Advice — LOVE’s Trevor Cairns on things to consider before you apply for a job
Trevor Cairns is the CEO at creative agency, LOVE in Manchester. Before joining LOVE in 2013, Trevor also spent twelve years at Nike, looking after all things football. With so many years of experience under his belt, he’s seen many a portfolio and sat in countless interviews. Here, he shares some of his advice on how to stand out when applying, keeping your career trajectory in mind, and how while the first job you land might not be your dream job, it could still be a stepping stone in the right direction.
Have a goal in mind
I got my dream job on my third job. I think everyone should have their ultimate goal in mind, but keep in mind that it’s unlikely to happen first time around, unless you’re very lucky!
If you want to work in-house, it’s a good idea to think about where you want to be, and what way you can impact that organisation. Then once you’re in, you have the opportunity to shape and evolve a job, and cause a positive impact.
Target the right people
I see a lot of hopeful applicants and junior talent emailing our ECD, but I never think that’s the right way in. The reason being that he’s very busy.
If you’re trying to get into a creative industry and a creative company, it’s about demonstrating your creative ability in the application process. That includes thinking about who you target; I would suggest someone who’s a middleweight. They are less likely to be inundated with emails, and have more time and therefore be more likely to get back. Plus, they’re often on the lookout for talent.
Consider ways to stand out from the crowd
Then think about how you can stand out against the competition. I’m always a bit surprised at how mundane and formulaic applications can be. Don’t just say “I’m very passionate and energised.” Instead consider how you can make it different, and demonstrate that instead.
“Think about where you want to be and what way you can impact that organisation.”
The application we received from our head of copy was a handwritten letter – which was just brilliant. Our ECD brought it over and said it was the best application he’d ever seen. It had wit, charm and showed real passion for why he wanted to work for us. It didn’t have a huge CV or portfolio attached, but it was very personal.
We looked at it and instantly knew we wanted to speak to him. He was in Spain at the time, and we pretty much hired him over the phone because he’d created a great impression straight away. In contrast, a straightforward cover letter and CV in black and white with lots of bullet points isn’t going to do that.
Prepare personalised answers for interviews
The same goes for interviews. I often ask people which brands and branding really impresses them, and I hear a lot of the same answers: Apple, John Lewis and so on. But I’m looking for someone with a broader knowledge, and wider cultural reference points than that.
Be patient: job-hopping can turn employers away
It may not be the perfect role straight away. My advice would be to get in somewhere, and build yourself up there – make it work for you where you can, so that you don’t need to hop around all the time (which can also be stressful).
Someone contacted me recently who had been in nine different jobs over four years. I just saw too much risk in that. While that potentially shows ambition and a desire to move to the next title, it also seems like they will go for something marginally better as soon as it comes, and that’s not so appealing to an employer.