How do you apply to positions at big name companies like Discovery and National Geographic?
January 31, 2009 8:43 PM   Subscribe

How do you apply to positions at big name companies like Discovery and National Geographic? It seems that the main conduit to HR is online through their site, but their forms are so generic, I wonder how anyone could stand out.

I am a broadcast video professional with 5+ years experience, seeking a job back East, preferably near DC or Maryland, so I can be closer to family. I have always liked the product these two networks put out and have recently found job openings at both that fit my qualifications and career goals. However, I have not networked with anyone at those companies and, thus far, keep getting directed to their online application system to apply. The form is very generic and I feel that, even with appropriate experience and accomplishments, that it would be hard to stand out from the high volume of applications I'm sure they receive. Anyone have any advice for applying to internet listings on a large company's website? Thanks in advance for any help.
posted by Chromakey to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Keep in mind that, in a lot of cases, HR will not accept applications through any other channel. Even if you had the CEO advocating for you, you'd still have to go online and apply. So don't let that necessarily scare you off.

As for the rest, well, networking networking networking. Do you know anyone who knows anyone? Do you know anyone who knows the hang-outs of the people whom you should impress?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:40 PM on January 31, 2009

Your highest success rate is always to get someone who knows the hiring person to submit your resume. "Hey, I know this guy Kevin who is quite talented, here is his resume. Just to cover the bases it is being submitted through HR, so search for "Kevin Awesome." Etc. Every HR system has its quirks, but the bottom line is often getting directly to the person who is hiring for the particular job. When hiring, a recommendation from someone you trust carries far, far more weight than random rambling on a resume. So, yes you have to use their system, but, yes it pays "use" their system.
posted by caddis at 9:59 PM on January 31, 2009

Informational interviews!
posted by zia at 12:11 AM on February 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of large organisations also have referral schemes whereby you get referred by existing employees who get a bonus for doing so if you get the job...I assume you don't know anybody inside who could refer you?
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:21 AM on February 1, 2009

My best friend hosts a Lonely Planet TV show and she was asked to audition after years and years of experience on screen. I'm sure there were some connections involved - people who spotted her on TV in one show and passed the word on. Could someone in your circle of video professionals get you in for an interview or an introduction?
posted by divabat at 3:25 AM on February 1, 2009

Keep in mind that, in a lot of cases, HR will not accept applications through any other channel. Even if you had the CEO advocating for you, you'd still have to go online and apply.

I don't know about the media industry, but in software this is clearly false. Most large software companies strongly prefer employee referrals over people who just submit their resume online.

At my company, it seems to help if someone in a similar job function submits your resume. If I recommend someone for a software job, there is a good chance they will get a phone call. When I've recommended people for jobs very different from my own, they won't always get a call back.

Companies in older, more established industries will often go through headhunters and recruiters.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2009

Yeah, nepotisim. Work your social network (both real and virtual), push them out to the 6th degree and find someone inside. Even a brother of a friend of a friend of a friend will put you to the top of the resume file. (Though below Ted Turner's nephew's CV.)

That inside person can also give you an idea of what kind of people/experience/portfolios they like (which can be completely different than your outside impression) that you can use to ace the interview.
posted by Ookseer at 1:01 PM on February 1, 2009

Nthing networking, and specifically suggesting LinkedIn. I know several people who have gotten gigs via LinkedIn networking.


* Join LinkedIn.
* Send email invitations to your colleagues and friends in the industry asking to connect to you on LinkedIn.
* After a week or two, when you've got a few dozen LinkedIn connections, search for jobs you want at Discovery and National Geographic.
* When you find something you want to apply for, search your extended LinkedIn network for people who work at those companies. You may not know anyone personally who works there, but if your connection Amy has a connection with Billie who has a connection with Cindy who DOES work at Discovery, you can ask Amy to ask Cindy to put in a good word for you.

That's what's interesting about LinkedIn - it lets you expand your network by a few degrees of separation. If Amy's willing to vouch for you, and Cindy trusts Billie, Cindy's likely to at least pass your resume along, especially if there's an employee referral bonus in place at Discovery.
posted by kristi at 2:28 PM on February 1, 2009

Two of my acquaintances were executives with Discovery Channel, but both were laid off in recent months. Since 2007, the Discovery Channnel has been in a crunch, jettisoning staff. Additionally -- and this may only pertain to my acquaintances' former departments -- both executives reported that, prior to their layoffs, morale was low and communications were tense. So hiring possibilities may remain slim presently.

If hiring opportunities prove limited, you may want to attempt to build an independent contractor relationship with Discovery, for if higher-ups like your work, they may eventually offer you a position.
posted by terranova at 8:25 PM on February 1, 2009

Thanks for all the advice. Based on everyone's responses, I think I need to think more outside the box when it comes to my network. I have always been uncomfortable asking people I didn't know very well for help in getting an "in" to a company. I guess there is no time like the present to get over that :)
posted by Chromakey at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2009

You want to work freelance with people in the DC area who work with these two channels. You want to work local and ask around.

For you to be 'known' in a market requires patience - working with good people; either people who do work with discovery indirectly in post or in production.

Likely staff people at both companies would prefer to hire someone they have done some work with - you as a freelancer (vs. hiring blind.) One last bit, you need to do - go through your existing contacts for whom has worked with the two networks.
posted by filmgeek at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2009

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