In response to questions concerning attracting the attention of a potential hiring manager, based on Chapter 2 of Ilana Gershon’s Down and Out in the New Economy (2017).
What is the balance between a generic and an overly specialized photographer?
“In general, to be hired, job applicants have to be reasonably competent at a range of genres.” (Gershon, 67)
As a photographer, having one specialization isn’t very helpful in the professional world. Being an expert in three or four genres is beneficial. A photographer can be hired as an editor, or to pick content for ads on social media. So having more than one skill is preferable. However, you don’t want to over do it and have basic skills in more than ten genres. It’s better to be an expert in a few than a novice of many.
How do you stand out from other applicants?
One professional Gershon interviewed said that “the best way to know if someone is going to be good at a task is to watch someone do that task.” (Gershon, 87)
In the world of visual arts, a portfolio is proof of ability, and all employers are going to ask for one during the application process or during the interview. Everyone’s portfolio should be designed to show the skill and style of the artist.
Just as resumes can be reformatted for a specific job, the portfolio can also be molded for a particular job. You wouldn’t put natural landscape photos in a portfolio for a fashion magazine.
What traits make you blend in with other applicants?
“Once the candidate can demonstrate a relative competence with the required genres and prove that he or she has the necessary background to do the job, then the candidate has a good chance as anyone else similarly qualified.” (Gerson, 81)
Almost all photography students receive the same training. We learn to develop 35mm and 120mm if we take a more difficult analog class. We learn what lighting is best for what mood, and we all learn how to use Photoshop, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse for professionals.
From my experience, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are usually the top two editing programs under the list of “required skills,” and there are other editing programs. Every resume starting at the top of that “hourglass,” that Gershon uses metaphorically (75), as the worlds Adobe, Canon and/or Nikon on it.
How do you accentuate your strengths and improve your weaknesses?
I have learned that it is best to show how you improve your weaknesses is describe how they accentuate your strengths. This also shows how I overcome an obstacle in the workplace.
For example, I have a tendency to get anxiety, but I wouldn’t say that to an interviewer. So, instead I say something like; “I have a tendency worry too much about making mistakes, and as a result I have a well developed eye for detail.”
This answer, I feel leaves room for elaboration if needed, and this is where I feel I find middle ground between the two hiring managers Gershon interviewed. One preferred the concise answer, while the other desired more detail. (81–90) I’ve encountered both types of hiring managers in the past.
One time I was asked how I handled a chaotic situation where I had to take charge. I can’t exactly answer that with an elevator speech, but I did my best to keep it under three minutes. In my explanation I was able to highlight my strengths in organization, patience and management. Without taking 20 minutes to do it.