Imagine you’re a hiring manager looking to fill a new opening on your team. You’ve put up a posting on all the major Hollywood job boards and asked candidates to send their application materials to a dedicated email address. The postings go live, you open your inbox, and within 2 hours you’ve got hundreds of submissions. Overwhelming, but exciting.
You open the first application. It’s a totally blank email with a resume attached. Is this attachment spam from a spider that got a hold of your now very public email address? Even if it’s real, if this person can’t be bothered to compose a simple email like a normal professional when their own career is on the line, are they really right for your team? Maybe if you didn’t have 199 other emails to open, but you do. Next.
The next email just says, “Resume attached.” That’s better, you suppose. It’s not spam. But it’s not a shining endorsement of the candidate’s communication skills. You decide to see what awaits you in the other 198 applications.
You open the next email, and you see a short message. A greeting, followed by 3 sentences explaining who the candidate is and why they’re interested in the role. It’s pleasant and friendly in tone, there are no typos, and their story makes sense. You open the resume, and it looks good. You can only interview about 10 people for the role, so you reset the bar. Surely, you can find 10 qualified people in that stack of 200 who took the extra 5 minutes to compose a professional note.
Back to reality. When you’re applying for jobs, you want to stand out from the competition, and one of the ways to do that is to convey your professionalism, dedication, interest, and conscientiousness throughout the hiring process. A cover email is important because it does just that, and it takes very little time on your end! We’re not talking about a full, three-paragraph cover letter. You might need one of those, too, if the job posting requires it. That does not absolve you from the need for a cover email that’s a short-but-sweet introduction of yourself and indication of your interest. The next time you apply for a job over email, don’t forget this important step!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
A common refrain among our clients is: “I just want to get any job, and I’ll take the rest from there.” There’s nothing wrong with needing a new job right away -- life costs money, after all -- but the whole process is easier if you can figure out what your long term career strategy is. Plus, going after jobs that will lead you toward your ultimate goal will mean fewer big, challenging transitions overall.
Having a career endgame in mind can be a specific title – like Head of Development at a streaming network – or more general – consistent work as a camera operator on reality TV series. It’s also totally okay for your career endgame to shift as you evolve. Even if you decide to pivot and take a different road, it’s best to start out with a destination in mind.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to figure out what your career endgame is:
1. What day-to-day tasks do I enjoy doing? Do you enjoy managing others? Actively creating something? Developing ideas? Implementing logistics? Selling? Pitching? Communicating with clients? Generating reports? Building decks? Editing footage? Rigging lights? Designing graphics?
2. How much responsibility do I want to take on? Do you want to be judged on your work product alone, or do you want supervise a team? Do you enjoy mentoring others? Making strategic business decisions? Hiring and firing people? Managing budgets? With great power comes great responsibility, and it’s equally okay to decide that you do want to take on all the responsibilities that come with senior-level management or that you don’t.
3. What kind of content am I proud of? Is there a certain type of story you want to tell? An impact you want to make? Do you enjoy working on the same kind of content you like to watch, or would you rather preserve the magic of your favorite shows and movies and get into the behind-the-scenes of something you’d never watch? What kind of audience do you want to serve? How important is it for you to work on a hit show, an Oscar-winning film, a cult classic, or a beloved kids’ show? Do you care more about the process than the content?
4. Who do I like to work with? Do you prefer big teams or small teams? Do you like to work with the same people consistently, or switch it up? Do you prefer a client-vendor relationship or a boss-employee relationship? How independent are you in your work? Do you prefer a competitive environment or a collaborative one? Do you want to be surrounded by overachievers, or do you work better around people who are more chill and less ambitious?
5. What purpose does work serve for me? If you didn’t have to work to pay your bills, would you still work? How important is your work/life balance? How much does your job impact your conceptualization of your self-worth? Are there life goals or values you have that won’t align with a certain type of job or career?
We recommend checking in with yourself every 6 months to a year to ask these questions and make sure you’re on the right path. If you’re leaning into a job search, these questions are even more important, as they’ll help you target your search to those jobs that align with your ultimate goals. Be honest with yourself about what your dreams are, be open to those dreams changing, and be unafraid to pursue them.
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
If you're a college student seeking an internship, or a recent grad (congratulations!) seeking your first post-college job, you're probably overwhelmed by all the competing resume advice out there. One of the reasons we founded Hollywood Resumes was because we had so few resources at our disposal when we first broke into the industry. College career centers aren't always equipped to guide students on the specifics of the entertainment industry, and most resume writing advice is tailored to professionals further along in their careers. But we've got you covered -- here are the top 5 things you should know about your entry-level resume:
1. Education belongs at the top, 99% of the time. Your resume tells your story, and like all good stories, it establishes context through character and setting. If you're looking for an internship, your story is that you are a current student looking to grow your career. The fact that you're in school and the things you're accomplishing there (coursework, leadership activities) are the most important anchors to your candidacy, and any jobs you've held are made all the more impressive with the context that you were simultaneously completing coursework. This holds true for recent grads as well, and it's important for employers to know that this is your first foray into the full-time workforce. There are some times when recent grads might include education at the bottom of their resumes, like if you've worked full-time while completing your degree, or if you're on your second career, but these are rare.
2. Context is critical! When you're in college, it's easy to get swallowed by the bubble of campus life and forget that the outside world has no idea what goes on at your university. Most hiring managers won't recognize the names of your programs or awards (even if they are prestigious!), and unless a club name is super obvious (think: UCLA Screenwriting Society), they won't know what it is. Your tenure with a campus improv troupe is very relevant if you're pursuing a career in comedy, but listing that you were president of Duck Duck Moose on your resume is pretty silly without the context that it's an improv troupe. Make sure you explain anything that an outsider wouldn't know, either with a bullet point establishing context or an added clause, like "Recipient of Jane Doe Award for outstanding campus leadership" instead of just "Jane Doe Award."
3. Your experience doesn't all have to be paid or professional! It's perfectly normal not to have much professional experience while you're a student. And your experience is valuable, even if it wasn't paid or professional. Leadership activities, volunteering, internships, and practicum courses can all be relevant, and may be included in the experience section of your resume. Don't fall into the trap of separating your experience into "relevant experience" and "other experience" -- any experience on your resume should be relevant. If you were involved in a club that isn't really relevant -- like intramural fencing -- you can list it as an activity in the education section. But if you were captain of your intramural fencing team and don't have too much other experience, feel free to list it as a job and highlight all the logistical and leadership elements of that role.
4. Consider what skills entry-level Hollywood roles require. This is a little different for internships and assistant jobs. Internship hiring managers are looking for people who are eager, leaders, good at research, organized, and willing to learn. It's a good idea to lean into impressive achievements from your work, past internships, extracurricular activities, and coursework. On the other hand, hiring managers who are looking for an assistant want someone who can answer phones and handle scheduling, is humble enough to do administrative work, and is resourceful. If your resume showcases only major achievements but doesn't indicate any administrative abilities, it likely won't connect with the hiring team. Unlike most fields that want to hire the best of the best out of school and train them to grow, Hollywood is all about whether you are capable of doing the very basic administrative tasks. You probably can, but make sure that's clear to the hiring team. It can be hard to let go of some of your bigger achievements, especially if your peers applying in other fields are showboating on their resumes, but it's worth it, and you can always save those achievements for interview anecdotes!
5. Student films are great, but not professional. Similar to the above, you don't want to oversell your student films. It's wonderful if you had the opportunity to produce and direct films as part of your coursework! But a resume filled with the title "Producer/Director" is going to confuse hiring managers. They'll either think your resume got lost in the wrong pile, or that you don't have the humility to work your way up the ladder. If your student projects won festival awards, list that as an achievement, or if you can pull skills for PA roles from your time on set, list them as jobs with the clear indication that they were student projects. However, if you're not applying for roles on set, and your projects didn't break out of the school circuit, you may want to minimize them on your resume. You should also consider whether the project is your best work. If the first film you did as a freshman is on your resume and searchable on Vimeo, you can bet the hiring manager can find it and assume that your touting the project is an indication of your skills and taste. The whole point of student films is to practice and refine your skills, so there's no shame if your project isn't perfect -- but it's also not necessarily relevant beyond your overall coursework.
Finally, remember that you can get and do deserve your dream job! And with a great resume, you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd. Good luck!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It's really important to have a focused and targeted resume that will get you a particular job, but it’s also important to realize when your resume is too specific and potentially limiting your growth. This is especially relevant if you’re trying to jump from one side of the industry to another, like the transition from production to development. Once you’ve set yourself on a track, it can be hard to make a switch, especially if you’ve worked several jobs within that track. To make a career transition, you'll need your resume and cover letter to show that you're truly interested in a career switch and that your skills are transferable. Otherwise, you run the risk of hiring managers thinking your resume was submitted accidentally or carelessly, and they'll assume you're not really a viable candidate. Here are a few resume tips that can help expand your career potential:
1. Consider a professional summary. In many cases, you may want to add a professional summary that can showcase your desire for a transition and highlight the key skills and unique perspective you'd bring to the work. This is different from an objective statement; instead of "Objective: Secure role as a development executive," you'd frame it as, "Producer with 10+ years' experience crafting top-rated unscripted series seeking transition to development. Proven track record of conceptualizing storylines, identifying unique characters, and shepherding projects through all phases of content lifecycle. Able to manage teams and assess production viability due to extensive background overseeing logistics for large-scale domestic and international productions." By including this info at the top of your resume, you've primed the reader to approach the rest of your resume with the knowledge that you a) desire a career transition and b) have gained transferable skills through previous experiences, so they'll be more likely to read further.
2. Highlight specific keywords. Another option is to lead with an areas of expertise or core skills section, where you list relevant keywords that indicate your transferable skills. This section is especially helpful if you need to use specific language that's relevant to your potential new role but differs from the jargon used in your previous line of work. Maybe you don't have the title "project manager" on your resume, but if you've been a line producer for a while, you definitely have project management skills, and it's certainly okay to list "project management" here!
3. Write strategic bullet points. As you craft the bullet points in your experience section, take care to focus only on the most transferable, relevant skills. If you were an assistant to an agent, but you're looking to move to the production side of the industry, don't include too much about answering heavy phones. Instead, focus on covering several projects simultaneously, tracking information, and managing complex schedules -- all skills that will be useful on set.
4. Showcase interests and passions. You can also indicate interest in the type of work you're hoping to transition to by listing professional development courses you've taken, citing side projects you've completed, or naming the type of content you're transitioning to in your professional summary or skills & interests section. This will help solidify your desire to broaden your work.
There’s always a way to spin your experience to align with what hiring managers are looking for. And if you find yourself in a position or track you don’t enjoy, try to switch over as soon as possible -- it only gets harder the longer you wait. Plus, you deserve to be happy with your work!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan