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When my friends apply for a job, they write a CV or fill in an application form. They get invited for interview, perhaps get shortlisted and invited back for a second round. At the end of that process, they either get the job or they don’t.

Applying for an orchestral job in the UK is rather different.  The process looks like this.

  • See the advert on a website or in the paper
  • Apply with an appropriate CV or application form
  • Audition (or the thanks but no thanks letter)
  • Trial period – this can last for a long time if the orchestra is interested in you or has a lot of applicants who have made it through to this stage.
  • Offer of the job, or the rejection

When a job is advertised, it used to be that you would see adverts in the Saturday Telegraph, but now it’s more likely that you’ll find them online at a site such as www.musicalchairs.info .

Whether you make it to audition stage is down to how you’ve written the CV you send in, whether you have the necessary experience, or if not, whether you have something on your CV that makes you an interesting prospect to hear. Having been on the other side of the desk now, as a member of the panel, you learn very quickly how important it is to tailor your CV for the particular job. Sounds simple, but not everyone does it. Opera highlighted for opera jobs. Symphonic for symphonic. Principal work for principal jobs.

The other thing to bear in mind that there are hundreds of applicants for one job and sifting through CVs can sometimes need to be done extremely quickly. Making your CV as easy as possible to read – in other words, not more than a page or two and with the salient information as obvious as possible – the importance of these can not be underestimated.

CVs for these jobs should be very different to, for example, office jobs. Whether you can bake or you run in your spare time, there’s time to show that later at trial – you do need to talk to your colleagues then! It makes you a rounder personality, yes, but it clutters an orchestral CV. The only things that should be on there are your personal details, education, and your experience. And another thing I learnt – don’t leave off your teachers – some panellists are rather interested in that!

After the audition, which I’ll write about another time, if the panel sees something in you that makes them think that you would be a possible fit for the job, and you play well, then they’ll give you a trial. Both things are important in my mind, it doesn’t matter if you play stunning Paganini if you can’t show the potential to play in a team.

A trial is a bit of a movable feast. It can be different things with different orchestras. It can start with a few days to start with, when you’re being tried out in a small way, a fairly non risky way. Then you might be invited back for a larger patch of work if it goes well. It shouldn’t be just one way though – a desk partner of mine told me once that trials were the opportunity not only for the orchestra to try you out, but for you to try them out. Not every orchestra fits every player. I was on trial with lots of very fine orchestras which didn’t feel right to me before I got my jobs, and no doubt it was the same for them, given I didn’t get those jobs! Sometimes these trials can last for years as the field gets narrowed down and the shortlist grows shorter… They are basically open- ended and the nice letter that says no could arrive at any time. Patience is very necessary, and rather difficult to cultivate in this situation. On the other hand, sometimes trials can be really short. I did 9 days in the job I now have before I was offered it.