I want to point out that when I talk about agencies, I prefer to use the word "submit" and "submission(s)" instead of "applying."
My reason for this is because I don't want newbie models and those just getting into the industry to have the misconception that submitting to agencies is like applying for a job. Are they similar? Yes. Similar enough to be treated/talked about the same way? Not exactly.
The Submission/Application Method
Both agencies that sign models and companies that hire employees have their own respective submission/application methods. However, for models it is different compared to the average Joe/Jane looking for a 9-5 job.
Models don't go to the agency and ask to pick up an application that they can fill out and return at a later date. Nor do they call/email the agency to ask if they are hiring and what openings they have. It doesn't work that way.
Many agencies have submission forms on their websites for models to fill out and send in, along with photos and other requested materials, which is very much like a regular job application. The difference is that in order to obtain this kind of information, you have to visit the website, not call or email the agency directly.
The same could also be said for applying to regular jobs but it is crucial for models to know that phoning, randomly emailing or dropping by an agency office to inquire about representation is a big no-no. Regular 9-5 companies may also discourage this but in general, this practice of inquiring is more accepted in the overall job market--in modeling, it is not.
Unless you're applying to a job that is "entry-level," with no experience required, in the job market chances are you need to have a resume listing your previous experience and other information that shows why you're qualified to be hired.
In the modeling world, previous experience/training is not mandatory in order to be considered for representation by an agency unless they state on their website that they only represent professional level talent. Otherwise, newbies and inexperienced model hopefuls are more than welcome to submit their snapshots, measurements and info.
Again, the key is in the agency websites, which list the submission guidelines and whether or not they'll take on new models or only those with proven experience.
When applying to regular jobs, you're required to have some kind of resume that lists all the nooks and crannies of every job position you've ever held or at least those relevant to the type of position you're applying for. Models don't need resumes to submit to agencies. If you don't have any prior modeling experience, how can you be expected to submit a resume? Agencies work with new/inexperienced models all the time so they know not to expect these kinds of things from newbies.
Employee vs. Independent Contractor
This is the business side of the modeling industry I'm about to jump into here. When a person applies for a regular job and they get hired, they become an employee of that company. When a model gets signed by an agency, they become an independent contractor, not an employee. What does this mean?
The most significant point I want to touch on when it comes to this is the fact that "employees" receive a benefits package of some kind (health, dental, vision, vacation, 401(k), etc.)...models do not. As an "independent contractor," you are operating as your own business/employer, therefore the agency is not responsible for providing you with any kind of benefits. The contract you sign will state this and when you sign it, that means you are agreeing to and understand that you are responsible for providing yourself with those things and not the agency.
A regular job interview means dress to impress. From business suits to business casual wear, job candidates already know their wardrobe needs to be top notch to make a great first impression. For models, interviews and open calls don't require nearly half as much pizzazz.
Heck, open calls at agencies encourage models to be as casual as possible. While female models typically wear skinnies, heels and a fitted tank-top or t-shirt, male models can keep things simple as well with jeans, sneakers and a regular t-shirt. So there's no need to invest in formal business threads for the purpose of going to a modeling agency open call.
Even if invited to a formal agency interview, the dress code doesn't change drastically--dressy casual for both female and male models is more than enough to get the job done. Additionally, no fancy briefcase or presentation is necessary. Digital snapshots with your name, stats and contact info written on the back is the bare minimum required. It doesn't get any easier than that.
New models shouldn't make the process of submitting to agencies any harder than they need to. The process itself, when you really think about it, is very simple: the websites tell you exactly what to do. Follow the instructions and see where things go from there.