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How to contact a design agency (for developers)

Applying for a job at a design agency (or anywhere quite frankly) requires a little effort to help you stand out from the crowd. Here's a few things that I've noticed recently that you all need to work on...

Recently, we hired a brilliant new developer (Hi Kenny!). Kenny got the job because he's great, but we wouldn't even have spoken to him if his application had been poor. In general, I was a bit disappointed with the standard of some applications we received.

Tom once wrote a post about How to contact a design agency but that was focused on Designers. I need a post which I hope will help a few developers get their shit together when applying for jobs. At worst, it's a good place for me to direct people to so I don’t need to write the same feedback over and over again. I have mostly stolen Tom’s original post but updated some of the content to be more developer-y. I am also more bad tempered than Tom as will become evident below… First a quote from the great man:

The people we hire at Bluegg are creative thinkers, problem solvers, imaginative and persistent. These are the traits you need to show when contacting an agency.

Tom Lloyd, Design Genius

Before you start

You have one opportunity to catch my attention, one chance to make your mark. If you think that drafting a generic, mass email that you send to every job vacancy is the key to making that mark, you are mistaken.

Every job post I’ve ever written has details of who to contact (spoiler, it's me at Bluegg), and also what to do to apply, and what to include with your application. PLEASE READ THE JOB POST!

As such "Dear Sir/Madam..." or “Hi!” almost always rules you out. Use your brain and use the person’s name. If there is no name, do some research (Googling) and find out a name to send it to. At least a director of the business, but if possible whoever is in charge of the development team. If these details aren't on the agency's site, be persistent. If, by some miracle it isn’t on Google, pick up the phone and ask.

Personalise

Once you know who you're contacting, research the agency. In your email talk about us. Show us that you know who we are and this is a considered application rather than a blanket email. Mention one of our social posts, or a blog post we wrote, or a site we made… Whatever.

I can't tell you how much more effective that is than saying "I have enclosed my CV for your consideration with regards to any vacancies that you may have within your organisation."

Get the tone right

This is also part of your research — find out how the agency speaks. Read their site. Look at their Twitter feed. If their tone is professional and clinical, get straight to the point and be equally professional. If the agency is more relaxed, use the same sort of tone. Tone is one of the main ways you can connect with someone. The same process applies to what to wear to an interview.

Why you?

Once you've shown that you've taken the time to research the agency you should take the opportunity to sell yourself. THIS IS IMPORTANT, JUNIOR DEVELOPERS! I understand this is a good opportunity for you to learn and improve your skills, but what can you offer? You're full of fresh ideas. You worked on a project recently in which you learned some new skills. You've spotted one of our clients you have a great idea for. Give me a reason to call you back.

Your work

It is a deal breaker for me that a web developer (of any level) could apply for a job without having examples of websites they’ve worked on. It is a HUGE bonus if you have a personal site even if it's just 1 page with some info about you. This proves to me that you can build a site and get it online. Check out our Senior Developer Paul’s site. No blog, no writing, but an interesting site.

There are no excuses. It is free (apart from your time) to build and host a website with services like Netlify and Vercel.

We like developers who have a level of design chops. I also like to get a feel for what you’re about. A personal site is a good place to show off and show you know how to layout a basic web page, set font sizes in a nice way, handle responsiveness, etc.

The details

Attention to detail is key for developers. Spelling and grammar errors are frowned upon. As are poorly written emails — Ask someone to proof read them for you. Spell my name right (ALWAYS SPELL BLUEGG CORRECTLY!).

Following up

One thing that surprises me is that people almost never follow up emails. If you care about getting a position that much, follow it up. Don't pester, but an email, call or tweet a couple of days later to check the email arrived safely is acceptable. Don't ask for feedback (yet) unless it's offered, just check it arrived.


If you do want feedback, please ask, but also don’t be upset if you don’t get it. Everyone is busy and it isn’t always possible.

In short

So to wrap up my advice for contacting a design agency here are my top tips:

  • Research the person and the agency

  • Use the person’s name

  • Make sure your tone is appropriate

  • Show you've read up about the agency

  • Explain why you'd be great for the role

  • Show them a website!!!

  • Take care over your words

I hope you found this post useful. If it helps in some form to get one person into a placement or job it'll be worth it.

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