When a creative director puts out a job opening out for a copywriter…and gets a LOT of ‘other’ resumes.

Recently at my day job at Vicimus we posted our job opening for an in house copywriter.

After the last few days of combing through initial applications for our latest job posting for a copywriter It was necessary to provide some key pointers to any applicants before you consider applying. This may also help other creatives understand how a Creative Director or an HR may treat your application.

I know times are hard and many have been hit with layoffs or cut pay checks. However it is important to make sure that before you apply for a role you take time to consider if you really match the job description and to properly organize your submission. This is not as simple as checking off that one box in your list of skills that say you can writer or because you’ve written a few things. I have written blogs (and we do write a few on our site) and have written a few scripts and content calendars… but… I’m not a copywriter. I would not apply for this role. I am an art director who can write when forced. But it is not my trade. It is not my talent. Just something I can do if I have no choice.

I have however worked with a LOT of very talented copywriters in the past. I’ve worked away days and months in rooms with them. Watched them take the jumbled up idea that seemed to make no sense and turn it into gold with a few words. I’ve watched them fill pages of headlines with hundreds of ways to spin a single line before they come back with the right three the feel are the best. They are artists. They are crafters. They are thinkers. They can take a basic thought or generic brief and not only think up a great idea, but craft the copy to a point where you feel something. A good copywriter can make you laugh or cry – or at least a client cry… seriously, I’ve seen this.

As writers who fit this role likely know, the world has forced us into a place where we have too much content to write well. So we see the copywriter role often taken up without mentorship or the proper direction in an effort to get more written faster from people like me who can write when forced. Because of this overwhelming wave of content needed to fill a given day we start to vomit out half-baked thoughts of mediocrity like a Sunday morning frat house drunken – more concerned with emptying our stomachs to get it out than learn and specialize i the craft. I’m not looking for those kinds of occasional writers.

I’m looking for experienced Marketing/Business copywriters with a portfolio of killer work to prove it.

I’m looking for the ones who will argue for the best copy and idea until they are blue in the face. Who will rewrite that headline a hundred times because the just know in their heart that it’s not right yet. The ones that know how to make an idea sing. How to make a pitch dance. How to present an idea or script to a room of people with passion and confidence then turn around and research the hell out of Automotive dealers and pen a long form sell sheet or web page.

So how does our process of looking at applicants work?

Here is Our Process:

  1. Someone submits the required elements: Resume, Portfolio link (with project examples well organized), and if they can a cover letter.
  2. Our HR department (who are people too) and sift through the initial applications have hundreds of candidates to dig through before I see anything. The reality is I won’t likely even see your resume if you don’t meet the basic requirements.
  3. I then look at the top applications there qualified.

Here is MY process:

  1. I click on your portfolio link. ( I don’t read you resume or cover letter first). After 20 years I can tell a lot about your writing and thinking from your work before I read about you.
  2. While looking at your work I have my own internal check list. 1) Do they have work that fits the types of writing I will assign? 2) Is the work good. I don’t spend too long on the site but I do look through projects, read case studies, watch videos, and of course read your copy.
  3. I return to our resume hub and read your resume looking at: listed skills, past experiences and roles held – and where you held them – the rest I glance at. When I’m looking I am looking for a few key things. Has this person worked in/for an agency or in/for the marketing department client side. This matters for the role. I look at past roles held. We can argue that job titles don’t mater much. But for a 3+ year experienced copywriter – if I see no jobs related to being a writer you better have amazing work. (as mentioned above, may talented people can write. Few are truly talented writers at their core)
  4. If I’ve made it this far I’ll read your cover letter to get a sense of who you are. I won’t move beyond that. I’ll mark the applicant with a rating out of 5 and move one. A few days later I’ll take all the top rated and then start to really look at your work compare. (I may not look at your resume or cover letter again until a face to face)
  5. Eventually I’ll pick a handful for our HR department to call for phone interviews and from that determine who to actual interview.

Do you see the trend? Portfolio, quality of work.

Luckily a few applicants so far are interesting and may fit the role (thank you). At least enough to get to the 2nd step of the process at least – which is where I actually take a look at your resume and work. But I am also not in a hurry. We want the right candidate and are taking our time to find them.

So let’s get back to the job description…and help clarify what we are looking for so those of you interested can truly decide if you fit the role and how to organize yourself BEFORE you apply.

So what are my MUST-HAVEs?

Well, I’m glad you asked. For any who are considering to apply I wanted to clarify what is already a VERY clear job description 🙂 if your intent is to have your application be seen.

THE MUST HAVES for a Copywriter in this particular role:

  1. Have a portfolio of projects that will make me jealous you didn’t’ do them with me (not an unorganized site of your blogs or posts). And if you link to something that is NOT an organized portfolio site or use that space to tell us you will send work if we choose to move forward with you, guess what? We won’t. You just failed at the first critical requirement. AS A CREATIVE APPLYING FOR A CREATIVE ROLE – YOUR BOOK IS #1. ALWAYS.
  2. In that portfolio have examples of great copy for: Ad Campaigns, Social Campaigns (not one off posts), website copy, Commercial Scripts, Marketing Project Copy, 1-2 strong articles is a bonus as we will have some for our resources content (B2B automotive and tech) – I won’t read more than 1 or 2 of them (And I don’t have time to sift through randomly organized things. )
  3. Experience. Experience working in an agency (as in an ad agency or design agency) or within a marketing department for a brand or company (that did work listed point 2 above). Experience working with art directors to brainstorm ideas from briefs. Experience presenting copy/ideas to clients or internally to me. Experience selling and winning great ideas…and loosing great ideas. Experience working with a creative director who WILL be asking you to challenge yourself and rewrite that headline or copy over and over and over until it can sing (or make me cry).
  4. Expect to spend a lot of your time writing and thinking and rewriting our bad writing. 70% of your day is likely spent crafting words and researching the audience to find what will connect with them. 30% of your time will be ideating on big ideas and concepts with the creative team and by yourself. 10% will be for populating calendars, organizing files, finding my music annoying and laughing with the team. Yes I know that is 110% (that was intentional)

What will help your odds?

  1. Portfolio
  2. Portfolio
  3. Portfolio
  4. Research. Research the company now – not only after you made it to round 2. (Have you looked at our site? Looked at our channels? Looked at our videos and animations?) Research your future boss and co-workers – we’re pretty easy to find. It matters. Don’t apply for a job for desperation – apply because it looks like the right job for you and the company and people you want to work with.
  5. Wow me. Stand out by submitting a well crafted cover letter or video or something (I do read them) and an organized resume that covers ONLY the points you feel make you eligible. I don’t care about your first summer job. Only job roles in the past that are related to copywriting matter to me. I am hiring a professional copywriter not a hobby writer.
  6. Past roles as a “Copywriter” matter. Haven’t you been paying attention?!?! But wait what? I know, a few years ago I would never have had to think like that. But just like everyone who has a crack of photoshop and thinks they are a designer or who has a camera and things they are a photographer in creative role for people with experience your past experience matters. And I take it seriously. Because I know what my expectation will be. Though I can appreciate a someone who spends their time scheduling social media calendars or taking google certification courses or knows how to use Sprout Social or any other social hub – this is NOT a social media guru job.

What may hurt your application?

  1. Telling us you’ll send work examples later.
  2. Submit your instagram profile as a portfolio or a website you wrote articles for filtered by your name. I am not going to sift through things. If you can’t separate out a dozen strong examples of the work I listed above to show your writing ability I’m not going to do it for you. That shows me you don’t really care…don’t have the work to show… or worse, rushed to apply without thinking. (Non of these help my initial view of your talents.)
  3. Not being a copywriter. The job is for a copywriter within our marketing/creative team. It is specific to a talent and skill set not a second skill to your primary past roles, a side hustle (unless your writing is amazing) and not a hobby. If you are not a writer by trade this is NOT the job description for you.
  4. Don’t promote the concept that you are a jack of all trades and that’s a value add to me. it’s really not. This coming from a creative mutt myself. Though we are small, the role is specific and your tasks will be as well. I need you to focus and be happy that you’ll get to write so much.

So…if you read through this all I have to say is wow. Good on you for staying awake. And if you feel you now match to what I am looking for – then please do apply. If not, might I suggest you follow the Vicimus page for future opportunities that you may work better for.

Best, Todd



About the Author:

Todd Lawson is a creative/art director who has made commercials, brands, software and ad campaigns, who understands tech and designs UI & UX, a designer who does large scale paintings, a painter who writes articles and who is constantly curious about what’s next. His curiosity has garnered Cannes Lions, One Show Pencils, CA’s, Cassies, and countless other accolades. In 2014 & 2015, he was Ranked 9th & 15th Best Art Director by Strategy Magazine’s Creative Report Card. As Digital User Experience Lead & Associate Creative Director, Todd helped Grey Canada win ADCC’s 2013 Agency Of The Year. But the story doesn’t stop there. In 2015 Todd left Grey to Co-lead the complete transformation of Dashboard, his past agency, from a 16-year-old marketing firm into a Software SaaS Development Company, successfully selling it to tech firm Vicimus in under 2 years. Todd then led the company rebrand, developed departmental processes, guided UI/UX for product, oversaw and built external marketing plans and rebuilt creative and design teams.

See 18+ years of curiosity at www.toddlawsoncreative.com

Vertical Experience: Automotive, AutoTech, Alcohol, B2B/B2C, CPG, Cosmetics, DTC, Entertainment, fashion, Financial, Food, Gaming, Health & Wellness, Insurance, Marine, Not-for-profit, Pharma, Publishing, Software, Retail, Tech, Trade events.

Gallery Artist since 2004. Commercial artist/illustrator since 2001. See artwork at www.toddlawson.com