By John Pellegrini
Many years ago I wrote an article for RAP called, “How Not To Get The Job.” It was written so long ago in fact that I can’t even remember if I ever sent it in for publishing or whether it even ran. If it did run, then this article is kind of a refresher on the subject because the problem hasn’t gone away. If it didn’t get published and is still languishing somewhere in the vast void of my brain then here it is anyhow.
The problem is an unfortunate tragedy that occurs frequently in our business (as well as other industries, I’ve found) in which many people seeking employment wind up killing their chances before they even have a chance. It happened to someone very recently who tried to get me to hire them, even though I don’t have the ability to hire or fire anyone.
The person’s cover letter was handwritten, informing me that I would be making a “big mistake if you didn’t hire me rite away” (exact wording). The cassette tape, which appeared to be at least 10 years old, had a hand written label with the words “are chek” (exact spelling); no name, address, or phone number. No resume was included. The tape was thrown into the trash and the letter was dumped into the EOE file. No further action will be taken.
Apart from being a poorly worded letter with horrific spelling and grammar mistakes, the person who sent the letter violated 5 basic rules in job search protocol, any one of which is serious enough to render that person’s chances of being hired as nonexistent. For those of you who can’t think of what those 5 rules are, I will happily offer them here free of charge.
1. Find out who is responsible for hiring new employees and only send information to that person. This requires nothing more intellectual than making a quick phone call to the receptionist of any prospective station. The fact that the person who sent me the demo apparently didn’t possess enough intelligence to complete that task tells me that they are thoroughly unqualified for any job we have here.
2. Type your cover letter. Absolutely no excuses. My 2 year old daughter can type on a computer keyboard… granted it’s not in any known language, but you get my point. Again this person is not qualified to work here.
3. Always include a complete resume. And for God’s sake make sure it only has work experience that DIRECTLY RELATES to the job you’re seeking. Failure to do so proves you are unqualified to work nearly anywhere.
4. Have your cassette or CD labeled with all correct contact information. Tapes and CDs can and do get separated from the letters and resumes. We get hundreds of these every year. Only an idiot will think that someone will listen to an unsolicited demo the moment it arrives. Which proves the unqualified bit again.
5. Have your entire package professionally done. I don’t care if you have a really cool graphics software package on your home PC or Mac. I don’t care if you can print your own CD labels. Anyone with any vision challenges short of macular degeneration can tell the difference between a professional job and a homemade version. The pro job always wins. Why? A crappy looking package makes you look crappy. An average looking package makes you look average. Are you getting the gist of this yet? An incredible looking package makes you look incredible. With all the layoffs in the industry right now, you cannot afford to not make yourself look incredible at all times and in all possible ways. It may be the only reason why you get the job over 10 other radio people with the same talent level. HAVE YOUR PACKAGE PROFESSIONALLY DONE!
Other points that you need to take to heart when sending out demos:
6. Send your demo on a CD only. Cassette tapes are the past. Cassette tapes are for people who cannot adapt well to new technology. Cassette tapes send up a red flag that you aren’t up to date on the industry. Unless you are specifically directed to send a cassette by a prospective employer, and I would certainly wonder about that prospective employer’s adaptability to current technology (i.e. is this person going to be able to keep his or her job for long?) send a CD. The recordable compact disc is currently cheaper to buy in bulk than a cassette anyhow so just do it. Don’t send an mp3 either, unless you are specifically directed to do so; keeping in mind that any file size larger than 4 megs will be rejected by over 90 percent of all worldwide Internet Service Providers. A personal tip: send your mp3s at 96 kbps and 44100 hz. The playback quality is decent enough on anyone’s PC and the file size is smaller. Plus if it’s a commercial demo no one can burn it to CD.
7. Make sure the graphic art you chose for your package is appropriate and professional. You may love horsies. You may love N’Sync. You may love gay porno. But for God’s sake don’t make any of those subjects the focus of your presentation! Yes, I’ve seen all three and much stranger things represented on people’s demo packages. Your presentation is supposed to be about your talent and abilities as it relates to the professional broadcasting industry. Anything that doesn’t immediately relate to your ability in radio should not be considered. Even favorite bands like the above mentioned N’Sync. Why? Because the key to being hired in radio is adaptability. If you focus on one music group, then you send the message that you might not be adaptable to other music, which sends up more red flags to potential programming bosses. Leave your personal tastes at home!
Note: this doesn’t mean you can’t include pictures of you meeting N’Sync or other bands and/or celebrities at station functions. Having a collage of pictures with you meeting a dozen or so bands and/or celebrities looks great! It shows that you have experience in the biz. Just don’t make one band and/or celebrity your entire package. Nothing says “beginner” more than someone who can only claim to have met one band or celebrity whatever the reason.
8. Keep your cover letter to no less than two paragraphs and no more than three. Remember to respect the person you’re sending your package to, especially when it comes to their time. You want them to be impressed, but you also want them to be interested and intrigued with you so that they will pick up the phone and call you for more. Choose every sentence that you put in your cover letter carefully. Pretend that you’re writing copy for a multi-million dollar account that is going to pay you 15 percent of the buy and a two hundred thousand dollar a year retainer. Write your cover letter as if you’re the copywriter that created the Macintosh commercial that everyone claims is still the best advertisement that was ever created. Keep it short and brilliant beyond belief.
9. Don’t lie. Exaggerating accomplishments is one of the easiest things to do on a resume. But with radio conglomerates becoming more and more paranoid and having larger and larger legal departments, trust me when I tell you that everything on your resume is going to be checked out. Every one of your references is going to be called. You will be asked to demonstrate your proficiency with every technical achievement you list. A little embellishment is okay on anyone’s resume. Just be prepared to prove every substantial claim you make. Not just for when you’re trying to get the job, either. If at any time after you’ve been hired it is determined that you misrepresented yourself, you can be fired without notice or recourse. And word gets around the industry pretty quickly. Contrary to public policy, PDs and GMs talk to each other about this stuff all the time, especially inside conglomerates. Don’t screw up your career.
Which is essentially the reason for all of this. Violating any of the above will substantially lower if not outright ruin your chances of ever being considered for a job. In the current economy and the current job market you cannot afford to make any mistakes. There is always someone who is going to be better qualified, better trained, and better prepared than you. That’s just a given. But you can make a difference for yourself with your presentation. All things being equal in every aspect of talent and experience, it’s the candidate who makes the extra effort to impress that gets the job. If you’re not interested in making an extra effort to get a job then why should any prospective employer hire you? You’re supposed to work for them, not the other way around. No amount of ego can compensate for stupid career choices. If you really believe that you deserve to be hired just because you are the greatest talent that has ever walked the face of the earth, then do us all a favor and go clean toilets for a living. Because that’s where you’re headed anyway.
If that sounds ridiculous, you should know I’ve spoken to people who’ve had that attitude. Far more people than you would think have said things like that to me… “You’re nuts to not hire me… I don’t need to spend anything on my demo because my talent is THAT good!” I gave up feeling sorry for those types a long time ago. The nice thing about real life is, idiots like that usually wind up cleaning toilets, or finally get it through their fat heads what they’re doing wrong. Hopefully, they do it soon enough that their career options are not completely destroyed, but unfortunately things don’t always work out like that.
Yes, I know some PDs and GMs are guilty of the above in the reverse. That doesn’t give you an excuse. Besides, you’re trying to get a job from them, it’s up to you to impress them. If they’re not professional in their dealings with you, despite the fact that you are professional in your dealings with them, then that’s a warning flag you need to focus upon and decide if they are the sort you want to work for. That’s the good part about all this; their behavior and professionalism is as important as your behavior and professionalism. The bad ones always manage to draw attention to themselves on both sides of the job search, as do the good ones. The question is, which category do you want to join?