Once a job posting is up, how much time do you have to apply before you lose out on that opportunity? The answer is that it varies depending on the role, where it was posted, and who is hiring. Here are a few guidelines that will help you figure out whether you need to drop everything and apply right away.
In Hollywood, the jobs that get filled the fastest are entry-level roles, specifically writers’ room support staff like writers’ PAs, writers’ assistants, and script coordinators. These are most often filled by word of mouth or by someone asking for referrals through a tracking board. Quite often, the person collecting resumes will say they’re no longer accepting submissions after 200+ resumes pour in over the course of two hours. Similarly, assistant positions on the UTA job list and similar job boards get inundated with resumes just hours after the post goes up, though you likely have an extra day or two to apply for those, as the competition won’t be as fierce if you have a very strong resume and cover letter (most applicants for those roles "resume bomb" the openings, and hiring managers tend to wait a beat to gather stronger resumes). If you're applying for any of these types of roles, make sure you have a resume ready to go. Luckily, most entry-level postings are pretty short, and you can usually send the same resume out time and again without tweaking it. Assistant positions are typically filled in about two weeks, often because an executive is about to lose their support staff and want to get someone in quickly. At larger corporations -- especially where temps or floaters are an option -- the hiring manager might take more time to find the right person. And regardless of whether a posting is “closed” or not, you can still be considered if you can find someone to refer you – a hiring manager would always prefer a candidate who has been vetted by someone they know over someone they don't.
Beyond entry-level positions, there's a lot more disparity. The hiring timeline for freelance crew roles can vary depending on when the production will start, but these are also typically quick turnarounds. The good news is that your "resume" for a production role will usually take the form of a credits list or Staff Me Up profile, which should be pretty easy to maintain and send out at a moment’s notice. A good rule of thumb here is to update your materials every time you start a new job, so you're ready to apply as soon as your show wraps.
In-house mid-to senior-level roles generally don’t require such a rush. Companies hiring for these roles have a very specific need they are hoping someone can fill, so they're going to spend more time finding the right candidate for the job and really invest in that person. If you notice that a job posting just went up, try to be at the front of the pack of applicants and submit your application materials that week, but even if the posting has already been up a couple of weeks, it’s likely that the position is still open. If it has been open for a month when you find it, do some digging to see if you can get in contact with a recruiter or someone at the company who can tell you if they are still reviewing applications. You'll want to tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting, so it's clear to the hiring manager that you're a potential fit for the specific role and not just applying willy nilly. This is a pretty big mindset shift from entry-level roles, where you fire the same resume off to multiple jobs per week. A role that requires greater responsibility on the job also requires greater responsibility on the application side; it's more important to apply strategically than quickly. Take the time to read the posting carefully, revise your materials, and tap into your network for referrals.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Cover emails are one of the most under-utilized elements of job applications, but they can make a huge difference for your candidacy!
First, let's clarify what a cover email is and when it's used. Cover emails are short notes -- 1-2 paragraphs, max -- that are written in the body of the message when you apply for a job over email. For jobs that don't require a cover letter and don't have a fancy portal through which you submit your application, you'll want to include a cover email that briefly contextualizes your resume. Often, these jobs are for production and writers' room support staff roles or for assistant jobs on the UTA job list. There are also jobs that require a cover letter but still indicate that you should apply via email, rather than through the company's website or LinkedIn. Those postings require cover emails, too, even if they seem redundant.
Consider the hiring manager's perspective. If they are accepting applications via email, they're likely not a recruiter or in HR, but rather a person with a totally different full-time job trying to fill a hole in their team or replace themselves as they wrap out of the role. Meaning, they are busy. These hiring managers -- especially when hiring for support staff roles -- get inundated with resumes within hours. They are looking for reasons to say "no" and move on to the next candidate, rather than reasons to say "yes" and bring you in for an interview.
As they look through their submission-filled inbox, they'll see some completely blank messages that just have an attachment. It's a little scary to open a random attachment, since spammers could easily find the email address on the posting as they crawl the web. Plus, this candidate clearly put in minimal effort -- not exactly what most hiring managers are looking for. These blank emails are often passed over in favor of candidates who tried just a little harder.
Some messages will come through with a simple, "Hi, my resume is attached!" That's better than a blank email, but not much. Maybe the hiring manager will open your resume attachment. But if they see a message come through with a short cover email that convincingly highlights why the candidate applied and would be right for the role, they're more likely to gravitate toward that candidate first. Simply by crafting a message, you're showing that you're a go-getter who's really invested in the position and that you can communicate professionally.
So what goes in this all-important email? Think about it like the first and last paragraph of your cover letter. Open with a greeting and an indication of what role you're applying for and where you heard about it. Then share your current status and goal ("I recently graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in Communications, and I'm hoping to begin my career in the industry as a PA working in TV comedy" or "I'm currently an assistant to a literary manager at 3 Arts Entertainment and am seeking a transition to a writers' assistant role as I grow my career as a writer.").
If you have a bit of an unusual circumstance to highlight, like you took time off to care for family or are pursuing entertainment as a second career, you can bring it up in the next sentence. You can also highlight 1-3 transferable skills if you're making a larger career transition and need to explain why you're qualified. Then, include a clause explaining why you're excited about this specific opportunity (if you can -- sometimes the job posting is so vague that you can't really express anything specific). That's it for your first paragraph -- 3-5 sentences! Before your sign off, express that you've attached your resume and formal cover letter (if requested) for review and would like to set a time for an interview. Close with a friendly "Best" or "Thanks" and your name.
It's a pretty simple process and shouldn't take more than a few minutes of your time. Totally worth it for something that can be the difference between the hiring manager reading your resume or ignoring it.
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
As you progress in your career, you'll likely find that you're asked for a professional bio. Bios are used for a variety of things -- when you're invited to speak on a panel or at an event, when your company creates a press release or internal memo announcing your hiring, when you're launching a personal website to get clients, when you're creating a deck to attract film investors, or even when applying to fellowships and film festivals. Your bio is like your resume in that it showcases your career highlights, but it's less about proving your skills for a specific job and more about conveying your overall persona. It's also not exactly like your LinkedIn "About" section, which should have more of an approachable tone. A professional bio is a distinct document in your larger personal branding portfolio. Here are 5 key tips to remember when crafting yours:
1. Determine the appropriate length. Bios can come in all different lengths – most are relatively short (a paragraph to half a page), but those who are very advanced in their careers sometimes will have page-long bios. You may need multiple bios depending on what you are planning on using them for, but when writing, it’s good to have a target to know how granular you may need to get. If you’re creating something to be presented to promote a panel you’ll be speaking on, then a paragraph is plenty. When applying for fellowships or other professional programs, most applications will give you a word count limit. But if you need a bio for your website or pitch deck, you’ll probably want to delve a little deeper to give more insight into your background.
2. Lead with your current role. The first sentence of your bio should contain your title or a descriptor of your main role (or the role that is most relevant depending on how the bio will be used). It’s a good idea to qualify the role with some descriptors – for example, “Jane is the SVP of Alternative Programming at XYZ network, where she leads development and production of unscripted series targeted at female audiences.” Or “Joe is an LA-based TV drama writer with a passion for telling stories about the intersection of the personal with the political.” If you have some key credits, it’s not a bad idea to add these at the beginning too.
3. Create a structure and stick to it. After your lead in, you’ll need to decide the order of the rest of your story. Most often, people work in reverse chronological order (e.g. "Prior to XYZ network, Jane served as VP of Development at ZYX Studios, where..."), but it might make more sense for you to start at the beginning if some of your early career experiences led to later ones, or if the more significant projects you worked on happened several years ago. You might also want to group experiences by their type, especially if you're a multi-hyphenate (e.g. "Joe's credits include SHOW NAME, SHOW NAME, and MOVIE, and his prose has appeared in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Joe is also a professor of screenwriting at UCLA Extension.") The key is to pick one way of framing your background and sticking to it, instead of jumping back and forth between projects or highlights. Read your bio out loud and consider whether it makes sense as a story, or if you're left with confusion about how and when you got from point A to point B.
4. Highlight your biggest achievements. Depending on how long of a career you’ve had, there may be too much to list in a short bio. And that’s okay – most people won’t read too much anyway! Much like a resume, you’ll want to highlight the most important achievements for the audience you are targeting. Make sure your proudest accomplishments make the cut, and you can even label them as your proudest accomplishments! It’s also a good idea to get specific with some of the titles of projects you have worked on or name some of your top clients (if they are recognizable). Any major awards you’ve received, prominent film festival selections, or notable speaking engagements also belong in your bio.
5. Include something personal. If there’s something that drives you to do the type of work that you do, you should spell it out in your bio. It’s great to say what you’re most passionate about or what type of impact you are hoping to have with the content you are creating. If you have side projects that you work on or organizations you are a part of, include them to offer a fuller picture of yourself. Many people will also share where they live, where they studied, the names of their spouses, children, or pets, or even list out a few hobbies or interests. These types of things humanize you and give readers a way to connect with you on a more personal level.
The thing that makes bio writing extra-difficult is that it requires a bit of bragging. In addition, we’ve found that sometimes people aren’t able to see the big picture when it comes to their accomplishments or how others view them. We strongly recommend getting a second set of eyes on your bio, or letting someone write a first draft for you (we would be happy to help!).
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It’s tempting to take the first job you're offered, especially since the entertainment industry is so competitive. But it’s always okay to decline an offer that you don’t feel is right for you. Here are some factors to consider as you make your decision:
Are you excited by the role? Hopefully, you'll do some soul searching about a role before you apply, reading the job posting carefully to make sure the company and work align with your own values (tip: check out the "Essential Questions to Guide Your Job Search" worksheet in our resource library!). But not all job postings are accurate, and you may learn new information during the interview process. Take a moment to reflect about what your day-to-day will be like once you have a clearer picture of the role. If you’re looking for a quick stepping stone and can gain some valuable skills with a short stint at this company, it might make sense to take the job even if it's not the most exciting role ever. But if you’re looking for long-term stability, consider what will make you happy in the long run. It’s hard to get excited to go to work every day if you’re doing something you don’t believe in.
What's the company/boss's reputation? One of the biggest factors that contributes to happiness (or dissatisfaction) at work is the culture of your team and larger company. There are plenty of places in Hollywood that make awesome content and have a certain cachet but are known for abusive or toxic environments. Do some research to dig up intel about the company culture or your prospective boss, and suss out the team during an interview to see if they seem happy. If you get weird vibes during the interview, you should think twice about accepting the offer. Trust your gut and your research, and if you don't like what you find, stay away!
Are there opportunities for growth? It's pretty common to want to land at a place where you'll have room to grow, whether that's in your title/salary, working at a more reputable or innovative company with exciting projects, or by learning new skills. If you're looking to grow and the job feels like a lateral move or a step down -- like taking a pay cut to go from Director of Development at well-known Prodco A to Director of Development at unestablished Prodco B -- you’re probably better off waiting a little longer for another opportunity where you can actually move up the ladder. It’s also a good idea to ask about room for growth during your interview. If the interviewer makes it clear that they don’t plan to promote unless one of the higher ups who has been there for a decade randomly decides to leave, this probably isn't an ideal situation if your ultimate goal is to stay within the same company for a long time. However, it's totally okay if growth isn't a priority for you right now! If you're comfortable with your title and salary bracket and are looking for something else, like greater work/life balance, you might approach this question differently. Instead, consider...
Does the job align with your lifestyle? Account for work-life balance and your financial situation when evaluating a job offer. If a job requires you to work late every night, and you have a newborn, is this the right situation for you? Will the paycheck be enough to either match or improve your current standard of living -- or if you're comfortable taking a pay cut, do the merits of this specific job and future earning potential align with your needs long-term? Is the commute so bad that it’s going to ruin your mental health, or is the job remote-only, and you're itching to get back to the office? Your job is just one element of your life, so take the time to determine if this role will be a boon for overall well-being or a detriment.
Keep in mind that the "right" answers to these questions will differ from person to person -- only you can decide whether declining a job offer is the correct move. Luckily, even if you end up in a job that isn't the right fit, you can always walk away. Most importantly, if you’re committed to your goals and don’t give up, eventually the right role will come along!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan