Hollywood Resumes has written a new guest blog post for The Intern Queen!
Finding the perfect internship can be tricky. You want to end up at a company where you'll learn something, build connections, and develop skills that can boost your resume. If you're trying to assess whether a potential internship is worthwhile, you should check out our article, What to look for in a Hollywood internship!
Let’s talk about the purpose of a cover letter. It’s to a) explain your intentions in applying for a certain position and b) concisely summarize the skills and experience that make you qualified for the role. But we sometimes see cover letters that have extra sentences like, “In an ever-changing media landscape, it’s important to create properties that can be adapted into multiplatform content that is accessible on a variety of screens. Netflix’s commitment to providing high volumes of on-demand programming on multiple devices has led to the success of its premium content and has made the company an industry leader.” How do these statements fit in to our two main components of a cover letter? They don’t. Making broad generalizations like these is a huge (and very common) cover letter mistake.
There is nothing more annoying than being schooled in your own industry or company when reading a cover letter. If you take this approach, the reader will roll his eyes at your assessment of his company. You also run the risk of being wrong in one of your assertions. You might admire Netflix’s content, and by your standards, it could be a successful company. You may even have a guess as to the strategy that led to its achievements. But you don’t work there. How could you possibly know the complex decisions that were made that contributed to a company’s success or demise? You don’t even know how that company measures “success.” You might love one of its programs and think it’s doing well because all your friends talk about it, but in reality, it may be underperforming with its intended audience. If you’re making incorrect assumptions about the company in your cover letter, a hiring manager will wonder where you got your information and if you even understand what type of job you’re applying for — will you be happy at a company whose mission you’ve completely misjudged? Even if you’ve made an accurate statement, it’s basic information the hiring manager already knows — you’re just stating the obvious and wasting his time. Current employees presumably understand their company function and industry best practices, and they don’t need you to remind them.
This brings us to our next point — sweeping generalizations are a waste of space in your cover letter. The hiring manager wants to hear about YOU, not some tidbit that you could have found on Wikipedia. A cover letter is not the place to go into depth about your knowledge of an industry — save that for the interview. If there’s something specific about the company’s mission or culture that you read about on its website or heard about from a friend that works there, and you can tie it into your background, it’s fine to (briefly!) mention that in a cover letter — that's highlighting your passion and unique perspective. But stay away from more general statements. Spend those precious sentences speaking about your experience and qualifications instead.
Having trouble fitting your resume onto one page? You’re not alone. Many people have a hard time summarizing their qualifications and accomplishments on a single piece of paper — how are you supposed to account for years of experience in just a few bullet points? Trust us, if you have fewer than 10 years of experience, there’s always a way to do it, and it’s essential that you learn how. When you're first starting out, no one is going to take you seriously if you submit a two page resume, since you don't have enough experience to warrant it. Even if you do have 10+ years, you shouldn't exceed two pages. Hiring managers are busy — they don’t want to read too much text, and they’re definitely not going to bother with a resume that’s too long. So how do you get your resume down to a manageable length?
1. Change the formatting. An economical resume format is going to help you maximize the amount of space you have to present your professional experience. If you’re running out of room, use a format that allows you to extend your bullet points all the way across the page, and try to fit them on one line if possible (we love pretty, one line bullet points!). You can also list your contact info horizontally at the top of the page, instead of stacking each line vertically. Another strategy is to increase your margins, but be careful not to overdo it — if your margins are .4, it’s a sign that your resume is probably too wordy. Shoot for .7, and try not to go much smaller than that. And leave off unnecessary graphics.
2. Write concisely. While formatting can definitely be a factor in an overly lengthy resume, for most people, it’s not the biggest obstacle. More often, we encounter resumes with far too much text. Your experience shouldn’t be described in dense paragraphs, nor should your bullet points be 3-4 lines long. Get rid of unnecessary adjectives, and leave out articles — no need to write in complete sentences. Make sure you're not being repetitive; look for ways to consolidate your bullet points whenever possible. Also, be careful only to share quantifiable results when they're very impressive and pertinent — too many numbers will make your resume hard to read. And you don't need to list intangible skills like "people person" and "meets deadlines" anywhere on your resume. If you wrote your bullets properly, that's already clear.
3. Only include relevant experience. As we’ve said many times before, your resumeneeds to tell a story, and that story is why you’re qualified for the particular job you’re applying for. You don’t need to share a list of everything you’ve ever done with the hiring manager — focus on the more relevant experiences and skills that will convince the employer you’re right for the job. We often see candidates who list every job or internship they’ve ever held on their resumes, but this is unnecessary. Unless you need to explain a gap in your resume timeline or have limited work experience, you can leave off your side gig at Nordstrom and your random internships and college clubs that have nothing to do with the industry. Then, look at the bullet points you’ve listed under each position. If you have six or seven bullets to describe a single role, you’re not being specific enough. Shoot for 3-4 bullet points in each section (fewer if it’s a position from many years ago that isn’t quite as relevant), but don’t include more than five. Again, select those responsibilities that translate most to the new position. You want your resume to mimic the job posting as much as possible, and that’s how you should determine what bullet points to include.
If you’ve followed all our tips and are still having trouble with your resume length, get a second set of eyes on it. Share with a friend for some feedback, or better yet, let us help you! It’s easy to start feeling precious about your proudest accomplishments or most interesting job responsibilities, but sometimes they simply don’t matter. Another person’s objective opinion will help you narrow down what’s most important.
So you’ve just had an awesome informational meeting with an executive at a company you’re very interested in working for and feel like this person could be the key to helping you move forward in your career. This may be true — if you’ve made a great impression, he’s likely to want to help you. But you’ll only see the benefits from an informational interview if you take the time to follow up! Don’t expect that you’re going to be top of mind for this executive at all times after leaving the room — unless you stay in contact, he’s likely to forget about you. After all, he’s busy worrying about his own job. Here are three steps you can take to stay on the radar:
1. Send a thank you note. This should go without saying, but, just as you would in a regular interview, you should send a thank you note to the person you met within 24 hoursof leaving his office. It shows that you’re grateful and understand professional etiquette, which will go a long way.
2. Turn your informational into another one. The person you're meeting with likely has other connections that could help you build your network, and if you play your cards right, you can get an introduction. Sometimes, he'll easily offer to introduce you, but even if that doesn't happen, you can still parlay one meeting into another. Ask a question about a department or position you're interested in that's outside of his department, and he might say something along the lines of, “Oh you should meet with Joe in our current series group at some point.” But your contact simply suggesting the next meeting isn't enough; it's on you to make it happen. BE SURE to include a reminder in your thank you email — something like, “You mentioned during our meeting that I should meet with Joe in the current series group — would it be possible for you to put me in touch with him?” If you forget to ask this question, the executive will probably forget to make the introduction, and even if he remembers, your lack of follow up will indicate that meeting this new person actually isn't all that important to you. And if you don't get the chance to ask for another connection, or the executive doesn't suggest anyone during the meeting, all is not lost. Simply include a polite request in your thank you note — for example, “I learned a lot from our conversation today, and I'm curious about other parts of the company — is there someone in the current series group that it would be possible for me to meet with?” An alternate strategy: Save this question for a couple of weeks, and then reach out — you’ll get the added benefit of reminding your original contact that you exist and want to stay in touch.
3. Check in regularly. You don’t want to be emailing your contact from an informational interview every week, but checking in every month or two is a great idea. One tip: Look out for news articles about that person’s company, and send a congratulatory email. Then, you can include an update about what’s going on with you and where you are in the job search. The holidays provide another great excuse to send an email that doesn’t appear to have an agenda. You don’t want to be constantly asking for help with the job hunt, but it’s good to let people know you're still looking. And then, once you land the perfect job, share your exciting news with all the new contacts that have helped you along the way — they’ll be happy to hear about it!