In the audio industry, there's a few types of job listings you'll commonly see online:
- Audio manufacturers. These jobs are creating audio products that people use. It may be anything from customer service (answering phones and emails) to quality assurance, product development, sales, programming/computer engineering, and more.
- Schools. These jobs could be teaching audio, A/V work, or audio engineering positions.
- Corporations. These are generally advertising full-time positions.
- Temp help or one-time gigs. These are independent movies looking for sound, bands looking for recordings, venue looking for an engineer, etc.
If you notice one major item left off the list: Studios. Music studios and post-production generally don't post jobs online. If they do, I ask...
Why are they listing online?
The old phrase "work comes by word of mouth” is totally true in the studio world. It means opportunities are most likely to come from people you know (your connections). A resume may not tell a lot about your work ethic or your ears, but a former co-worker or colleague can easily vouch that you’re a good fit for a job. If a manager at a studio has a good relationship with their employees and needs to hire, it’s a quick conversation: “We need to hire. Can you recommend anyone?” Chances are, someone has a friend, roommate, former classmate, or colleague who is perfect for the job and can be in for an interview quickly (vs the trouble of making a job listing, waiting for applicants, sifting through resumes, etc). So, anytime I see an ad online for a studio it raises a red flag. Why is their existing crew not bringing in good candidates? Is this the type of place that people want to work, or is it a revolving door that always needs new people? It could be a great opportunity - but it could also be an early sign of a problem.
If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Pixar, for example, has an audio job listing show up once a year or two and there's a frenzy of people applying for it. That's the type of job a lot of people dream about. Why would a company that's probably one of the most popular animation places in the world need to ask for applicants? I wouldn't be surprised if they get multiple resumes a day from audio people. There's no harm in applying when a job listing at Skywalker Sound shows up online. I just wouldn't spend a week tweaking a resume for it (unless you know someone who is personally giving your resume to Leslie Ann Jones).
Some corporate jobs also fall under "if it's too good to be true, it probably is." Some corporations (and large companies) require that all job openings are posted publicly. It’s great for the public to find out about jobs, but sometimes the company already knows who they’re hiring and still has to post an ad. If you apply to one of these jobs, be objective about it – don’t wait around for them to contact you (the same could be said of any online job). If you have a connection to the company, take advantage. Sometimes there’s hiring bonuses when an employee gives a recommendation, so you may find someone eager to help you.
It may be someone in HR or a recruiter looking at your resume first, and they may not understand the technical nuances. If you’re going to apply to a corporate job, tailor your resume so it has easy-to-read points, and includes some general details that could be understood by anyone reading it.
A large subset of online ads is the amateur/semi-professional market. In film, there’s a lot of self-taught filmmakers who seek sound help but don’t know any sound people. In music, there’s bands everywhere looking for help with recording or live sound for gigs. There’s a lot of opportunities but the quality, talent level, and pay can vary significantly. It’s hard to distinguish this in an ad, too. If you’re going to apply for work in this market, ask a lot of questions before committing. Make sure that their expectations are in line with the work you are going to do (and not do), and be very clear about the budget and timeline (even better would be to get it in writing).
For films, ask for trailers or a clip to watch to get a sense of audio quality. For music, ask for past recordings or a demo (even an iPhone recording or YouTube video) just to hear what they sound like. There’s been many times I’ve passed on a project because what someone said they needed was different from what they actually needed. For example, an unwritten song needs a songwriter, not a sound engineer. Film ads regular confuse terms such as “sound mixer,” “Foley” and “sound designer.”
Just because you inquire or put your name in the running doesn’t mean you have to take the work – especially if you have concerns about the level of professionalism or the person hiring you. The right project can be a great opportunity for learning and relationships, but it still may entail a lot of extra work, teaching/explaining what it is you do (and can’t do), and managing expectations.
Craigslist, Mandy and Entertainmentcareers.net
You can sometimes find great gigs on sites like these but there's a couple things to know:
- Good gigs get a lot of responses. I've received over 100 emails in a few days for a studio internship. I've applied to jobs where they got hundreds of responses, too.
- There's fake ads. A colleague once told me he posted a fake ad just to find out what his competitors were charging for similar work.
- Be cautious handing out personal information. Craigslist uses anonymous email addresses so it's especially important to be protective of your information.
The absolute best way to stand out is to find someone who will recommend you (whether it’s passing along your resume, or who’s name you can include in an email or cover letter – with their permission). Check your LinkedIn or Facebook networks for connections to the company and reach out. Ask your local friends or family if they know anyone who works for the company.
Tips for responding to online ads
- Cater your resume/cover letter to every job you apply for. It's obvious when it's a canned response and even a little personalization can go a long way.
- Check and double-check for mistakes. If you have misspellings or accidentally address the wrong person, studio, or job title, you might be done before you even had a chance.
- Show a good attitude about the job you will actually be doing (and willingness to learn – even if it’s something you’ve done before). If the job listing is for an entry level job (like internship or assistant), it’s better to say in a cover letter, “I have a working car and I am willing to run errands” than to say, “I can engineer and mix.”
- Don’t give out your mailing address unless you can verify it’s going to a reputable source. Always include the city that you live in (out-of-town or anonymous locations may be dismissed immediately). Use caution giving out your phone number (or get a Google voice number – this may help if you don’t have a local area code, too).
- Don’t give a bid, rate, or salary to an online ad (especially if it’s anonymous) unless you think it’s absolutely necessary. It’s better to ask for a phone conversation or say, “I’m happy to give a rate, but I’d like to verify some details first.”
- Carefully read over the ad and follow directions.
When I used to screen internship resumes, I always removed these candidates: weren’t physically in town for meeting (within 25 miles), had spelling or basic grammar errors, cover letter clearly pasted from another email or application. I asked directions like, “Include resume in text of email; attachments will not be opened” and “Please include a cover letter where you tell us why you’re interested in our company.” Anyone who didn’t follow directions wasn’t considered - plus it helped find candidates who were attentive and good with details.
Accept online jobs for what they are
Online websites can be a good supplement to a job search, but it shouldn’t be considered the primary means of looking for work. It’s a balance; if you spend too much time looking online, it’s time taken away from building your network, relationships, and skills. It’s good to set a limit for how much time you spend every day on online searches/applying, and aim to spend just as much time trying to connect with people in the industry you’re looking for work in.