair whack of the page going into detail about that. Just ‘9 GCSEs A-C’ is all that’s needed.
In terms of education, it’s a good idea to include ‘key modules’ that you covered at university/college if they’re relevant to the role as that shows you have basic theory wrapped up, but experience is the key part (and I’ll come onto that later).
Personally, I’m not fussed on the ‘About Me’ section that many people seem to include on their CVs as well. I’m going to take it as granted that you have an interest in music if you’re applying for a role in the industry, and it’s just spiffing that you’re a fan of horse riding and that you frequent the gym, but what you do in your own time can be saved for the watercooler if you a) get the job and b) Sentric ever buys a watercooler.
8) Experience is usually more important than education.
This is probably the point most up for debate on this list as others may (and indeed do) disagree, but it certainly rings true for me. Granted, this is being written by someone who did just ‘alright’ academically so maybe that’s why my bias is swayed, but if someone is applying for a job in a certain area of the industry and they’re yet to get experience in that area first it tends to ring alarm bells.
Learning by osmosis & experience are obviously much more suited to certain industries. Don’t apply to be a partner in a law firm without getting elbow deep in the theory first, but within music, there’s a hell of a lot of clout added to a CV when it can be proven you’ve put in the hours before.
9) Consider your social media profiles.
Here’s a fun fact for you; in this day and age potential employers are going to look at your visible social media accounts when they’re considering offering you a job or asking you in for an interview. With that in mind, best be conscious what kind of tripe you’re spurting out on the web around the time you’re looking for gainful employment.
This can obviously work both against you, but equally in your favour as well. If you’ve been tweeting about music that’s floating your boat, linking to news articles about the industry and engaging with people that have shared interests as the company you’re applying for then that’s going to look rather nifty.
If, on the other hand, you’re trolling Gary Lineker because you don’t like his new facial hair then that’s probably going to do you a disservice.
Also – engage with the company itself. Follow them and talk to them online to get in their psyches. The person looking after the social media might not be the person considering you for the job, but it’ll give you a topic for discussion if you do bag yourself an interview.
10) Don’t put your dad as a reference.
Yep. Had that before. Although I was tempted to find out what he had to say hoping for something along the lines of “Josh is a highly motivated self starter with a firm grasp of financial accounting although his reluctance to propose to Kelly is worrying both me and his mother because she’s far to good for him anyhow and we’d really like grandkids whilst we’re still young enough to appreciate them fully.”