We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again -- the key to writing a good resume is to describe your skills in the same way the job posting describes the necessary qualifications for the role. But sometimes, it’s important to go above and beyond mere skill-matching and provide tangible results in your resume that show you really are the best at what you do. Especially as you grow in your career, or if you’re applying for jobs that are a little more tech, sales, and/or strategy-based, you'll probably need to show definitive results.
The best approach is to integrate results into your bullet points in a way that contributes to the flow of your resume story. We often see resumes that outline a candidate’s skills and then follow up with a few "results" bullets. To us, this is messy and hard to follow. Take a little bit of time to think about how you can describe what you do and how well you do it in one brief sentence. For example, "managed a development and production pipeline of 50+ projects and delivered six pilots per year" has a nice flow to it and allows you to get the point across in the fewest number of bullets possible.
The other trick with a results-oriented resume is not to overdo it. Not every bullet point needs a number. In fact, the more numbers you throw out, the more a hiring manager’s BS radar will go off -- plus it’ll make your resume more difficult to read. Pick your most impressive numbers and stick with those. If you raised a ton of money or saved a ton of money for the company, you'd definitely want to share those numbers. Think about what quantifiable information will be most meaningful to hiring managers, and be sure that they will have enough frame of reference to understand it. It's especially easy to overdo it in entry-level Hollywood resumes. “Answered calls and scheduled meetings that saved executives 5+ hours a day” sounds a little ridiculous. “Rolled calls and scheduled meetings” is a more reasonable way to outline your experience -- if you feel you need to quantify to show volume, that's okay in moderation, but you'll want to be careful about how you present results in more task-oriented jobs like these.
Numbers can be helpful when they sound impressive, but there are also ways to show results without spitting out numbers every time. For instance, “Negotiated with vendors to procure production equipment and established track record of coming in under budget” is a great result without a number that also demonstrates your skills. “Managed development slate; greenlit highest-rated new series in network history” is another result that's more effective without a number and showcases what you spent your time doing.
Most importantly, make sure you’re able to speak intelligently about any result you mention. If you say “doubled the company’s social media following,” but the hiring manager learns during the interview that it only went from 10 followers to 20, that’s not really an impressive result, and it makes you sound a little fishy, like you padded your experience. And regardless of how truthfully you presented numbers in your resume, numbers often change, and they're tough to remember precisely -- don't let this trip you up in an interview.
When you sit down to write a results-oriented resume, think about the biggest highlights you’d share if you were describing your experience in an interview or asking for a promotion. Do your best to keep some of the same action verbs from the posting and add your own results spin on them. Expect that it will take you longer to craft a new resume for each job, but that’s okay -- in the end, it will be worth it.
You're probably wondering: What is a professional bio, and do I need one? Have I not been getting calls for interviews because I'm sending an old fashioned resume and cover letter, and hiring managers are looking for newfangled materials?
A professional bio doesn't replace a resume in any way, and you should absolutely, unequivocally, never submit one in lieu of a professional resume or cover letter when applying for a job. Rather, a bio is a supplemental tool that will help you present yourself to your colleagues in a variety of settings and boost your career in a more general sense.
In particular, a bio can be useful for writers, directors, or other creative-types when sent as a precursor to general meetings (generally, an agent or manager would send it for you). Resumes for these types of professionals typically take the form of a credits list, but a bio will allow you to showcase some information that might not make it into the resume -- awards, fellowships, uncredited development experience, interesting personal anecdotes, and even some humor. By sending a short bio in advance of a meeting, you save executives from Googling you and trying to piece your story together themselves.
Bios also make up a part of your online presence. Many companies feature C-level executive bios on their websites, and some smaller firms have short blurbs on every person at the company! If you have a personal website, you should certainly include a bio somewhere on it. It allows you to summarize both your personal and work experience in one place, and it will help a viewer decide whether they want to learn more about you and guide them to the parts of your portfolio that are most relevant. Additionally, if you’ve ever been asked to speak at an event or contribute an article to a website, you’ll probably need a bio that will likely live online somewhere. This can only help you in your professional career -- having your bio posted on another organization’s site will inevitably give you some extra credibility. Bios are also a component of fellowship applications, and if you’re accepted, your bio will typically be featured on the program’s site. Needless to say, given the public nature of a bio, it’s important that you make it GREAT!
But writing a bio can be tricky. You want something well-written that flows nicely, so if grammar or written storytelling aren’t your forte, you’d do well to have someone write your bio for you. Plus, an outsider can often help you identify the most impressive aspects of your career and lay them out in an organized way. Writing a bio can sometimes feel like you’re being forced to brag about yourself, and most people are uncomfortable doing so. Remember those awkward times that your professors asked you to write your own letters of recommendation for them to sign? Bio writing can sometimes feel a lot like that. At the very least, we suggest having a friend or family member help you with your bio. But that’s why we’re starting our new service -- to help you with this very important component of your professional career.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It's time for another "Industry Spotlight," 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, we sat down with TV writer Steven White, Co-Producer on ABC's black-ish and founder of Script Coordinator University.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: Tell us about your job.
STEVEN: As a Co-Producer on ABC's black-ish, I get to work at 9:58 for a 10am start and chat with fellow writers until the showrunners start the day. We either blue sky new story ideas, work on breaking a specific episode's story, rewrite a script for the table read, rewrite a script after a table read, punch up a scene that's filming, give notes on cuts of episodes we've already filmed... it's basically, what episode are we working on, and where is that episode in the assembly line? I pitch jokes and try to help with mid-level problems while trying hard not to create any problems for anyone above or below my pay grade. We do 24 episodes of black-ish, so we don't have as much time to pontificate as writers on shows with fewer episode orders. We hit the ground running and don't stop until hiatus, so I may not know what day it is, but if it's Tuesday, there must be a table read.
HR: How did you get your current job?
STEVEN: I started as the Script Coordinator halfway through the first season of the show and used that as an audition for a freelance script in season two that got me staffed by season three. Some people say "Don't be too good at your job!" over fear you'll get stuck there, but I strongly disagree. Showing someone you can be the best at the job you have is the greatest way to show them you'll do just as good, if not better, at the next job they want to give you.
HR: What was your first job in Hollywood?
STEVEN: I started as a Writer's PA on a Lifetime show long enough ago that producers still wanted hard copies of scripts. But the way I got lunches, made copies, and answered phones was enough to impress a producer who recommended me for my next job. You never know who's going to notice how well you're doing, but rest assured, if you do a good enough job, people will.
HR: What are the skills someone would need to succeed in your position?
STEVEN: If you want to be a comedy writer, you can't be too precious with your jokes, because they always need more. It's your job to have more, all the time, so forget your last one and be ready with your next one. Even with the best joke ever written, trust me, someone was waiting with an alt.
HR: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
STEVEN: This is going to sound crazy, but I didn't actually write enough. I thought about ideas and brainstormed a lot, but I didn't sit down and turn pages around as much as I should have. On the plus side, I'm not one of those people who burned themselves out writing spec features for 10,000 hours, but, flip side -- I also don't have as many spec features as I'd like.
HR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone trying to break in/move up in the industry, what would it be?
STEVEN: The best advice I ever heard was, "If you don't like where you are in your career, just work harder than everyone you know." I think a lot of people will think they're already doing that, but it's really about how honest you are with yourself when it comes to what kind of work you're doing. E-mailing 100 people that you want a job may be "work," but it's not as helpful as taking real time to talk to three or four people instead about the best things you can be doing to get to the next level. Reading every script on The Black List is "research," sure, but reading five or six of them and using the rest of that time for your own work is a better use of your time. There are a million more examples, but I would just sum it up by saying your time is valuable, so make sure you're using it in the most effective ways.
HR: Thanks, Steven!
Freelance jobs are common in Hollywood, and the question of how to list them on a resume is one we get a lot. The answer depends on what kinds of jobs you’re looking for. Your resume is supposed to tell the story of why you’d be right for the job, so there’s no one-size-fits-all freelancer resume.
If you’re looking for your next freelance production or writing gig (and have more than just a couple of credits -- more on this below), you should usually submit a credits list. The person in charge of crewing up is probably just looking to see if you’ve worked on anything reputable or similar to the new project and at what level. It's pretty simple -- pick a clear format with rows that include the project title, format, production company or network, your role, and the year. Something that can be viewed at a glance.
If you’re looking to transition to something full time, you’ll need to get a little more creative. When you've held a lot of similar positions or short term gigs but need a more traditional resume that includes some bullet points describing your responsibilities, we suggest grouping certain jobs together along thematic lines or by role. You could say something like "Freelance Production" or make it more specific. You may need a few separate headings for different types of roles -- your Production Assistant gigs shouldn’t be in the same section as your Associate Producer gigs. As you summarize your accomplishments in your bullets, you should name the most significant show or film titles in bold and caps, with the network or distributor in parentheses. Remember to match your bullets as closely as you can to the language in the job posting. You might not have the exact skills the job calls for, especially if you’re looking to go from working on set to working in an office, but you should think about transferable skills.
Things get a little trickier when you have some freelance jobs and some full time positions, and the key here is to keep your formatting consistent and clear. If you’re applying for a production job but don’t have enough credits for a full credits list, you can send a more traditional resume with a mixture of company names and show/movie titles in the company name field. You may also consider a resume that includes two sections, EXPERIENCE and CREDITS, but if you’re looking for something full time, err on the side of a traditional resume and highlight your full time experience as best you can.
Every situation is different, and it may take some tinkering before you find a format you’re fully comfortable with (of course, we’re happy to help!). But as long as you remember the basic principles of resume writing, crafting one that reflects your freelance background is totally doable and shouldn’t be too scary!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan