When applying to a company that is looking for artistic talent, there is a relatively predictable series of events that take place. As a job seeker the first step is to send in a custom-tailored application and resume. A candidate’s best bet is to apply to companies that list open positions but in the creative world, it’s always a gamble. Employers may be seeking a very specific style which can lead to subjective requirements for the position that are out of a candidate’s control, or they could be very particular about the statistics on a resumé. Maybe a candidate is perfect in almost every skill category but doesn’t have enough experience in a category that the employer finds crucial. The best thing to do at this stage is to wait and find ways to not get worked up about your application (maybe get a hobby… ever tried model making?)
Wait two weeks, if the employer has already contacted you, GREAT! you’re most likely near the top of the resume stack. If they haven’t reached out to you, don’t worry. There are any number of factors that could be delaying the process (too many candidates, they actually forgot, sudden plagues). The bottom line is to wait. SERIOUSLY, despite how desperately you want to work for the company, how happy having a full time job would make you, or how eager you are to put art in front of eyeballs. YOU. MUST. WAIT. Employers and recruiters make split-second judgement calls all the time. If you contact them the day after you apply, not only do you seem uncomfortably energetic, you’ve also become “the-annoying-one”. After two weeks, and ONLY AFTER TWO WEEKS, it’s a good time to send a single follow up email to remind them that you exist. One of three things may happen. 1: You hear nothing (the worst option for your mental health) the application becomes a thorn that digs into the back of your brain. Hearing nothing leads to the dark-side but it’s a reality of looking for work in the internet-age. Ain’t nobody got time for that, there are other companies looking for applicants. 2: They get back to you but you’re not the right candidate for the position. If this happens, THANK THEM, they spent time and brain power on you and that should always be appreciated. 3: They bring you the good news, most often this comes in the form of the employer asking you to take an “art test”. GREAT! This is a creative candidate’s gateway to possible employment.
The most important aspect of the art test to the employer is to make sure a candidate can fulfill or exceed the expectations of the position. Conversely, the most important aspect for the applicant is to take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the company and about what they want you to produce because this sort of thing is exactly what you’ll be doing if you land the job. Art tests will often have a prompt, size requirements, and a deadline (which you should plan on beating). You should always try to ask questions about specifics, what references should you be looking at, what is this building for, why do the Blargy-blargs want to kill the Meep-morks? Put in the initial effort to make sure your art test is telling the story the company is trying to tell. THEN get to work. Think about every aspect of the work as you make it. In front of the dull glow of the computer screen the candidate began to rant, “Why am I making this blue? Is green better? Green is my favorite color, but blue fits the narrative better… BLUE. NO, GREEN!” (the correct answer is blue, duh). You should be your harshest critic. There’s an old saying my dad always says, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Till your good is better and your better is best.” Despite being a remarkably dad-like thing to say, it’s damn good advice. Because, if you’re not always trying to give people your best effort, you should find something else to do. People are really, really good at noticing if you enjoy your work and companies are full of people that intimately know how and why people make art… so don’t half-ass anything.
Even if you’ve given your best effort and done all of the above down to the letter, it’s still extremely possible that you don’t get the job. The art test round can have anywhere from 2 to 20+ candidates depending on the size of the company. Maybe it should’ve been green, maybe someone else just nailed the expressions or mood better. Regardless, you’ve just kicked butt on making some art that made you a better artist. Typically, you won’t get feedback. But sometimes they do get back to you with critique, these are the best-of-the-best people and they definitely deserve a thank you. OR, you got an interview! OH MY GOOD GRAVY, YOU GOT AN INTERVIEW! Either way, you’ve improved and that’s definitely better than not having applied at all.