In Hollywood, it’s easy to feel like everyone’s against you, especially when preparing for an interview – you’re thinking about all the trick questions you might get asked, worrying that your interviewer has some negative preconceived notions about you, and convincing yourself that she’s just trying to weed you out of a big pool of candidates. But in reality, the hiring manager is on your side! It's sort of the flip-side to finding reasons to say "no" to a candidate's resume to narrow down the list; employers don’t want to spend their days interviewing tons of candidates, so they're looking for a reason to say "yes" quickly.
If you can remember this, you’ll be able to drum up a lot more confidence during your interview. Think about it: This person has already seen your resume (likely more than one person has), and she’s come to the conclusion that you probably have the skills to do the job adequately. She believes in you enough to spend 30 minutes to an hour of her workday getting to know you better. That’s saying something. You are a qualified candidate. Just the fact that you got an interview proves it. This is good news, because all you have to do is confirm the interviewer’s expectation. You’re not working to overcome a negative first impression. This should be enough to calm your nerves.
At this point, the interviewer is trying to assess whether or not she and/or the team can connect with you on a personal level, and her hope is that the answer is a resounding yes! Especially if you've been referred for the role or someone's called on your behalf, the expectation is that she'll like you. Even if she's meeting you blindly, she connected with something on your resume or in your cover letter or LinkedIn profile. It’s kind of like online dating – when you like someone’s profile enough to go out with them on a date, aren’t you’re going into it hoping that it will work out? It’s the same with a job interview. The hiring manager really does want this to work! Keep in mind that if it doesn't work out, it doesn't mean you were unlikeable (just like you might go on dates with perfectly nice people who aren't "the one"), but there's only one person who can ultimately get the job.
When you’re mentally preparing for your interview, take a moment to remind yourself that you’ve gotten the interview because you deserve it, and that the hiring manager wants to like you. You should be going into the meeting with excitement and confidence – you’re meant to be there, so all you have to do is prove to the hiring manager that she was right to bring you in! And everyone likes to be right, right?
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
You're ready to shake things up in your career, but you don't know exactly what you want to do next. All you know is you're done freelancing. As long as it's in-house, stable, and comes with benefits, you're interested.
Many of our clients feel this way and plan to put feelers out across the industry to land their next jobs. Although a more targeted approach will likely yield better results -- for instance, identifying a few companies that really interest you, or narrowing down job titles to those that include the skills you most enjoy -- it's completely understandable that you might want to test multiple waters as you make that career transition. But if you choose this path, you're going to need to spend a little more time than usual on your job applications.
Well, when you apply for a wide variety of jobs, you shouldn't be using the same resume for every application. Different positions require different skills, so you'll want to alter your resume accordingly. Look at the skills each posting asks for, and find the experiences you've had in the past that match what's listed. Think about everything you've done previously that qualifies you for the role, even if it wasn't a major aspect of your job, and include it on your resume.
You don't need to start from scratch every time. Instead, create a resume that encompasses all the different skills you bring to the table and orient it so it aligns with the jobs you're most excited about -- your professional summary (if you have one) and primary bullet points should match that particular type of role. This way, you'll have one resume for the bulk of your applications, and you may just need to do a quick keyword pass or remove one or two irrelevant bullet points each time.
But when you apply for a job that's a little different, you should revise your professional summary and reorganize (or rewrite) your bullets to match the specific nature of the role -- for example, if you're mostly applying for in-house producer roles at a network, but an open creative director role at a branded content firm catches your eye, you'd tweak your professional summary to include references to work you've done with brands and rearrange your bullet points to highlight skills related to integrations and branded content.
If you're applying equally to wildly disparate jobs -- like a post-production supervisor and a marketing director -- you'll need two separate resumes as your base. It may seem like a lot of work, but it's better to spend a few hours crafting multiple resumes (or hire us to do it!) than to spend weeks or months applying for jobs and getting nowhere. A generic resume simply won't work in this case. For one, you'll be up against a bunch of more traditional candidates who have the exact experience the hiring manager is looking for. You're not going to be able to compete with them if you're forcing the hiring manager to do a ton of extra work to identify the skills they're looking for in your resume (trust us, they won't bother). Plus, hiring managers can tell when your resume is one-size-fits-all, and that doesn't convey passion for that company or role, nor will it convince them that you're a multi-talented hyphenate they'd be honored to have on payroll.
The bottom line: You'll have much better luck in the job hunt if your resume is targeted, focused, and tells a clear story to the hiring manager about why you're the right fit for that particular job. So take the extra time to tailor your resume to the job posting -- it will make your job search that much shorter!
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
"ASK HR" is our advice column where we answer readers' questions about pressing work dilemmas, job search queries, resumes, and navigating Hollywood. If you have a career-related question, email us, and the answer could appear in a future newsletter! All submissions will remain anonymous.
Dear Hollywood Resumes,
I've been on the hunt for an entry-level Hollywood job since before COVID hit. I'd been volunteering for a local film festival, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, and many of the industry jobs I applied to postponed their hiring processes. I took a job at a fast food restaurant to pay the bills in the meantime. Is it worth including this job on my resume? How will hiring managers perceive this experience?
-- Dollar Menu Dilemma
Dear Dollar Menu Dilemma,
Ordinarily, it's perfectly reasonable to cover a gap on your resume with a non-industry job, even if the job is in the service industry. There are a ton of transferable skills between food service and entertainment, especially when you're looking for an entry-level role -- a lot of an assistant's job comes down to customer service, whether it's handling clients or dealing with a boss who has an endless list of requests.
However, the pandemic is an unusual circumstance. Hiring managers know that there's unprecedented unemployment and underemployment right now, and the memory of the pandemic won't fade even when the economy ticks back up. You're better off starting your resume with the film festival job, since that's industry related. A hiring manager will see that your tenure with the festival ended in the spring and won't bat an eye -- of course the event was cancelled, and of course you haven't secured a new position in this time. If you were to open your resume with your fast food job, the hiring manager may not look further down your resume to see your relevant roles. In this case, it's smarter to have a gap.
If you're asked in an interview what you've been doing since March, feel free to share that you're currently working in food service to pay the bills. There's no shame in that. You can also mention any non-work activities you've been up to, like volunteering, attending virtual industry events, and engaging in social activism. Be confident as you explain how you've spent your time, and use this opportunity to convey that you're a go-getter who doesn't just watch the world from the sidelines.
-- Angela & Cindy
The difference between a great resume and a passable resume often comes down to the verbs you use in your bullet points. Strong action verbs are key to conveying your skills and experience. This is pretty basic; however, many candidates think they're using strong action verbs when they're not.
For instance, "responsible for," "tasked with," "participated in," "charged with," and "worked on" are not strong action verbs. Starting a bullet with these terms indicates what was expected of you, but not what you did or achieved.
Instead, use the cheat sheet below to find action verbs for your resume -- note that some verbs can be used in different contexts to mean different things, but do your best to avoid repeating verbs in your resume.
To show leadership: led, managed, supervised, oversaw, spearheaded, initiated, hired, recruited, shepherded, drove, directed, trained, delegated, guided, piloted, conducted
To show written communication skills: wrote, drafted, created, noted, transcribed, edited, proofread, communicated
To show verbal communication skills: corresponded, pitched, presented, demonstrated, interviewed, solicited, communicated
To show interpersonal skills: interfaced, collaborated, liaised, negotiated, cultivated, fostered, partnered, communicated
To show creative skills: developed, produced, edited, created, ideated, brainstormed, innovated, conceptualized, designed, generated, crafted, constructed, formulated
To show organizational skills: organized, maintained, handled, coordinated, tracked, monitored, logged, compiled, updated, assembled
To show administrative support skills: assisted, provided, supported, coordinated, facilitated, performed, prepared, covered
To show project management skills: planned, executed, managed, handled, oversaw, allocated, secured, sourced, scouted, built, obtained, facilitated, streamlined, procured, budgeted
To show research/analytical skills: researched, assessed, analyzed, reviewed, evaluated, critiqued, identified, pinpointed
To show achievements/results: grew, increased, initiated, spearheaded, negotiated, boosted, generated, launched, exceeded, sold, signed, implemented, established, delivered, completed
As you write your resume, make sure you're using words that reflect the specific nature of your experience. Take ownership of your contributions to your previous company -- tell the hiring manager what you accomplished and how!
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan