In June 2013 I advertised the availability of the position of studio manager at Bally Studios, the rehearsal and recording studios that I own in North London. I put a notice on our Facebook page and posted the advert to a UK music jobs website, taking the free option instead of the paid version. Within 48 hours there had been 172 enquiries. I’ll be honest; that took me a bit by surprise. I want to say that I did not know where to start but sadly that would not be true, for despite there being so many it was surprisingly easy to discount many of the applications. More than 120 of them were discounted immediately.
On one hand this was just business: there was a position to fill and I needed someone to fill it, so culling a huge amount of candidates should have been easy. On the other hand there was a strong pang with every rejection that happened. See, when I was 19, just over a decade ago, I was in the same position as these people. I would apply for sound engineering jobs at studios via e mail and a letter in the post, and when that got no reply I would even drop one in by hand if the studio was located within commutable distance, hoping that the fact that they would be able to put a face to the name would help my chances. I contacted over 50 companies in London, with no luck.
I once purposefully walked into a few studios with a vinyl copy of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” under my arm as if I had just bought it from a local record shop, in a strange effort to make a good impression – as if in some way I thought that that could help me in my quest for employment. (In my confused teenage mind maybe I thought that if the studio owner saw the image of Gaye in his black leather jacket on the cover they would offer me a 5 year contract with company car there and then.) I also once used a autoharp that I borrowed from a friend as a prop, in case in many months time someone was to say, “what about that guy who came in with the autoharp, shall we employ him?” If there was a way for me to be remembered I would take it, yet (surprisingly, at the time, unsurprisingly in retrospect) I got nowhere.
Throughout the whole process I went through the whole gamut of emotions. The hope of applying, the frustration of waiting, the acceptance that I had not been successful, the regret of not doing things differently, and now here I was many years later doing the same to someone else. It felt weird. In many cases it was not due to faults on the behalf of the applicant that their application was to remain unsuccessful, but in other examples it was definitely due to a fault on their behalf. Obviously due to the large volume of candidates that we had and our tight working schedule we are in no way able to give any feedback on an individual basis, but there were many mistakes that we saw again and again. Some of them were concerning matters that you have to work in a studio to understand – and you could hardly hold it against anyone for not having the experience of working in a studio if they hadn’t done so, so these were understandable – while some of them came down to common sense. Small or large, they were all mistakes that moved them from the “maybe” pile to the “no” pile, or as it is otherwise known, the recycling bin, whether physical or digital.
Therefore, with the sole aim of helping to give a bit of perspective to anyone who is still looking for a job, and not to criticise or mock, these are the common mistakes we felt people made. (Also, just because we felt that they were mistakes made, that does not mean that other organisations will feel the same way.)
Make sure that you are applying for the correct job.
We were advertising the role of “Studio Manager at Bally Rehearsal Studios”, and made it clear that from this point onwards the studios would not be being run as a recording studios, yet many of the applicants listed the skills that they had in recording bands: being able to use recording software, having degrees in sound engineering and knowing how to play multiple instruments. All of which are extremely useful skills to have in the music industry and would no doubt come in handy at some point in their future, but few of them are essential skills to manage a rehearsal studios. From this we felt that many applicants confused the role that was available, of studio manager, with the role that they had studied for, as a producer/ sound engineer.
80% of the day to day activity here is dealing with rehearsals, booking sessions in, keeping the place running well, taking money and dealing with customers while keeping the rooms clean, organised and preventing any potential problems from coming up. When applicant’s had the vast majority of their applications letters referring to recording work in the past, learning about recording techniques and studying on how to mix music, we felt that they were very qualified in the part of the business that we used to concentrate on, but that they had not given enough information on the other aspects of the job that would brings results in the future.
You may have spent many years building up skills and qualifications in certain subjects, but your CV is not an opportunity for you to show people every skill that you have: instead it is an opportunity to show you are the right candidate for the job being offered, and so you should only reference skills and qualifications that help you do this. Anyone that said that they were in a band or had played in bands in the past instilled a confidence in us, as it is very important that whoever we picked was able to relate to the people that we work with and serve daily. Practicing in other rehearsal studios is relevant to the job, recording a string quartet is less so. If you are applying for a job in a rehearsal studios and have been to many as a customer, give a list of them: the more you have visited, the more knowledge you may have on how different studios operate and the more perspective you would have in what is to be expected from a rehearsal facility.
Whatever it is that you reference, make sure that it is relevant to the job being offered and that you are offering the company something what they are advertising for. Anticipate – “what is it that they want?” and then offer this to them, instead of starting off by thinking, “what can I offer them?” and working from there. The most success will come from giving them what they need, not what you want to offer.
A limited team needs flexibility.
The role of studio manager would entail both managing the studios as well as running day to day activities, something which we outlined in the advert. For such a small company, with 4 employees in total with only 1 working at any one time, there would be a lot of multitasking – on one hand the candidate would need to make sure that the sessions that were booked in on that day ran as smoothly as possible, whilst at the same time making sure that sessions that were booked in in the upcoming weeks were prepared for, leaving notes for other staff members while making tea, cleaning and fixing things, whilst taking new telephone bookings. When there is only 1 person at the studios at any one time you need to be a jack of all trades, so the best candidate would need to be able to have the attention to detail of making sure that bands were kept happy, as well as the oversight and perspective of being able to plan for any eventual problems that could come up. For this there would need to be a great sense of overview.
Thus, when applicants went into such detail about how qualified they were in recording, going into the minutest of details whilst not listing any other more practical skills, it made us think that maybe they had extensive skills and experience in one field, whereas we needed a candidate who had a broad range of skills in multiple fields and could execute many of them simultaneously. If you go into detail about certain skills you have, yet neglect to inform the company of other skills that you have, how are they meant to know you have those skills? If the position needs a wide range of skills, going into detail about a few skills you have is not the best approach to take.
Try to anticipate whether the position available would need you to concentrate on one task, or to multitask on many at the same time and build your approach around that. If you are applying for the role of data analyst then go into great detail about how you analyse data, since that is a very focused job. If the job requires you to do lots of different tasks, without you explaining the different skills you have there is no way for the interviewer to know that you have them. If you are not sure if the role will be very focused or very varied do some research, visit a rehearsal studios as a customer to see what the staff members do. If you notice them doing 100 different things at once, make sure your application is packed with as many different things you can do as well. If you see them concentrating on one task for 90% of their time, make 90% of your application about how great you are at that task. If you notice them chatting to bands, make sure to reference your cheery disposition in your covering letter. Ask around your friends to see if anyone knows someone who works in a studios and find out what their job involves, and once you know what to expect in the role, base your approach around that criteria. When you know the focus of the job you are applying for, you can then know how to tailor your approach to getting it.
If the position is for manager, show that you can manage.
All of the individuals that we considered for the position had shown that they were able to keep an eye on all the different aspects of the studios and how to improve the company, such as generating as many new sessions as possible, reaching out to new customers, keeping costs down, getting repairs done, investing in new equipment, motivating staff, and making improvements both in the facilities of the studios, the services we offered and the working practices that we used. We did not ask them to let us know which of these tasks they were good at, they took the initiative to tell us. On one hand applicants may say, “well, if you had asked me I would have told you”, but that is not the point. Considering the successful applicant would be manager, saying that they needed someone to tell them what to focus on suggests that they may be more suited to being managed, rather than managing others. The best candidates anticipated what a manager would need to do and displayed that they had the skills needed to perform this role. They suggested changes that they felt that we could make where they felt we were lacking, and brought forward ideas of where we could make improvements, all of the things that a good manager would do whilst in the job, thus proving that they were suited to the position. Don’t tell a company you can manage, prove it by doing it before you get the job.
Your qualifications need to be transparent.
The vast majority of the applicants were very qualified with many of them getting degrees from the same British based sound engineering course, but due to us not being able to get a detailed record of what exactly was covered on the course, we could not be certain that the topics that they had covered were likely to come up in the day to day activities that we come across. If we had been able to get hold of a detailed syllabus from these institutions then we could have been sure that the tasks that this person had excelled in were in the tasks that we would need them to be strong in, but as we could not, there was a cloud of uncertainty in these qualifications.
To be clear, in no way are we challenging any educational organizations as we are sure that they have set a relevant syllabus for their students, but whilst we are sure that the students leave the university with a broad range of skills, as every studio is so different it is impossible that one course can cover every skill that every studio would ever need, so there was a concern on our behalf of what had been included on the course. Yet when we contacted the educational courses to seek this information they were less than forthcoming, to the point of being obtuse, and so we had to discount qualifications obtained from this institution. We did not discriminate against anyone with the qualification, just looked past it when considering the candidate.
Seeing as it is such an important position in a small team with other people’s jobs and the future of the company riding on us picking the best candidate, we could not make any assumptions and take any risks without all of the knowledge needed, which meant we could not place as much faith in these qualifications as many other jobs can. If there were 20 staff members working at any one time and we employed the wrong candidate, the other 19 staff members could watch out for any potential problems that came up and correct them, but we did not have that luxury. There was no way that we could assume that each candidate had the skills we were looking for, so if they did not expressly state a skill, we could only assume that they lacked it.
Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer. You may know what topics were covered on your course, but do they? If you have a qualification in the position you apply for make sure that any perspective employer is able to see what topics have been covered. Send a link to the page of the institutions website that lists the topics covered, and if one does not exist, list them yourself so that perspective employers can be sure that the content of the course is relevant for the skills that they are looking for specifically.
Working in the music industry is not all about creativity, it is about meeting deadlines, fulfilling projects and, ultimately, making money.
Working in the music industry is all about two things: making great music and making money from that great music. If you do not make money from it then it is only ever going to be a hobby, and nothing more. If you join a company with a large workforce you may be able to concentrate on making sure that the music is as great as possible and delegate the task of monetizing your skills to someone else, but if you join a small team you are going to have to straddle the divide between both creativity and business, and this was a serious failing that we noticed in many candidates. Very few of them actually referenced about how they realised that it was a business position that they were applying for, how they knew that there would be financial targets to be met that other people’s jobs relied on, and how there would be repercussions for missing such targets. Many talked about recording great music, but few actually stated “I can find ways to make your company more money” or “I am great at spotting ways to save money”, and for such a small company in one of the most expensive cities on earth with little backing, such concerns are always at the forefront of our mind.
This is where we felt that the approach that most candidates took, of going to sound engineering courses to learn how to record bands, came unstuck. Maybe these courses do not prepare people as much as they should – do they teach about covering costs? What equipment to invest in, how to repair cables, how to soundproof? What about how to negotiate a deal for a discount on new equipment? Anyone with the ability to haggle £100 from new equipment will earn an extra £100 profit for the studios, and that is what we are looking for in a candidate. These skills could be the difference between a studio thriving or closing, so they should never be overlooked. If such courses only teach how to record and mix a band then their students may make great recordings as long as none of the equipment encounters any problem and the bookings keep on coming in, but speaking as someone who spends and additional 8 hours a week solely doing small jobs that help keep the studio in a position to deliver great quality recordings, while trying to capture as much attention for the studios as possible, I could see nothing on any of the courses that educated the members of the course about carrying out such repairs or attracting new custom. This is not to say they were not on the course, but that we could not see any evidence of it. A company that makes great recordings will keep their current customers happy, but without knowing how to attract new customers or fix equipment, the studio has no chance of long term success and stability, so candidates who overlook such matters do so at their peril. Put simply, if there is another candidate out there that can attract more new business, from a business perspective they are a better investment than you are. The only reason that a studio would employ you is to make money from your creative skills, so you need to let them know that you can do that.
Is the equipment you trained on comparable to the equipment you will eventually use?
Many educational courses use high quality equipment such as Neve and SSL desks, Avalon processors, Neumann microphones, etc and many candidates took a pride in using such equipment. One of the biggest advantages of using such gear is that you are able to have much more control over the signal chain, and that it will be much more forgiving. Use a Neumann microphone with a great pre-amp and a flat EQ through a Neve desk and it will sound incredible, use a Rode NT1 microphone through a Soundcraft desk and you will need to work a lot harder to get it sounding great as it is harder to get better results from equipment with more limitations. There is a huge difference between having a 48 channel SSL desk, with high end compressors and amazing microphones with a professionally treated room at your disposal compared with some of the recording that happens in budget studios, and if you do not specifically state that you are able to get great results form limited equipment, how will any studio you apply to know that you can? It can be hard for people to adjust to working with a mixing desk that cost £1,200 if they have learned on one that cost £300,000, and it did occur to us whether the candidate would be able to overcome such limitations. If you can work without automation doing mixes “on the fly” then state as much, as many people we have worked with have not been able to (the drawbacks of learning on a desk with full automation). If you are able to get the best out of limited resources, and if the studios that you apply to has limited resources, make sure that you make this clear to the position you apply for.
Applicants who said how proficient they were with software like Logic, Cubase and Pro Tools failed to spot that we made a note on website that we do not use computers at all at the studios, as we have a “no-edit rule” and record everything live, using a 24 track digital recorder and tape machines. Whilst we did not discount anyone that had skills in using computer recording software, we felt that such skills were not relevant for this job. It would have been more of an asset to us to have had some knowledge on how to de-magnetise, and clean, a tape machine since we use tape machines. When applying for a job make sure you research the equipment that the studio uses and tailor your approach around it. If the equipment that you have learned on is different to the equipment that they use, make a point of saying that you are able to work with the set-up that they have also, otherwise there could easily be an assumption that you may not be familiar with the equipment they use.
Think of it a bit like a football team – there are some players that would be in the top 10 players in the world, but they may not fit into all teams. If their game is based around skill and flair, that could be a problem if the team that they play for has a game based around organisation and strength. Not all skills are transferable to all situations, so instead of letting them know your skills on equipment that they don’t use, let them know about the skills you have on the equipment that they do use.
The average candidate said that they had recorded “5 songs over a 6 week period when completing their course”, (since most of them went to the same college) but with the greatest of respect if we worked at that rate we would go bankrupt within a few months. Educational facilities that structure their courses to such time frames are neither preparing their students for real life recording studios, nor are they giving them the skills that they will need to secure a position within the industry. When the courses start to have their students record a whole album in 2-5 days, then we will be able to know that graduates from these courses will be able to work as intensively as we do here. No doubt such recordings may not be as perfect, but that is the reality of being in an unsigned band: most bands are on a tight budget and have to make compromises wherever necessary.
For example, our record for recording an album, which was 72 mins long, was under 5 hours, including mixing it. It was a rough and ready album, the band was delighted with it and have booked further sessions on the back of it. Most importantly from a business point of view they were happy to pay the session fee and booked more sessions, and considering our ability to stay in business depends on happy customers paying for their sessions, instead of making perfect recordings, this was a priority for us. You need to understand what the purpose of the studio is, and fulfill that purpose. If you are applying for Abbey Road, by all means let them know you can make perfect albums. If you are applying for a position at somewhere that does quick demos, you need to prove that you are able to record quick demos.
When we were still recording, our focus was on making sure that no client was ever unhappy with the quality of their recordings or rehearsals, and balancing that with fitting in as many sessions as possible. As long as those two objectives are reached then we are doing our jobs. If the emphasis of these courses was spending so long on recordings so that everything was perfect it was almost treating the recording process entirely as an art-form, as opposed to giving any thought on the business aspect of it. We would love to spend as long on these sessions as we could, but there is no way that the bands could ever afford such luxuries. If you spend 2 months on a recording you are going to have to charge an amount of money that makes all of that effort worthwhile, but we run a budget studio aimed to customers with restricted resources. They would love to pay more for better results, but many simply cannot afford it, and if they cannot afford to pay it we cannot afford to pay a member of staff to complete such work. If you want to treat recording music purely as an art-form, then do it on a creative basis. If you want to get paid for it, then demonstrate that you understand the need to make a profit from that talent.
You have a degree in sound engineering? Join the back of the queue.
Out of the 172 applications we had, 108 of them had degrees in sound engineering, and the vast majority of the candidates gave too much consideration to the qualifications that they had, as opposed to the more mundane skills that many of our staff find a necessity in their day to day job. Some people actually put “I have a degree in sound engineering, which means that I am a better candidate than most,” when all it really meant is that they had kept pace with the other 107 people who had degrees. Try to keep in context that such qualifications are not as rare as they used to be. For example, how many other people were in your class when you graduated? Lots?
Remember, a degree in a subject is a means to an end, a way to show that you have the ability to perform the task to a high level and have good knowledge in it. But whilst the skills you learn in a master degree are helpful, so too is the ability to solder cables, knowing how to match different speakers with different ohm ratings, being able to re-skin a drumkit, wiring a plug, doing data back up while keeping detailed notes about sessions, knowing how to change a tweeter on a blown speaker, setting up a drum kit, being able to install a multi-core cable as well as being able to work for up to 12 hours in a row if the eventuality required it. You could be the most qualified person in the world but if your energy starts to lag after 6 hours, and if you cannot work past 12 hours, what is supposed to happen – should the band who is right in the middle of an amazing creative burst just stop playing? It should never be underestimated how much the ability to work at a high level for many hours at a time is valued. Failing to mention such attributes means missing out on a large part of what the whole job is about.
A surprisingly small amount of people also made any comment on the interpersonal side of the industry, which shocked us considering how important it is to interact with a band to get the best results. Attributes such as great diplomatic skills, being able to diffuse tense situations, (which can come up from time to time), being able to make creative suggestions when needed, (and understanding when a band ignores them!) keeping a cool head under pressure and being a calming influence are all some of the attributes that have made some of the greatest producers in the world so successful, but a surprisingly small amount of people touched upon them, concentrating instead only on the technical skills they learned and their qualifications.
The qualities needed to be a good member of staff – Keep negativity to a minimum.
About 20% of the candidates were so enthusiastic that they said they would be happy to drop their current job at the drop of a hat to come and work for us. While this enthusiasm and commitment made up feel very honoured, a large part of us also felt that if they were willing to do that to their current job, there is a chance that the same thing could happen to us down the line. We have such a small workforce that each employee is a vital part of the company, and if they were to leave us suddenly it would cause a huge knock on effect and likely set the company back. Therefore we felt it was counter-productive to mention this, since it gave us reason to doubt the candidates loyalty. Most small companies really value loyalty, so any candidate that displays any qualities counter to this could easily be penalised for it.
There were many mentions of being “bored with their current job”, and it didn’t reflect well in many cases – it looked like they were blaming their current employer for such circumstances. Surely a good candidate would have tackled such concerns directly? If your current job has reached a stage where boredom has set in it could suggest that you are simply going through the motions, which may not bode well for anyone looking to employ you in the future. As the vast majority of candidates will not know the companies that they apply for personally, the only information that we can get from them is from their application letter and CV, and as we are unable to know as to what context the statements that they make can be taken in, it can easily come across, maybe incorrectly, in a negative way.
Some applicants went into great detail as to all of the things that annoyed them in their past job, and cited them as a reason as to why they were looking for a new job. Whilst it is handy to know what motivates some candidates, 8 people spent over 300 words complaining about their past job. Many of them took the opportunity to criticise ex co-workers, and generally to just vent their frustrations. Seeing as the job position is for someone who will be representing the company to customers, and as we mentioned that we are looking for a positive person, this did have a bearing in our decision to not invite them in for an interview, despite some of them having otherwise strong applications. Make sure you keep any negativity out of your application.
If your role requires authority and pro-activeness, act in a authoritative and pro-active manner.
If we had a penny for every time someone asked “please let me know if you would like my CV,” we would have had 26p. 1 in 7 candidates did not attach a CV but instead asked if we would like them to send us one. The position of manager in any company is one that would demand a person that has leadership, takes initiative, makes work as easy as possible, and has confidence. Although we understand that many people may be being courteous in regards to not wanting to overstep the mark, we reacted a lot more positively to people that simply sent the CV without being prodded. Many applicants also said, “in case there are any positions available.” We usually get 2 job applicants a week, but on the two days afterwards there were 31 applicants that said “in case there are any positions available,” so they must have seen the advert. This would have meant two things – they either saw the advert and, for some reason, and not addressing it directly, or they did not see the advert, in which case they would not know what role they are applying for. In either case, it may harm the chances of being successful for the position. You know there is a job available, so does the company that you are applying for, so just apply for it directly.
Some people even included references that they had from past employers which we thought as great: If we were interested in them we would need to ask for the references anyway, so by them including them it saved us a job – and is that not the role that a manger would fulfil, to get things moving and make our job as easy as possible? They have not even got the job yet and they are already fulfilling it!
Respond directly to what the job advert asks for.
In the job advert, we included the line “…..have a good knowledge of how rehearsal studios run, or have strong ideas on how they should run….” The candidates that we warmed to most gave a list of some of the things that they hated in studios that they had rehearsed in, as well as ideas of things that they thought could make a studio great. The ones that caught our eye the most had actually used our studios specifically and gave us direct suggestions on how to improve them, and we liked the pro-active nature, confidence, directness and the attention to detail that they had. In many cases we agreed with many of the points that they made, which re-assured us that this person was on the same page as us. Try to pick out parts of the job advertisement specifically and answer them, as most likely the interviewer has listed these points specifically as they are important to the eventual position.
If the advert says, for example, “looking for someone to help open new studios” why not suggest an area you think could have potential? A company that says, “help us to make the transition to the new recording setup we are building up”, why not say, “I see you are buying new equipment for your studios. I could suggest the xxxxxx and the xxxxxx, as I think that they would be suitable for the set up you have.” A job advert that says, “looking for someone to help us to appeal to new potential customers,” by you suggesting, “have you considered appealing to church bands? Tottenham has a lot of church bands that always need studio space” you would be answering the questions directly.
Although it may seem insignificant, 88% of all the application letters and CV’s had a spelling mistake in them. We have the odd spelling mistake here and there in e mails and on the website, (and probably in this blog, now I come to think of it….) so we are in no position to take a moral high ground on such matters, but as the job of Manager is one that would require lots of attention to detail, spelling mistakes were unfortunate. Double and triple check all correspondence that you send. Also, make sure that the e mail address that you use is appropriate. When applying for a gig, firstname.lastname@example.org may be a useable e mail account, less so when trying to gain employment.
Back up your credentials.
Not all people who apply for a job get to the shortlist stage, but everyone that gets to the shortlist stage will be investigated thoroughly, so you need to anticipate this. Many people put in their application statements along the lines of, “I am very skilled in social networking from my time in….” and then they would list a former job, band or project that they would have been involved in. However, out of the 40 people that said this, when we investigated, 25 times we were unable to find any social networking of that band/job/organisation at all. For example, one person said that they were “very skilled in social networking, and have been doing it for my band for the last 3 years.” yet when we Googled them, we found that the band had about 30 “likes”, and had done 50 tweets and 4 Facebook updates in 3 years. It is so easy for companies to check up on small factors like this and takes little time, so it should be anticipated that such claims will be checked up on. One candidates even listed “playing Wembley arena with my last band” under experience, but upon investigation no such concert had took place. (There was once a time when they were being considered for a support slot at Wembley Arena, but it never came to fruition in the end). You should thus make sure that the information in your application is able to be verified easily, and if it is not, leave it out. When we asked one person about this they said, “when the band split up the account was deleted.” The problem with that is that once the account is deleted, so too is the ability to take credit for that account.
We received attachments in e mails that were corrupted, or in a software that you need to pay for to open, and unfortunately we did not have that software. The easiest kind of document for us to open is a simple .doc file, and any time a candidate sent an attachment that was in a difficult to open format we would have to contact them to ask them to re-send it, which, if we are honest, did not set the best first impression. 4 candidates said, “Please find my CV attached” but did not attach it. Again, as the managers job requires so much attention to detail, it is important that small mistakes like that are kept to a minimum. 39 candidates named their files “cv.doc” or something similar, and whilst we could change the name ourselves it may be better to call them “firstname-secondname-cv.doc” instead, to make life easier for the interviewer.
Attachments with examples of past work were sent, and 5 people sent attachments that, together , came to 104MB between them, with one person sending 36MB of attachments. If everyone had done that our e mail servers would have been clogged up in no time, and it is not a very efficient way to send the music anyway, as we would have to download it fully, listen to it, and then delete it. It would have been much better to have instead included a SoundCloud link, as then we could have listened to it in a much quicker and easier way.
Make sure that you are contactable in case you are successful.
There were also a couple of candidates that when we get in touch with them for further information, they did not reply to it! We tried sending a few e mails, and even calling, but there was no reply at all. We suspected that they may have found another job in the meantime, but as it was only a few days after the job advert was posted, that would have been surprising. The e mails may have been going to their spam folder, or maybe they were not getting through at all, there was no way for us to know. It may be worthwhile when applying for any position in any company to save that companies e mail address to your address book, to ensure that any e mails that they send to you definitely get through, and make sure you check your spam folder regularly. On two occasions when we called a candidate they answered the phone and sounded very surprised that we had contacted them, and it took them 10 seconds or so to compose themselves. If you add the phone number of the studios to your phone it will warn you in case they call you, allowing you to compose yourself before answering the call in a professional manner, making sure you make the best impression. It will also let you know if you have a missed call from any interviewers.
Also, if you change your mind after finding out more details about the job and decide that the job was not right for you, let the interviewer know in a professional manner. We contacted 4 people to let them know more details about the job and only heard back from one of them who told us “I’m sorry, I don’t think that this job would be suitable for me after all. As it is 5 hours a day, 6 days a week, I feel that it would involve too much travelling, and as I live on the other side of London, that should be factored in. Sorry, I thought it would be 8 hour days, which would make the travelling worthwhile”, and this made complete sense to us, we appreciated the feedback. We e mailed the other people twice more, still heard nothing back, and finally called them. 2 of them hung up when we called, the last one said, “no chance mate, I’m not doing 5 hours a day, not worth the effort……” and hung up, and as it would turn out he also lived in the same area of London as the candidate who had contacted us directly. 3 months later a friend of ours opened a studio on the other side of town and was looking for a good candidate. “Could you recommend anyone?” he asked? We were happy to put him in touch with the candidate that has been polite enough to message us clearly explaining why they could no longer take the job. Remember, even if you do not get the job it does not mean that you cannot get something out of the connection you have made. Just because this position may not be right for you, it does not mean that you will not get a good job in the end from this application.
It is not what you know, it is who you know.
Not surprisingly, we took more notice of people that we knew personally and had actually met in the past, particularly people who had used the studios faculties. We needed to chose an applicant we could trust fully, and naturally it is a lot easier to trust someone that you know and have chatted to in the past. If there is any way that you can meet the interviewer before applying for the position under casual circumstances it could make a big difference in your chances of securing the job. If you use a rehearsal or recording studio, introduce yourself even if they are not looking for anyone at the time – you never know when they may be in the future. If the studio has a shop, using or browsing it may give you a great opportunity to break the ice. Try to connect with them as a person, the most casual of meetings could put you ahead of 95% of the other candidates.
So much of the music industry is all about meeting people, and building relationships, and it did help us to have a clear image of the candidate in our mind. 95% of people in job interviews are putting on an act, to some extent, so presenting yourself under non-interview conditions could be a great advantage. If the studios has a Facebook page, even something as basic at “liking” their statuses, commenting on them or adding the people who work at the studios on your personal account means they can interact with you more, as well as getting a good idea of your character through your updates. Make sure you highly prioritize getting to know the studio staff members as people and not only as a candidate – as they say, “it is not what you know…..”
Tailor your approach to the specific company you apply to.
It helped when the candidate took some time to reassure us that they shared and understood the values that the company stood for, and had the same ethos as us, not least because it showed that they had taken a bit of time to research us. Connecting with a company you are trying to gain employment from is vital, so take 15 minutes to check through a companies website and reference specific parts of their company that you like, including the bands that they have worked with, their location, their target market, and even their any mutual contacts that you may have. If the company has plans for expansion, convey to them your ambitions for growth too. If the company wants to stay small, let them know how much you admire companies that want to keep that personal contact with their customers. To them it is not just a studio, it is something close to their hearts, so many sure you let them know that you realise the company also stands for more by connecting with them on a personal basis, and in keeping with the values that they have.
Try to be available for the position you are applying for.
If the position you are applying for is looking for someone to start working with no delay, and if you have a notice period at your current position, you may have to accept that you it could hinder your chances of being selected. This is not to say that you should be quitting your current job to make yourselves available, especially if there are no guarantees of any other job being lined up to walk into, instead it is just to say that you should accept that a candidate with a more flexible schedule is always going to be preferred to one that has prior commitments. If you are able to start immediately and have no prior commitments planned, use this as a great asset to have. If you are also willing to work immediately on a trial basis, or as a back up to any current members of staff, that could be a great way to edge out other candidates by reducing the risk of the studios choosing you. Once you get your foot in the door and secure the position then you can start to ask the company to change their schedule around your life a bit more – after all, life is about more than working and it is fair for any company to help out their staff wherever possible – but until that position is secured you need to do as much as you can to secure it, and that means accommodating the needs that the company has.
Some attributes that, personally, appealed to us very strongly included:
– Past experience in the music industry, specifically in promoting gigs/clubnights. We definitely remembered candidates who had promoted their own bands shows/ club nights in the past, as it would have involved building a relationship with bands, organising the logistics of each show, knowing people within the music industry, understanding all of the different jobs that need to be done, keeping to a time schedule, covering costs, dealing with the public, as well as showing a passion and pro-activeness for wanting to work within the music industry. Even organizing a couple of shows at a local pub could be a great boost for your CV, as well as displaying a positive attitude.
– Writing for, or having your own blog Particularly if it was about the music industry, it showed a passion for the subject and a positive and confident work ethic.
– People who went into details about how much they loved music. Everyone who currently works for the studio has a great love and passion for music, and we thought it was great when people took a little bit of time to articulate their passion for music too, as it would reassure us that we were choosing someone we could not only work with, but could connect with as people.
– Geographical location. With all other factors being consistent, the nearer you lived to the studio the more chance you had of securing an interview. From our perspective, the further a candidate is located the more chance of there being delays on their journey into work, the more tired they may be when arriving to work, and the less chance there is that they will be able to take short shifts. If you lived an hour away, it would mean 2 hours of traveling for a 4 hour shift, and most people may not feel it worth the effort. That all changes is you live 10 minutes walk down the road. If there was the opportunity for last minute bookings and we needed staff at late notice, living close-by would be a great benefit for the candidate and the studios, so it was a factor we valued greatly.
– A driving license and access to a car. Having a car opens up the possibility that the studio could have you running errands in quiet periods such as collecting or dropping off equipment that is to be fixed, or stocking up on shop supplies. It also removes the risk that a transport strike will have a negative effect on a candidates ability to get into work so it is a good asset.
– Physical strength. Most of the rehearsal sessions include using heavy equipment such as drumkits, guitar amps, bass amps and PA speakers, and if the candidate cannot lift them, or is slow in lifting them, it is a lot harder for the session to run smoothly and to time. In some cases there were candidates that were physically not able to lift an amplifier at all, in which case it was impossible to consider them as a potential candidate for obvious reasons. If you are particularly strong it could mean you are able to carry two amplifiers at once, which will make you a much more efficient staff member, so if you are good physical strength make sure that you let people know, as such attributes are in high demand in any studio setting.
We hope that this helps some people, and if it helps one person, then it will have been well worthwhile. We understand that a lot of employers do not give much feedback to any clients about the job applications, so we thought we would take the time to do it as we thought that so many of the candidates were so strong. We were so happy to have had so many applications, that we wanted to do all that we could to help them in their future job search. If anyone has any other feedback both for us and for other people looking for a studio job, please leave that feedback below.
Wishing each and every person out there much success in your job hunt, and in your musical endeavors!! 🙂