Why you should always try to figure out the hiring manager's name when sending in Hollywood job applications
As we’ve said many times before, submitting your job application through a company’s careers portal is usually a waste of time. There are two ways to get a job in Hollywood: one is through a referral, and the other is through a direct email. In an ideal world, you’ll hear about a job posting from a friend and have that friend pass along your resume directly with a glowing recommendation. But that’s not always possible. What if you find a great posting on a tracking board or Facebook group but realize it's been posted anonymously? It's time to put your research skills to use. Do your best to figure out what company is hiring and who in the department is collecting resumes. LinkedIn is a great resource for gathering contact info.
Why is it so important to do this research? First, it shows you were willing to go above and beyond to get your resume into the right hands. The hiring manager will probably think you’re resourceful, have a strong network of contacts, and are truly interested in the job. It’s not always easy to find out where the posting came from, so just this small personal touch will impress the hiring manager and set you apart from other candidates. Plus, by finding a direct email address rather than a generic address like firstname.lastname@example.org, your resume won’t get lost in the endless stream of submissions that flow in every time a posting goes wide.
Secondly, knowing the hiring manager’s name allows you to personalize your cover email. The best cover emails are conversational, so starting one with “Dear Hiring Manager,” puts you at a disadvantage. Sometimes this is unavoidable -- not all postings provide enough clues for tracking down the company name -- but if at all possible, try to find a human to send your resume to, and start your cover email with “Hi [person’s name].” Then, continue on with a very simple explanation of why you’re right for the job, and you’ll have at the very least earned yourself a resume download. Plain and simple -- if you want to be taken seriously, personalizing your cover letter is a very easy way to get off on the right foot.
Ultimately, identifying the hiring manager will help prove you want the job and improve your likability factor. Not only will you have demonstrated enthusiasm by doing extra research, but you will sound far less robotic in your cover letter. Although this step may seem like a small detail in the overall application process, you're giving yourself an edge over other candidates, and that's always a good thing.
So you're busy with the job hunt, and you're proud of yourself for regularly monitoring the job boards and sending out applications. You've even contacted a few HR recruiters to set up informational meetings. All of this is great, but you may be forgetting one important thing -- telling ALL your current contacts you're looking for a job!
Sounds obvious, right? You've probably already reached out to the people at the companies you want to work for to let them know you're looking (if you haven't, let that be your assignment for this afternoon!), but have you thought about your friends and family members? What about Hollywood connections that you haven't spoken to in a few months because they're on a different side of the industry? You never know where new opportunities will come from, and it's the people who have known you the longest that will be able to help you the most through referrals.
As part of the job search process, make sure you're setting up dinners and drinks with your friends and reconnecting with those you've fallen out of touch with. The great part about this is that it won't sound like you're asking for a favor -- think of it as a nice catch up with a friend. But as part of your life update within the meeting, you should be sure to include the fact that you're looking for a job and describe the type of job you're looking for. You never know what might spark from there -- your contact might hear of an opportunity that never makes it to a job board, or they may have a contact who would be useful for you to meet.
So get your name out there! By letting the world know that you're looking for a new job, you're increasing the likelihood that new opportunities will come your way. Plus, you'll be strengthening your network in the process, and that can never hurt!
This is a guest blog post by Steven White, Story Editor on ABC's hit comedy series BLACK-ISH and founder of Script Coordinator University.
Is there a way to break into a writers' room if I'm not a writers' assistant?
Of course there is! The answer is incredibly simple: Just write the best thing ever written. Wow. I've given this secret away for free. How foolish of me. Now everyone is going to write the greatest thing ever written, and Hollywood will never be the same.
And therein lies the problem. When you're not in a writers' room or on a show as an assistant, you're competing with everyone else who thinks they're "above" an assistant job, or thinks their MFA is experience enough, or just got here off a bus with a Modern Family/Alf crossover spec that the writer thinks will really "turn the industry on it's head." Your "greatest thing ever written" goes on the stack with all these other people's "greatest thing ever written," whether that stack is on an agent's desk, a fellowship submission, or in the e-mail inbox of a patient writer willing to help out their cousin's neighbor. You've done nothing to differentiate yourself from the masses this way, and even if your script really is the greatest thing ever written, when you're not working in a writers' office, you have to ask yourself: "Who will read this?" Once you have that answer, follow it quickly with another question: "What will their reading it get me?" If you have an in with a showrunner, and they read your script and say, "It was good but not right for our show," what do you do next? You have nothing other than a pat on the back. More than likely, they'll give you notes, which you can take or leave, and nothing else happens after that.
This is the main plus to working in a writers' office -- you have a bevy of people at your disposal who will most likely try to help you. You have a group to read your first draft for notes, a second group to read your second draft for clarity, and a third group who can pass that script along to their agents, or the studio, or anyone else who can try to help you get a writing job.
So if you're not inside that writers' office -- how do you break in? Well luckily for you, there are over 400 scripted TV shows being made, and all of them need people to help. People to help assist their producers. People to help in post-production. People to help on set, in the production office, or even in the agencies and management companies that represent the people working on the shows. These non-writers' room jobs will help you do something as important as writing the best thing ever-- pay your dues.
Someone who has paid their dues by putting the time in and doing the best job they can on the job they have will almost always get the opportunity to move into a job they want. At least, it will put them ahead of the people who look down at jobs that "don't fit their MFA" or those who "just need their producer cousin to take their calls." People who have made it to the writers' room respect people who have paid their dues more than those born on third base with a three-picture deal on the horizon, I assure you. Hard work, determination, and a great attitude may sound like cliches, but they're also the common link of the people who succeed in the entertainment industry, no matter where they start in it. Sure, you may not start in the writers' room, but the life experience you amass on your way there will only give you more to write about when you get your seat at the writers' room table.
Of course, you may just write the best thing ever, find the right person to read it, and skip all these steps. If that happens, find me and let me know, so I can put you on my list of people who worked their way around the system. Just know that as of right now, that list is blank.
For more information about breaking into TV writing, sign up for a writers' assistant or script coordinator training class at Script Coordinator University, an insider guide to the writers' office. In his seminars, Steven teaches all the skills and tricks he's amassed working in the writers' rooms of shows like Workaholics, Franklin & Bash, and Galavant. You'll learn many helpful tips and tricks, including how to proof and format scripts, take notes, run clearances, and make the move from "support staff" to "writing staff."
If there’s one thing you should never ever ever ever ever ever ever do, it’s submit an unsolicited reel, short film, or screenplay when applying for an internship or entry-level job. Seriously. You’re better off running with scissors or getting into an unmarked white van because a nice man offered you candy (we don’t support that either, though).
You might think, “Hey, I want my future employer to know that I have real talent, and that if he hires me as an assistant, I’ll really go places and contribute to the company down the line. Why would they want a talentless hack answering their phones when they could have someone who will really make it?”
But here’s what prospective employers think when they get an unsolicited submission: