In the past year, I’ve doubled the size of my social media team, which has meant writing lots of job descriptions and reading hundreds of CVs and covering letters. I can now confidently say that I’ve seen it all when it comes to applications: the good, the bad and the downright ugly (looking at you, person who used Comic Sans on their CV).
As someone who once transitioned from general marketing over to a specialised social media role, I wanted to give aspiring social media professionals some advice on how to maximise their odds of success when applying.
Let’s start with the first thing I’ll read.
The Covering Letter
When you’re applying for lots of jobs, it can be a pain to write a covering letter for each one.
If you don’t read this article to the end, then at least go away with this advice: write a covering letter for every job you apply for.
Why? It adds context to relevant parts of your CV, and allows you to shout about past successes. It also you gives the opportunity to say why you want to work for the company you’re applying for.
More importantly, it shows that you haven’t just applied to everything in the Indeed.com search results.
Frankly, it proves that you give a crap.
What about length? It doesn’t need to be a pages-long essay, but give this simple structure a try:
- Introduce yourself with a short elevator pitch.
- Summarise what you’re doing in your current job, and how it’s relevant to the one you’re applying for (if it’s not, keep reading).
- Give an example of a success you’ve had, or something you’re really proud of (e.g. a campaign you did).
- Add a few short points on any relevant previous roles.
- Explain why you’re applying for this job. What attracted you to the role and company?
Aim for a maximum of two sentences per point because remember, the recruiter has lots of other applications to review.
Next, your pièce de résistance.
Your Personal Statement
Open with a personal statement, explaining why you’re applying for a social media role, and what you hope to get out of it.
If you have no professional social media experience (covered later), explain why you’re making the move, and how your previous experience makes you worth interviewing. Keep it short, but expand on it in the covering letter you’re now definitely going to write.
Showing your experience
I’ll be honest: if I’ve got a hundred applications to review (not uncommon for entry-level roles), the first thing I’ll do with a CV is speed-read. I’ll skim through it and be on the lookout for the most relevant keywords. Things like:
- Social media (duh!)
- Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Snapchat etc
- Paid social activities like Facebook advertising, post boosting etc
- Content creation
If I don’t see specific social media experience, I won’t throw your CV in the bin. Instead, I’ll read it again and look for more general yet still relevant marketing keywords, like:
- Digital marketing
- Public relations
- Digital media
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- Community management
- Influencer marketing
All of the above are related (some more than others) to social media, and a lot of them are transferable.
This may sound like laziness, but if you as the applicant feel you fit the job description but don’t demonstrate it, why would I trust you to advertise a product or service on social media if you don’t know how to advertise yourself as an applicant?
Personal qualities that I look for
You may have the know-how, but much like a first date, I want to know more about you as a person before I ask you out for a drink.
Here’s what I look for in a candidate:
- Ability to adapt to change, and maybe even predict it. Social media is fast-moving and constantly changing, so you need to be the same. Prove you can be both reactive and proactive.
- Able to withstand pressure and prioritise. When you’re dealing with multiple platforms and, depending on the company, multiple clients, you need to be able to balance it all and deliver it all.
- Creativity. Long gone are the days of spamming your followers with links to your website and hoping for the best. Social media is an increasingly visual platform, and our audiences are expecting to be educated and entertained when they see your content. Demonstrating that you can create an attention grabbing narrative will put you above the rest.
- A technical mind-set. Social media isn’t just about posting on Instagram with a half-decent filter. You need to show you understand – or are willing to learn – things like analytics, return on investment, budgeting and campaign reporting.
No experience? No problem.
If you don’t have any social media or even digital marketing experience, there are countless free online courses and certificates that you can take in a few days or even hours.
Here some free certifications that I’ve either taken or been recommended:
- Hubspot Academy’s Inbound Certification
- Google’s Digital Garage Certification
- Facebook’s Blueprint Certifications
Doing courses like these show that you’re willing to learn even if you don’t have job experience, and proves that you’re actually looking for a role in marketing/social media, and not just applying for random jobs out of sheer desperation.
What about a university degree?
When I went to university in 2010, having a degree was still important. If you didn’t have one, recruiters assumed you either weren’t clever enough, or just lazy.
Nowadays, not so much.
The company I work for regularly takes on digital marketing apprentices from organisations like Whitehat who either don’t have university degrees, or started university and realised it wasn’t for them. My team is made up of both university graduates and apprenticeship ‘graduates’, and they’re some of the most capable social media professionals I’ve ever worked with. They spend up to 18 months learning everything they need to know both from the job itself and through intensive bootcamps and events organised by the apprenticeship organisation, at places like General Assembly and Google.
So when I read a CV and don’t see a degree, I don’t chuck it in the bin. I look at what they’ve done since school, where they’ve worked, and see whether they’ve taken it upon themselves to learn the tools of the trade with diplomas or even online courses.
As I said at the beginning, I’ve seen hundreds of applications, and even if you only follow one or two of my tips, you’ll be miles ahead.
If you’re still unsure about applying and have more questions, or just want someone to look over your CV, please do feel free to connect with me.
Watch this space for my follow-up post, where I’ll give some tips on how to effectively present yourself and your experience at the interview.
If you’re based in London and want to network with other social media professionals, I’d highly recommend joining my Social Media Pros in London group on Facebook. You can get the latest social media platform updates, insights and maybe even find a job! 😉