You’re waiting. And waiting….You’ve applied for a handful of jobs (or internships) at companies that are heavyweights in your industry - places that you’d like to be able to work someday. But you haven’t heard anything, from any of them.
I always get lots of questions from candidates who are trying to 'figure out' why their phones aren't ringing off the hook. “Did I apply too late?” “Did I apply too early?” “Should I have heard something by now?” “Should I call their office or try and drop by?” (By the way, the answer to that last question is definitely, no!).
This week, I want to unwrap how this whole hiring process works, and also some possible reasons as to why you haven’t received any responses to your applications.
In the past 10 years, the world of entry level jobs and internships has changed dramatically. While an internship on a resume 10 years ago might have been seen as an added bonus, or to show a high level of dedication to a particular industry, now, if you want to even be considered for entry-level employment, especially in competitive industries (entertainment, media, marketing, sales, etc) or in big cities (LA, NY, Chicago) an internship is basically a pre-requisite. If you don’t have at LEAST one internship by the time you graduate from college, you are doing yourself an incredible disservice. At larger well known companies, you may even need previous industry related internships to be competitive for an INTERNSHIP with their company.
Though there may be exceptions, generally speaking, the hiring process for an entry level role or internship will work like this:
1. You apply via the company's website (or preferably, via a direct contact/reference within the company) .
2. The recruiter filling that position will sort through the applications in groups. First, the referrals, then the online applications (if the position isn’t filled by someone in the first referral category) . When online applicants are considered, resumes are normally considered in groups based on application date, and then graded based on past experience and professional presentation. Not all resumes will be considered as part of this process. Only enough so that the recruiter has a stack of maybe 5-10 prioritized candidates for a phone screening.
3. The phone screening. This is a mini-interview and is a critical part in determining whether or not you will make it to the next step. Any time you see a phone number come up on your caller-ID that you don’t recognize, you should be prepared to speak to a recruiter and do a phone screening on the spot. If you are in a noisy location, or not free at the moment, let it go to voicemail. The catch here is that the early bird does often get the worm! So pick up whenever you can, or at least check your voicemail ASAP, get to a quiet location, and return the call as soon as possible.
4. The second interview. This may be via Skype, or in person at the office location. Depending on how many interviews there are, your first in person interview may just be with that same recruiter, OR it may include a quick stop at the recruiter’s office, and then a meeting with the hiring manager/supervisor for the department you are hoping to work with. Either way, the recruiter or coordinator scheduling the interview should be able to tell you who you’ll be meeting with ahead of time.
5. At this point, you may have a final interview, OR just get a phone call with an offer. Keep in mind that if you aren’t selected for the position, you may not get a phone call. Generally, if you make it to the final round and are in the top 3, you will get a call from the recruiter to let you know if you’ve been chosen or not, but this is not always the case. Also, be aware that the terms of an internship aren’t really negotiable. If there is pay, that is an added bonus! The rate is most likely not negotiable, as it’s a pre-entry level position. The only terms that may be flexible will be the days/hours that you work there, and this information should be consistent with what you discussed during your interviewing process. For entry level roles and above, chances are there is a 'range' that the hiring leader has to offer in terms of compensation. You may or may not be able to negotiate, but it never hurts to ask if there is a broader range to be discussed. Keep in mind, this is for studio based positions--for small production companies/casting offices, etc, they are more likely on a fixed budget with less wiggle room.
If you are offered an internship or a job, consider carefully before you give an answer. If, during the course of the interview process, you’ve decided that this might not be the best fit for you, feel free to turn down the role! The recruiter would rather have you turn the position down, than accept and perform poorly, or quit.
However, be careful to not turn down an internship or job just because the work isn’t as glamorous or ‘important’ as you might like. Initially the work may be a lot of organization, research, budgeting, or assistant type work. This is not unusual. If the internship or job is in your field, consider the company’s reputation in the industry, the culture/vibe of the office you’d be working in, and the possible doors that could open to you in the future as a result of doing this first job. Unless you’re sure you’d HATE the job, it’s normally worth trying it out. You should be able to survive any internship for 3 months, or an entry level job for a year. It’s likely to offer at least SOME value, and also will help you decipher what kind of work you’d like (or not) to do in the future.
Now, if you’re wondering why you haven’t heard anything from the companies you’ve applied to, here are 4 common reasons (although, there isn’t always a reason!).
1. The timing wasn’t right. Most roles are filled within 4 to 8 weeks of being posted. In some cases, recruiters may have a ‘short list’ of candidates for hard to fill or highly desirable positions, based on meet and greets they’ve had with students or other candidates in the past. In these cases, they may not even look over applications from people who’ve submitted materials via the website posting. This doesn’t mean it’s not worth applying! You never know! Sometimes positions are delayed, or the original candidates may accept other offers. There’s no absolute rule.
2. It’s not that you aren’t qualified, it’s that someone else is MORE qualified. This is particularly true in entry level and internship situations. Probably 40-50% of applicants who apply for a given internship or entry level role could adequately do the job. If the recruiter has 50 internships to fill within a company, that person only has time to talk to the MOST qualified candidates for each role. This means that the majority of students/applicants will be cut before the phone screening stage. Previous internships within the industry, seniority in school (junior or senior status), and personal referrals can all be points of advantage in the early stages that make you more qualified for the role.
3. You aren’t qualified. Be sure to read the qualifications section closely! If the posting says, “high level of proficiency with photoshop and illustrator required,” and you don’t list these skills accurately on your resume (because you assume that they know you have these skills based on your major), you’ll be cut! Even if you do list these skills, but don't have an online portfolio to demonstrate your work--it's unlikely you'll be called.
4. It’s summer time! Many recent grads, transplants, or students think that summer should be an easier time of year to get an internship or an entry level role - but this is not at all true! Most of the time, finding a role in the summer is more difficult that during fall or spring. This is particularly true in large cities like LA. Candidates coming from smaller cities or in the mid-west will often apply to internships in larger cities over the summer because of their limited ability to live away from their university or college. Similarly, entry level jobs may be most competitive in spring/summer, when all the recent grads from outside LA move to town. Point number 2 (that someone else is MORE qualified) becomes a big factor here.
Though finding that perfect internship or job can be a challenge, it’s a worthy one. If you are applying for your first internship or post-graduation job and want to have a higher likelihood of securing a role in your field, cast a wide net! Don’t just apply to your top 3 choices! If you’re interested in law, don’t just apply at law firms - try business and legal departments for retail or entertainment companies! If you want to work in film or tv production, but can’t find an on set internship or PA role (because there aren’t really any--at least not advertised), try looking into casting offices or talent agencies! Any related experience in your desired field will help propel you towards those more competitive internships and entry-level jobs in the future.