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Above and Beyond the Animation Portfolio


Terry Posthumus writes:

Above and Beyond the Portfolio

Terry Posthumus

I’ve been in the animation industry for 25 years, and there is a mantra that rings as true today as it did all those years ago. That mantra? “You’re only as good as the last piece on your demo reel. You want a job here? Show us your demo reel and portfolio.”

And, while it rings true, there is so much more to getting a job in this industry. And, truth be told, it has always been this way.

Animation companies are not curators of demo reels and portfolios who sit around soaking in the artwork like aficionados. The truth is, this industry can be very ruthless in its approach to hiring. Many companies have HR departments staffed with folks who aren’t even artists. Some call these folks, “the gatekeepers.” And the moniker is not without merit. There is a process of pruning, and there’s a lot to be said about how a prospective employee approaches the application process. Remember, these people are professionals.

Your attention to detail and process can make or break an opportunity.

Here’s a primer intended to get your attention; and to help you navigate these waters. If you are going to secure an animation/artist position in this industry you will have to be prepared in the following ways.

1. Research: Find out what recruiters are looking for specifically and generally. Have they advertised job positions? Have they created a page on their website instructing you how to apply to their company? Read! Make notes! Follow the instructions.

2. 30 Second Elevator Pitch: Create a clear, brief message or commercial about you. Memorize it. Practice it. That way, when opportunity knocks, you are ready to communicate who you are, what you do, what you’re looking for, and how you can benefit a company.

3. Resume: There’s so much to be said here, but I want to highlight three deal makers/breakers. First, write an amazing and concise summary statement. Explain what you bring to the table for the employer. You have 6 seconds to capture the imagination of the person looking at your resume. Next, have someone proofread your resume. Spelling errors communicate a lack of care for the quality of work you produce. Finally, You’re an artist, so make sure your resume looks good, reads well and works from a user-centred design perspective. Bonus: Make sure it’s printable.

4. Cover Letter: Don’t regurgitate your resume. Tell your story. Tell the company a bit about yourself. Avoid writing a vanilla summary that reads like a tome (look it up). Typos, grammatical errors and general sloppiness will get your application tossed. Make sure you get it reviewed by a couple of other people. Use the following flow to craft a cover letter that will woo your prospective employer. First, tell a story that contextualizes who you are. Second, say why you want to work for said company. Third, tell them what you bring to the table. What’s your value-add? Finally, take the time to chat with someone who works there (LinkedIn, anyone?) and write a summary of what you learned from your conversation. You will show that not only are you interested but you have initiative.

5. The Interview: Don’t be too early. Definitely, don’t be late. Don’t overdress. This is not a business interview. Don’t underdress. It’s not a concert or trip to the landfill. Have your elevator pitch ready, a few stories polished, and a good sense of what you have to offer. Practice! Practice! Practice!

So, there you have it. Consider this an introductory primer on the path and pitfalls that make up the interview process. Some companies may do more, such as animation or modelling or materials tests, and I can tell you of times I was hired over lunch and a conversation.

Every situation is different. It varies about as much as the industry does. One thing is for sure. You have to pay close attention to details and preparation is vital.

Here's my final bit of advice. Make getting a job, your job.


  1. Well said!

    As a hiring manager, I want to know 1) who you are 2) can you do the job 3) what can you bring to my team? 4) what can I give you? (i.e. what will you lean from me) in that order.

    Resume gives me a snapshot of your experience as it relates to my job. Cover letter fills in gaps (if you have related experience that doesn't fit in your resume - highlight it here)

    Also... take a deep breath before you walk in and smile! You're gonna kill it!

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