When crafting job application materials, many job seekers fall into one of two traps. Some people are overthinkers -- they worry too much about whether they have included the right small details on their resumes, whether the hiring team will be “wowed” by their amazing personality, or whether their resume will be so beautiful that the hiring manager will just have to hire them. Others are underthinkers who will jot down a few past jobs, add some sparse bullet points, and assume that the hiring manager can figure out that in their last three roles as an AP they did what an AP does, and that’s it’s all just common sense. They take the view that the hiring manager is intelligent enough to figure out how right you are for the job on her own. Why would you spend hours on an application for a company that you may never hear back from?
Both of these approaches will hurt your job search. These mistakes happen because a candidate is too focused on their perspective of the application process, as opposed to the hiring manager’s point of view. But considering the hiring manager’s experience is critical to submitting a good application.
Hiring managers are busy. Either they’re in HR, where they are vetting openings for multiple positions, or they’re filling a role on their own teams and have other work to focus on (this is especially true if the role they’re filling is newly vacant and they have to cover that work). They want to find the right candidate, and quickly. This is why many hiring teams try to source candidates from their networks first. Instead of being inundated by resumes from hundreds of unvetted job seekers, they can make a short list of candidates referred by people they trust.
But let’s think about those hundreds of unvetted job seekers for a second. Entertainment is a “dream career” for many people. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to get flooded with resumes from people all over the country who think this could be their big break. Many of these people aren’t even interested in the position at hand – it’s not uncommon to get a cover letter that indicates that the person just wants the company to have their information on file if a position that aligns with their skills and location opens up. This is a very real situation...and a colossal waste of time for a busy hiring manager.
But of course, there are plenty of viable candidates who don’t have an “in” for a specific role. Hiring managers want to find these people (especially if they hope to bring in more diverse candidates but don’t have a very diverse network of contacts). How can hiring managers find these people amid the flood of resumes?
First, they may use ATS (applicant tracking systems). These systems aren’t perfect, but they can help narrow the field down to people whose resumes have the appropriate keywords listed that they pulled from the job posting. When you’re writing your resume, you’ll want to make sure you include these. A human will read your resume, though, so you also want to make sure it makes sense to a person and that you’re not focusing too much on an ATS you can’t control.
Busy human hiring managers like documents that are familiar – they want to open your resume and know exactly where to look to find the relevant information, meaning they’ll be annoyed, rather than impressed, with your brand new format or heavy-handed graphic design. Shorter resumes with a lot of white space are better than crowded or multi-page CVs (unless you’re in education or applying for a senior-level role). The hiring manager is skimming to find a reason to say “no” and move on to the next potentially qualified candidate. Common reasons hiring managers say “no” include a professional summary or objective that doesn’t relate to the role, a lack of relevant skills, descriptions of previous roles that are clearly copied from job postings and don’t show how you achieved or excelled at a given task, and poor grammar and typos. The hiring manager needs to quickly understand that you intentionally applied for the role and have the skills that align with their needs. Basically, can you clearly communicate that interviewing you wouldn’t be a waste of time?
Keeping this perspective in mind will help you cultivate a more effective job search. You’ll focus more on applying for roles that are a true fit, leaning into your network for referrals, and tweaking your resume to a specific posting, rather than endlessly designing and editing your resume to fully encapsulate your entire personality or lazily applying to hundreds of jobs that may or may not be a fit. What’s the #1 rule of creating great content? Know your audience. The same applies to your job search.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
If you’re thinking about starting to look for a new job, the most important tool you'll need to get started is a skills list – that is, a long list of all the responsibilities and projects you’ve taken on in previous roles and the skills you’ve learned from each. It takes some time to create a skills list, but it's very worthwhile, because it helps you see your main strengths and pinpoint projects you were proud of. Not only will this be a huge confidence boost, but it will also serve as the basis for your resume and interview anecdotes.
To create a skills list, make a chart that lists out all the previous roles you’ve held. And don’t limit this to paid work experience either. Volunteer experience and leadership roles in school count as well. Even acting as a parent or caretaker can provide skills that will be useful at work – your skills can come from anywhere!
Under each entry, think about all the things you did in that role. What did your day to day look like? What were some key projects you completed? What were your biggest achievements? List them out, then look at each to extract the core skill you used for every task.
As you list out the skills, you’ll probably notice some repetition – and that’s a good thing! These are indicators of your main areas of expertise. And by creating a skills list, you now have evidence to back up the fact that you have deep experience in these areas. These are the things you are going to want to highlight in your personal branding materials and during interviews. Be sure to refer back to your skills list when you work on your job applications.
As you look at the final document, consider what tasks you enjoyed doing and would want to continue doing in future roles. Target your job search to roles that will let you utilize your main areas of expertise in a way that excites you. And most importantly, take a moment (or more!) to be proud of everything you've accomplished so far, and reread your list whenever your job search leads to self-doubt. Your imposter syndrome voice will quiet down when you force it to face the fact of everything awesome you've achieved.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Remote work -- whether it's full-time or flex -- has become incredibly common. But many entry-level employees who've only worked remotely miss the opportunity to learn professional norms and expectations that their more established colleagues (and bosses!) had access to in the office. And those farther along in their careers often find it's a lot harder to prove their worth to their boss and colleagues without that valuable face time, which makes getting a raise or promotion that much harder. But remote work is here to stay, and you can absolutely grow professionally without ever setting foot in an office. Here's how:
Communicate regularly. Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. Make sure you communicate with your supervisor regularly, especially if you work remotely full-time. You don’t want to send an email every time you complete a task, but you should find a way to make sure your boss and team can track your work. Depending on your office culture, this might be updating a project management tracker like Airtable and/or sending daily or weekly highlight emails with a 30,000 foot version of what you've accomplished. You should also set recurring one-on-ones with your supervisor. Make sure you reply to any emails that are sent your way in a timely fashion and ping your boss when you complete a big project. One of the advantages of working remotely is the flexibility to pop out for a daytime appointment or errand, but when you do this, let your boss know if you'll be out of pocket for an extended period of time, so they don't panic when they can't reach you.
Meet all deadlines...early. When you work remotely, it’s critical that you deliver all of your work on time. Meeting a deadline is the sign of a diligent employee. If you truly want to impress your boss, though, do your best to turn big projects in ahead of schedule. Without the distractions of officemates, it should be easier to focus. Since you don’t have access to your boss to pop into her office and let her know your ETA for a deliverable, turning work in early will ensure she never even suspects you may be late. Of course, some assignments take the full amount of time allotted (and some deadlines are unreasonable), so you won’t always be able to turn your work in early. Don’t worry -- just shoot your boss an email along the way confirming you’re on the right track so she doesn’t get nervous, especially if she’s a micro-manager.
Keep to a schedule. This tip is more for your mental health than your work output -- but a happy employee is a good employee! It’s easy to let your time slip away from you when you work remotely full-time, and you may find yourself working all day and all night. Or you fill your day with non-work activities until suddenly, it’s 9:00pm on Thursday and you haven't started on the big project you promised to turn in by the end of the week! To avoid this pitfall, make a schedule and find a dedicated workspace. If you can get all of your work done in 5 hours a day, there’s no need to work 8. As long as you’re available during normal business hours for emergencies, you can build a schedule that has you working half the morning and half the evening, with the afternoons free for whatever else delights you. The important thing is to block off work hours in your calendar and find a place to do your work that’s free of non-work distractions. Bake some exercise into your day too -- it’s easy to be dormant when there’s no real reason to go anywhere, and your mental health will suffer if you don’t move around. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing, but you should at least let yourself outside for a walk like you would a golden retriever.
Take initiative. You want to show your team that you're invested in the work and showing up with your full self, rather than coasting. This is true in the office, too, but it's more important when you're working from home. You should engage with your colleagues in meetings, whether that's by having your video on during calls or sharing ideas during brainstorming sessions. If there's an opportunity to take on a new project, complete a one-off task, or lead a meeting, volunteer! This is especially true if part of your team works in the office while you're remote -- you want access to the same opportunities they have to grow. You may have to ask your boss for more responsibility (a good thing to do in your one-on-ones!) if nothing is offered to you, but make sure you're also stepping up to take on the projects that are being handed out.
Don't ghost your boss. This one seems obvious, but trust us: It’s not always that obvious. Remote freelancers sometimes move on to new projects and assume no one will notice that they’ve stopped turning in work. Your boss notices, and if you ever want to resume freelancing at that company -- or if a future employer calls for a recommendation -- your ghosting will come back to haunt you. It’s totally okay to quit a job, but you should do so courteously. Email or call your boss and give your notice. You may not need to give a full two weeks if your position was on a rolling basis or freelance, but you should give your boss a heads-up and offer to finish off any outstanding work. Let your boss know exactly what you’ve completed and what you haven’t and turn in any documents, data, or login credentials that your replacement might need.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
When you’re applying for jobs, your instinct is going to be to stand out from the crowd of resumes. How can you get the hiring manager to pay attention to your resume among the hundreds that rush in?
Contrary to what you may think, though, the trick isn’t to reinvent the resume format with crazy colors and kooky graphics (remember, hiring managers spend a very short amount of time with resumes and want a familiar looking document). Nor is it to stray from convention with your writing style -- cramming in a professional bio, mini-cover letter, or case study isn’t going to help your case. Rather, the trick is to simply tell YOUR story.
That’s right, you ARE enough. The work you’ve done, the perspective you’ve gained from your experience – that’s what the hiring manager wants to see! If you can clearly convey to the hiring manager that you have the requisite skills for the posting, that’s enough.
The keyword there is “clearly.” Make sure the hiring manager can draw a direct line from the posting to your resume. They’re looking for someone who has a robust network of contacts across the industry? Include a bullet that says, “Cultivated relationships with established and up-and-coming writers, directors, and showrunners to curate a slate of 10 projects” and highlight that you’re a member of HRTS. They want someone who can deliver projects across multiple formats? Include a bullet that says, “Supervised post-production process to deliver multimedia series SHOW X across multiple formats, including broadcast, digital, and social.” This will yield far stronger results than a resume that splashes company logos across the border or includes a mission statement that uses meaningless buzzwords.
Let your actual work product and achievements speak for themselves. Most candidates don’t do this, and many don’t even fully read the posting before submitting their applications. The biggest differentiator? Being someone who is focused, thorough, and thoughtful with their application.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan