There are so many formats to choose from when crafting your resume and each one organizes the information slightly differently. But there are a few critical sections you need to have on your resume, no matter what format you choose.
It should go without saying, but unfortunately it doesn’t: You need a header that has your name, phone number, and email address. And when we say header, we mean it -- the first thing that anyone sees on the page should be your name and contact information! If a format you find online suggests putting your contact info on the side or the bottom, it’s wrong, plain and simple. Hiring managers need to be able to contact you quickly, and if they can’t find your information easily, they’ll call the next candidate. If you’re including other top-line info like address, IMDB links, LinkedIn, or a title, it goes here too -- that’s why it’s called top-line!
The bulk of your resume should be work history. If you’re writing a traditional resume, that means a reverse chronology of your jobs, inclusive of company name, dates of employment, location, title, and a few bullets outlining your responsibilities and achievements. Your reverse chronology needs to include all those elements, consistently, and for each job. Don’t assume people know that your company is LA-based since you are, or that your job function as a PA is obvious because all PA jobs are similar. If you’re creating a functional resume, your work history will be sorted by areas of expertise, highlights, or core skills. You’ll still need to make sure there’s enough context for a hiring manager to understand how/when/where you acquired the skills listed -- you’ll just display the information differently within the format.
Last, but not least, you need to include technical skills. These are generally computer programs you’re comfortable working with. You may balk at this -- doesn’t everyone know Microsoft Word? Isn’t it obvious that you know editing software if your last job was as an editor? Maybe so, but your resume shouldn’t force the hiring manager to do any guesswork -- nor should you risk being passed over by an ATS because you don’t match enough of the software keywords. It’s best practice to include proficiency in Mac, PC, and Microsoft Office (though if you are applying for more technically complex roles that rely on more advanced software, you can save space by listing only the more relevant software) and any other software that will show your ability to do the job.
You should always avoid sections like an objective, soft skills, ratings graphics, or company logos, but you can include other elements your resume, like a professional summary, areas of expertise, education (which you should always include if you have a degree or coursework, but if you haven’t pursued higher education, that’s okay too), foreign languages, professional affiliations, volunteer work, and interests. There is a certain degree of flexibility to crafting a resume; you want to make sure to give yourself the freedom to tell your story in the way that will best sell your skills. But keep in mind that freedom and anarchy are different -- freedom includes a base set of rules everyone agrees to follow -- and these rules will help you get on your way to a great resume!
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
"Industry Spotlight" is our monthly series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
This month's we sat down with Brett Roach, an Assistant Editor on ABC's THE ROOKIE.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: How would you define your job?
BRETT ROACH: An assistant editor is almost like a gate keeper. We bring in all of the footage shot by production, confirm post has received everything, and then organize it for the editor. As the cut evolves, assistants will cut in temp SFX, create temp VFX, help choose temp music, and sometimes even cut some scenes. Later on, the assistant will be in charge of turning over the locked cut to the sound, music, and VFX departments. It's important for the assistant to keep track whats being used where so that every department knows what they should be doing. Being an a good assistant editor is all about being organized. You need to keep your project and bins organized so that your editor can easily find things.
HR: What's your day-to-day like?
BRETT: It depends on what part of production you are in on an episode. In dailies, half of my day is bringing in and organizing new material. I've got to make sure everything is accounted for and then separate it by scene and mark takes and retakes. Then I'll do some sound design and place temp music.
HR: What do you like most about your job?
BRETT: The creativity. It's fun to be able to mix and match takes in a scene. An AE is always shaping and re-shaping to make things better.
HR: How did you get your current job?
BRETT: I'm currently working with an editor I've worked with for almost 5 years. She was offered the job and brought me on. I originally met her through a co-worker back when I was a PA.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
BRETT: My first paid gig was as a Post PA on an NBC show called THE EVENT.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
BRETT: You need to have the technical skills to be able to use Avid, which you can pick up along the way. You also need to have the personal skills to know how to read a room -- when to pitch a good idea or when to just listen.
HR: If you don't like _____________, you won't like my job.
BRETT: Making lots of decisions.
HR: What's something about your job that an outsider wouldn't expect (and maybe you didn't before you took the job)?
BRETT: I don't think people realize how much work goes into assistant editing. There are endless options when it comes to putting together a scene and you have to come up with everything. Also, even though what you're doing is temp, everyone expects the show to sound final. So there is a lot of temp sound effect work.
HR: What's a mistake you made early on in your career?
BRETT: I was probably a little too shy about sitting in the room with editors. You don't want to be annoying, but you also want to be sure to make a personal connection. Luckily, the show I was on went for multiple seasons, so I was able to take that time to get to know everyone.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
BRETT: Meet as many people as you can and show them that you're eager to learn about what they do. Try to sit in a room with an editor or assistant editor if you can to watch and listen. If you show genuine interest and willingness to learn, people are going to want to help you out.
Have you ever been at networking drinks and felt intimidated when the person you were meeting with started name dropping all the people he’s been working with or all the insider info he had about the industry? You probably felt inadequate and worried that you were way behind everyone else in your career with no hope of ever catching up. Maybe you started to question your decision to work in entertainment. The truth is, we’ve all been there…and it’s not a great feeling. But the even bigger, yet more secret, truth is that the person across the table often feels the exact same way. So before you get totally down on yourself, remember that you’re not alone -- very often, the other person is faking it.
Impostor syndrome is very real, and it can become even more pronounced in Hollywood where you’re contending with tons of big egos. Many people feel the need to brag about themselves, often as a defensive mechanism or because it’s a strategy they think will help them close the deal. And even though their behavior may not make you feel very good about yourself, there’s nothing you can do to change it. Instead, you need to assess your own reaction and whether or not you’re being too hard on yourself.
Think about it -- it’s not possible to watch every show, read every article and book, keep up regular relationships with every person you meet, go on networking drinks every single night, and give your 100% at work. Even if you try, you'll let other areas of your life slip, which is not only unhealthy but also counterproductive to working in an industry where stories about the human experience are at the core of the business! So you do what you can. And so does everyone else. You’ll have your areas of expertise, and others will have their own. Whether you realize it or not, sometimes you might even be the one who sounds intimidating, depending on who you’re meeting with. You are never alone in this feeling of inadequacy. That simple fact should help ease your discomfort.
But let’s take it one step further. Reminding yourself that others are in the same boat might calm your nerves, but when you're feeling down, you should give yourself a confidence boost as well. Instead of dwelling on your shortcomings, remind yourself of what you do know. What are some of your favorite accomplishments? What are you really good at? What subject could you consider yourself an expert in? Write it all down if you need to or tell your story out loud while you're stuck in traffic, and use it to reaffirm your self-worth.
You bring your own unique value to the table -- never forget that. Yes, you’re going to have inevitable moments of self-doubt, often the result of your interactions with others, but to succeed, you’re going to have to get through them. And the only way to do that is to celebrate your achievements and knowledge and give yourself the confidence to continue pushing forward.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
"ASK HR" is our monthly advice column where we answer readers' questions about pressing work dilemmas, job search queries, resumes, and navigating Hollywood. If you have a career-related question, email us, and the answer could appear in a future newsletter! All submissions will remain anonymous.
Dear Hollywood Resumes,
I've spent most of my career in representation. However, I recently transitioned to a non-scripted TV show in the story department and am loving it. But as a freelancer, I'm already feeling anxious about landing my next gig, because my resume is loaded with experience that doesn't apply to reality TV. What should I do?
-- What's My Story
Dear What's My Story,
First of all, congratulations on finding a job you love! That's no small feat, and it's exciting to know that you can transition to a new side of the industry and find happiness in it. More good news? That you already made the hardest transition. It's the initial jump from representation to production that's most scary, because you'll have to convince hiring managers that you're capable of doing a totally different job. You did that already! Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back.
It sounds like there's a voice in your head buzzing, "What if this is a fluke? What if people see my resume and think I have no direction? How can my short roster of credits compare to other people in my position who've been at it for years?" Let's separate the truth in those questions from the fear and anxiety. Remember: You're already doing the job you want to do, and if you haven't been fired, you're probably doing a good enough job! So no, this is not a fluke. At least it doesn't have to be.
There are a few different options for your resume. First, you can include REALITY PRODUCER or STORY PRODUCER in your headline to convey your direction to employers right off the bat. You may also consider a professional summary -- something along the lines of "Story producer with background in representation. Experience producing non-scripted series for major networks and collaborating with writers to develop feature scripts." Your summary is a great place to make key connections between the transferable skills from your past jobs and your current trajectory. Plus, it's an opportunity to show what sets you apart. You never know when the hiring manager will want the expertise you acquired from working in representation.
Then, lead the experience section with your work at your current show. Hit all the major buzz words from the job posting, or, if you're applying through a vague posting or contact, what you know to be the most important elements of the job. List any significant achievements -- did the season perform particularly well in the ratings? Did you get any additional responsibilities beyond the original scope of your work? How many episodes are you working on, and how many editors are you collaborating with? Are you able to write or pitch any creative? Show the breadth of your current experience while keeping the section to 3-4 bullet points.
When it comes to the rest of your work chronology, give context for your jobs, since people in your current field may be less familiar with representation. Include as many transferable skills you can think of -- collaborating, negotiating, and pitching come to mind. Even though you may have done other things in those roles, keep your bullets short and to the point. Then, think about any other experiences that may be relevant to your current story -- did you ever intern for a reality production company? PA on set? Produce any short films? If those experiences still fit on your resume and weren't ridiculously long ago, they may be worth including.
You'll also want to make sure your skills section lists any technical skills you've picked up in your new job. Are you more comfortable with Avid now that you're creating string-outs? Put it on there!
And lastly, keep in mind that your resume is one tiny piece of your overall job search. Make a good impression on your colleagues now so that you can come recommended for the next show they go to and/or solidify your return for the next season of your current show. It's pretty common for story producers to get hired through prior contacts. And once you have a few credits under your belt, change your resume entirely to a credits list and leave your previous career in representation behind!
-- Angela & Cindy