Advice on pursuing your dream career
There are lots of sites and advice guides out there about how to apply for a job. Indeed, many of the things included in our advice guide could apply to any job in any career. But, this advice has been specifically prepared by gathering the thoughts of leading figures in the radio/audio business. Between them, they’ve hired hundreds of people to radio and audio production jobs, so their tips are worth reading!
Writing your CV or Application Form
There are a variety of ways that companies ask people to apply for jobs. Many will use a bespoke application form, while some will ask for a CV (curriculum vitae, also known as a resumé). Your CV is a summary of your work, education and training experience, and will also feature your main contact details, alongside some brief details about you and your personality.
Whether the application asks for a CV or for you to fill out an application form, being able to summarise your experience is a vital part of an application. Here are some top Do’s and Don’ts for writing your CV:
- Keep your CV to no more than two sides of A4, in a regular sized font. It’s supposed to be a summary, and the hiring manager will have lots of applications to read - don’t make them resent yours for being too long!
- There are three core sections to a CV - work, education and training. Unless you’re straight out of school or college, you’ll probably want to open with work. List things in reverse chronological order - most recent at the top.
- Don’t just list the jobs you did - give a brief responsibilities summary of what you did in the job, and your main achievements. A short bulleted list might help here.
- If you're young or relatively inexperienced in this field, take the opportunity to show how the experience you do have is relevant - e.g., if you've worked in shops or bars, does it help with teamwork, organisation, and understanding customers?
- Tailor your CV for the job you’re applying for. You don’t necessarily need to list every job you ever had, going right back to that Saturday job you had in the corner shop 20 years ago. Focus on the main jobs that the hiring manager will find useful.
- When it comes to education, how relevant are your school grades? If you’re straight out of college, probably pretty important. If it was 20 years ago, maybe you don’t need to include them. Professional training is perhaps more relevant.
- Keep the design and layout clear. You might be trying to demonstrate you have a flair for graphic design, but remember the most important thing is communicating your experience. An over-zealous design can be really distracting, while a bog-standard CV template in Times New Roman wouldn't be appropriate for a creative role. Try to strike the right balance.
- Consider a brief section for awards, accolades or other recognition. Again, tailor them to the job you’re applying for. If they’re not relevant, remove them.
- If you're including links to portfolios etc, don't expect them to be followed! Include a short summary so they know about your work without having to click through.
- Consider starting your CV with a short statement about yourself - only about 100 words or so. How you see yourself and how you summarise your skills and specialisms can tell a hiring manager a lot about you.
- If you're including a section on hobbies and interests, only include things relevant to the role. If it's a music job, saying you like gigs and festivals is probably relevant - saying you like swimming and stamp collecting probably isn't.
- Max two sides of A4
- Start with a short personal statement
- Include work, education, and training - newest things at the top
- Include awards and other accolades
- Tailor your CV to the job
- Keep the design clean
- Only include things relevant to the role
- Don't assume links will be followed
Covering Letters / Application Statements
The term ‘covering letter’ originates from the days when you’d send your CV in the post, and you’d need to enclose a letter to introduce yourself. These days, if you’re sending a CV it’s going to be via email, or maybe uploading it to a website. Still though, the covering letter (which may be in the form of a personal statement, or an application statement) is your chance to introduce yourself and explain why you’re right for the job.
If your CV is a factfile about your career, then your covering letter is the chance for you to show how those facts fit this particular role. It’s an opportunity to show passion, to demonstrate understanding about the role, and say in your own words why you’re suitable.
- If it is an actual letter, be sure to use a formal letter format; there are lots of templates you can download online. If you know the name of the hiring manager, you can address it to them directly.
- Keep the letter to one page - about 3 or 4 paragraphs. If it’s an application form with a word count, they are probably expecting you to use most of the available words.
- Your cover letter should always be bespoke for the job you’re applying for. Don’t ever be tempted to have a standard or generic cover letter. If you’re cutting and pasting from previous letters, double and triple check that you’re not referencing the wrong company!
- Study the job description carefully. This will usually have two sections - key responsibilities/outputs of the role, and key skills/experiences required. Make sure your letter addresses the most important elements of the job description (they're usually the ones near the top of the list).
- Show that you understand the station, company or programme the job is with. Don’t just tell them you understand it - show them that you do. Say what you like, and why you like it, and how you will fit into it.
- The hiring manager will be reading a lot of these, so make your statement stand out. Not in a silly way - just show a lot of energy, with really good examples.
- Spell-check, and have somebody proof read it for you. There’s nothing more distracting than bad spelling and grammar, especially if this is an editorial role.
- Keep it to one page - 3 or 4 paragraphs
- If it's a letter, address it in a formal style
- Your cover letter should always be bespoke
- Address the important elements of the job description
- Show that you understand the company or show
- Make your statement stand out from the crowd
- Spell-check and proof-read
Congratulations - you’ve been shortlisted for a job! You’ve already got through a competitive selection process - you’re probably one of the four or five best people to apply. And now, you’ve got to really prove yourself, in a high pressure meeting with just your happiness at stake. It’s a lot to take in.
Some people love interviews, some people hate them - but either way, you’ve got to be really prepared.
- Listen to loads of output. If you’re applying to work on a particular show or station, listen to as much as you can. Take notes, log what you like and don’t like. Have some opinions; you don’t have to pretend it’s all brilliant.
- Have lots of ideas. If you started the job tomorrow, what would you do in the role? You have the luxury of not having to worry if something’s feasible - just have brilliant creative ideas that show you understand the brand and the audience.
- Come armed with lots of examples of your relevant experience. Under interview pressure, it can be difficult to think back through your work history, so prepare a few good stories that you can call on.
- Do your research. If you know anybody in the company, ask them lots of questions about strategy and priorities. It may even be appropriate to meet with the hiring manager - but remember that’s a chance to ask them questions, not give them the hard sell.
- Practice practice practice. Look at the job description, try to guess what they might ask you. Have a strong opener too - why do you want the job, and why are you the right person for it?
- Bring some questions. Most interviewers will ask you at the end if you have any questions for them - don't ask about the working hours or the holiday policy (you can find all of that out later). Come prepared with some insightful questions that show your interest and understanding of the role - e.g. you could ask about ambitions for the next five years, or challenges the brand is facing, or you could refer to a recent industry development that would show you've got your finger on the pulse.
In the interview itself:
- If you’re asked for feedback on something, be professional and constructive. Feedback should relate to what you know about strategy and audience - not just what you like or don’t like. Remember the person you’re talking to may have been involved in making it.
- Be authentic. It’s one of the biggest clichés to say “be yourself” but the whole point is that the hiring manager gets to know you.
- But also… sell yourself. We’re generally quite modest about our achievements, and tend to like to hide behind team language such as “we”. In an interview, say “I” - focus on your personal contribution to success, and be confident and assertive.
- Don’t pretend you know everything - there will be gaps in your knowledge, that’s ok. If you don’t know, then say. If you haven’t had experience of something, explain how experience you do have could be relevant, and what you’d do to fill your knowledge gaps.
If you don’t get the job, it can really hurt. But it’s important you dust yourself down, and use the whole process as a development experience.
- Get feedback. Remember, you were most likely in the top five candidates for the job. The hiring manager definitely saw something in you. Ask them for a conversation to step through the interview and tell you where you fell short. It can be a bit painful, but it is so useful, and also shows professionalism and resilience.
- Do your prep! Don't just turn up on the day
- Listen to loads of output - have some opinions
- Prepare examples of your relevant experience
- Do as much research as you can about the company
- Rehearse your interview - try to guess what you'll be asked
- Come prepared with insightful questions
- Be authentic... but sell yourself
- Don't pretend you know everything
- Make sure your thoughts about the product are anchored in strategy
- If you don't get the job - get feedback instead