You've heard it all before. And yet you aren't getting any calls. The biggest idea to burn into your brain is that you have to make the hiring manager do as little work as possible, and everything needs to be perfect!
First off, you should have a branded letterhead. Your cover letter, resume, and anything else you attach should be branded.
You're cover letter:
1. If the email is available on the posting, send a freaking email. When you submit through sites like Careerbuilder, Monster or Indeed, you lose all formatting. Formatting is the first hiring managers look at. You've crippled yourself by plain text.
2. Send a PDF, retain your formatting and fonts! Word docs lose formatting depending on versions. If I don't have your fonts installed, I can't see your beautiful resume. But why are you using word in the first place? Rent InDesign for a month or get an open source design program (I'm talking to you Linux users).
3. Your cover letter should be on your branded letterhead, not in an email. The email should be a 3 sentence paragraph about your intentions. "I am submitting a 3 page PDF with my cover letter, resume, salary requirements and references"
4. Your cover letter should not be generic. It should tell a story. It should say why you applied and how you came to the decision. It shouldn't look like you are throwing things at a wall to see what will stick.
5. Avoid cutesy. Avoid exclamation points. The hiring manager needs to know your skills, not that you tweet and IM really well.
6. Never say "references upon request." Either include or don't. Don't make anyone work for anything, you should do the work for the hirer.
7. If the job description says include a pic of your dog, do that. If it says submit salary requirements, submit them. If it says email or send a hard copy, do both.
1. Formatting! Spacing! Kerning! If you use periods on your bullet points, do it consistently. Make sure spaces between sections and lines are consistent. Make sure bolded text and italicized text is consistent. Find out by researching print materials what style a company uses. AP or Chicago? If you can't, just be consistent and thoughtful. Create your own style and always be consistent. Did I mention consistent?
1.5. Never put your picture on your resume. It shows you are narcsissistic, and is very damaging for you if your skills are lackluster, or your experience is limited. A highly conceptual logo can get you far if executed correctly.
2. You may not have a ton of experience to list. But you are wanting this job, so list experiences that relate. Search your brain for something a hiring manager can work with. The only thing he or she is thinking about is who can do this job.
3. Do not go into great detail about working at Target, Chipotle, or the local liquor store. In fact, if you didn't do design work there, it isn't relevant. Only show relevant work. When a hiring manager looks at 25 resumes a day, people that talk a lot about irrelevant work go straight to the trash bin.
4. Again, you need to submit a resume with a cover letter in a PDF, in the order in which they should be read.
5. It doesn't hurt to include a third page of work samples. Many companies have internet on lockdown. So pick out your best images, 3-4, and any extra info. These emails will be shared with many. (one page for each!)
Your portfolio site:
1. URLs that say .wix or /behance or .google.sites. or .squarespace show that you are not willing to fork over 10 bucks a month and control what the world sees of your work.
2. If you have 16 visuals and 13 are crap, just show the three. Don't show the crap.
3. Don't add a bunch of links that take the hirer away from your site.
4. Don't include links to social media if they are on lockdown or have nothing to do with design. Make sure your social media posts don't prevent you from being hired. And if you are doing all of the above, duh. Stop it.
5. Your site should match the branding on your cover letter and resume. Content should match.
1. It still matters. Should you get an interview, you'll need it so you aren't fumbling. Craft it like a good mixed tape. Make it crescendo in the middle, and at the end solidify. Bring samples. Mount peices like fine art. Include dates and times. List what outside companies you worked with.
For the love of Pete, spend time on what you submit; work on it as if it were a design assignment or a request from a client. Your number one client is you. If you treat your number one client like crap, how can anyone trust you with their clients (whether being an in-house designer or at an agency)?
The care in which you submit things matters. I've seen so many resumes and portfolio sites that just suck. You did all this work, show it!
Google "the worst portfolio site" and pay heed.