You probably clicked on this post thinking we were going to warn against writing generic cover letters because you might make an error and use the wrong business name somewhere in the document. While that’s a big mistake (and one that will probably cost you an interview), it’s only part of the reason you should write a new cover letter for every job application.
We always recommend starting cover letters from scratch, instead of using a template. This allows you to tailor each cover letter to the specific job so you can show employers why you want to work there and why you’d be a good fit. If you start writing and can’t figure out what to say, it’s probably a sign that this isn’t the right job for you. You have to be able to convince yourself first. Do your qualifications match what’s being asked for in the posting? Does this job sound fun? Is it a company you’re passionate about?
Write honestly, and make it personal. It’s pretty obvious when employers get a recycled cover letter. If you can sound like an actual human, you’re a lot more likely to get a call. And the best way to do that is to open up a fresh email or Word document and start typing.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Hollywood Resumes Co-Founder Angela Silak wrote a guest blog for the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism's MCM blog. Check it out here.
You know those internships where the supervisor doesn’t really have enough work to give you, so you wind up filing or shredding papers all day? Not only are you bored to tears, but when you go to write your resume, you feel like you have no job responsibilities worth listing!
The good news is, there is a way to use your experience to show that you do have valuable skills and that you learned something (without lying). If all you did was file during an internship, that’s ok, but you’ll have to find a way to phrase it better. Think about the overall purpose of filing -- you were probably helping the department stay organized in some way. “Created an organizational system for tracking projects” or “Oversaw office organization and handled sensitive documents” sounds a whole lot better than “Filed papers.”
Filing may seem like a silly administrative task, but if you can use it to prove that you are organized (an essential skill for any employee), it can give your resume a boost instead of holding you back. The same is true for simple assignments like making office runs as a PA or handling company mail as an assistant. If you think big about these minor responsibilities, your resume will sound much more impressive.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Like many other industries, Hollywood has its own set of skills that are favored over others, and these depend on the position you're applying for. A good rule of thumb is to take a look at the job posting and make note of those skills that are listed toward the top – these should be your starting point. But there are a few general guidelines that tend to apply once you've hit a certain level of your career. Here are a few common skills you should highlight at various stages of the Hollywood ladder:
For an intern, most hiring managers want someone who is motivated and reliable, and this can be conveyed in many different ways on a resume (leadership opportunities, campus involvement, other internships, etc.). But once you’re ready for an assistant position, your resume needs to change -- there are some very specific skills that should to be on your resume to keep it from getting thrown in the trash. In particular, administrative duties like answering phones and scheduling must be on there if you're trying to get on a desk. Although they seem like menial and easy tasks, they will be the core of your job as an assistant, and your potential boss will want to know he's going to be covered if he hires you. It’s all about proving that you know how to manage a desk. However, if you’re going for PA roles, phones won’t be as important, but ordering lunches, going on runs, and setting up equipment are going to be key. There’s a good chance you’ve developed those seemingly more menial skills during college or an internship – don’t leave them off.
Obviously, mid-level roles are a lot more varied and specific than entry-level roles, but there are a few things to focus on that pretty much all hiring managers will want to see. The main ones fall under the category of communication skills – showing your ability to cultivate relationships and manage projects by interfacing with a wide range of stakeholders is key in most mid-level roles. Think about what projects you’ve taken a leadership role on, and make sure you highlight them (and any relevant results) on your resume. But also consider achievements in terms of business development. Have you brought your company some new clients? Identified talent and supervised them to develop a project that got greenlit? These are the kinds of things hiring managers will want to see – you’re the type that will be able to keep projects running smoothly but will also bring added value to the company.
If you’re looking for VP and department head positions, you’ve now got to prove your management and leadership skills (in addition to the creative and project management skills you've learned previously). Part of that is managing teams – often, you’ll develop those skills in mid-level roles, and now is the time to show you have mastered it. But it’s also about managing the overall vision for the department or project. What projects in your past have forced you to think strategically and from a big-picture POV? You’ll also need to note if you’ve managed budgets. If you’re given a full department to oversee, you’ll be thinking about budgets per project and also employee and contractor salaries. So long as you aren’t breaking confidentiality agreements, it can be good to reference budget ranges on your resume when they are relevant to the job you are applying for. Additionally, senior leaders are often representing the company during both internal meetings and externally. If you have a way to showcase public speaking skills or even that you’ve represented your company at pitch meetings with high level buyers, include these experiences on your resume.
Even if you've got more to offer, you need to think about the actual requirements of the position you’re applying for and make sure you’re highlighting the skills that are going to be valued most. And when you’re ready to level up, you’ll need to overhaul your resume again – think of it as a working document that will change frequently to help you get the specific job you’re applying for.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan