In Hollywood, the absolute best way to increase your odds of getting an interview is to get referred to a position by someone who knows the hiring manager. This is especially true now, when job postings have hundreds, and sometimes even upwards of a thousand applicants. Hiring managers simply cannot read that many resumes, and they'll lean into their networks to cull through the candidates -- even if your resume is perfect, you'll want to make sure they can find it!
In an ideal world, you’ll have put the word out that you are looking for a new job and have conducted numerous informational interviews, and someone will remember you and reach out when a relevant position opens up. But even if that doesn’t happen, you can be proactive and generate referrals for open roles of interest. The idea is that you want to track the path of your resume until you feel pretty confident that someone in the hiring department has reviewed it. Here’s the process we recommend:
Once you have a posting of interest and have submitted your resume through formal channels, do a LinkedIn search for the company, click on “people,” and see if you know anyone that works there. If you do, great! Send them an email and ask if they can pass your resume to the hiring manager. Hopefully they know someone in the department and can put in a good word for you directly. They’ll probably be able to tell you if the role is still open and may even have some info about the hiring timeline. If you’re the type of candidate they are looking for, you will be almost sure to get an interview.
However, if this is a big company, and your contact doesn’t know anyone in the hiring department, you’ll need to take some extra steps. The person you know may be able to refer you through an internal employee portal, but that won’t necessarily get you an interview. In this case, or in the case that you have found a role of interest but don’t know anyone at the company, you need to leverage LinkedIn to find second degree connections. This means that you search for the company, click on “people,” and see who works there that you have a shared connection with. Reach out to your contacts who know people at the company, prioritizing the people that are most likely to want to do you a favor and the people who know someone in or close to the hiring department. If possible, reach out to multiple people to ensure that your resume gets to the hiring manager’s hands. If the hiring manager is hearing your name left and right, they’ll have no choice but to bring you in!
When reaching out to your contacts, it’s important that you reach out via email and not LinkedIn, as LinkedIn messages often get lost. Be really specific about your ask, and provide as much detail as possible, including a link to the original job posting, a job ID if there is one, the name of the person you are trying to get your resume to, and a little bit of detail about why you are interested/right for the role. And don’t forget to attach your resume! This way, your contact can simply forward your email to their contact, who will see your professional, well-written email summarizing your qualifications.
Continue this process until you know that your resume has been viewed by the hiring manager, and hopefully, you'll get that call for an interview. Keep in mind that this process works best if you have dedicated time to building your network and staying active on LinkedIn. Read our many blog posts on networking and LinkedIn if you think either of these areas needs a little love. Good luck!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
AI is the talk of the town these days. It’s coming for all our jobs, maybe. But is it helpful for our job applications? Should you use ChatGPT to write your resume?
We conducted several experiments with fictionalized candidates and real job postings to test ChatGPT’s capabilities. Obviously, as resume writers, we have a huge stake in this question, so we were very scared of what we’d find. But our ultimate goal is to help Hollywood professionals navigate their careers (in and out of the industry), so if ChatGPT’s resume writing prowess would mean that we’d lean more into the career coaching side of things, we'd be open to that, too.
What we found was that ChatGPT can write a semi-decent resume, but it lacks specificity and won't stand out from the crowd. And it takes some finesse to get a final product that's close to decent. For one of our experiments, we shared a job posting for a branded content producer and wrote about our fictional candidate’s experience by using some of the skills and keywords we’d use ourselves, if we’d been hired to write the candidate’s resume. ChatGPT’s version was pretty good – it spit back a lot of the keywords we input and used mostly strong action verbs. However, the ChatGPT resume included an objective and listed soft skills, which we (and most experts) don’t recommend. And more importantly, it didn’t include any achievements or context and read as very generic – for example:
We then tried an approach more akin to the way our clients approach us initially. Instead of sharing a specific job posting, we shared a broad role category (development executive). We also prompted ChatGPT with a more casual way of explaining our fictional candidate’s background, the way our clients often do in their initial outreach to us and before we ask follow up questions on our calls. This version was much less successful. For example:
Based on our assessment, ChatGPT is not capable of writing a strong resume on its own. But it could be a good starting place for you to write your own materials. You’ll need to spoonfeed it details using the right terminology and do some pretty heavy editing to personalize it and make it read like a human wrote it. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the revision process but hates staring at a blank page, you might find ChatGPT to be a helpful tool to point you in the right direction.
However, if you’re having trouble figuring out which of your achievements to highlight in your application, or you don’t have the time to redline an AI-generated document, or you’re not confident in your ability to write strong, clear prompts, you may be better off staying away from these tools, at least for now. Their promise of the ability to write an interview-worthy resume in the blink of an eye isn’t fully realized. As human resume writers, we can ask the right probing questions to pinpoint our clients' relevant achievements and write their documents in a way that reflects their and our humanity. If you don’t have the budget for a human resume writer, you may still be better off on your own -- create a skills list (with the brainstorming help of friends and colleagues), follow our tips for writing strong materials, and have a friend look the documents over for typos and clarity.
Remember, the hiring manager wants to hire a human for the open role (for now!). Whether you use ChatGPT as a starting point or not, make sure your unique perspective and background comes through in your application.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It’s no secret that the entertainment industry has had its fair share of gatekeepers, and many folks with a passion for storytelling may not have considered entertainment as a viable career path earlier in their professional lives. We work with many clients who, for one reason or another, start pursuing their entertainment careers later in life. It’s not an easy path, but it is doable, if you approach your transition thoughtfully and strategically.
First, be very honest and clear with yourself about what you want to do within the industry. If you want to be a writer or director, you may not need to spend time “paying your dues” on the assistant track. You can certainly try applying for entry-level assistant jobs, but the reality is that many hiring managers are looking for younger candidates fresh out of school, and there are no guarantees that being a great assistant (whether on a desk or in a writers’ room) will lead to a creative role. Be realistic about your financial needs and how much time you can devote to dues-paying. If being an assistant doesn’t work for your life, consider the many other ways to obtain these creative positions – applying for fellowships, submitting your work to contests and film festivals, writing other forms of media (short fiction, novels, newsletters, personal essays, humor blogs), directing independent projects in other formats (web series, spec commercials, short films, plays), etc. Prioritize attending workshops and networking events and collaborating with other creatives. You might also consider getting a full-time role within the industry that aligns with skills from your previous work that will allow you to integrate into Hollywood while honing your craft – for example, if you worked in sales, you might apply for jobs in the ad sales department of a network. Your day job will still be somewhat siloed from the creatives, but you will likely meet more people who can introduce you to folks who can check out your work.
If you’re hoping to get on the producer, executive, or agent/manager track, starting as an assistant is more important. It’s unlikely that you can move laterally from your previous field into a mid-level or senior-level role in these coveted areas, unless you’re coming from a similarly creative role that involved storytelling (think: video games, publishing). Hiring managers want to make sure you understand the nuances of the industry and have a strong network of contacts before they’ll hand you a multi-million dollar production to oversee. Applying for Hollywood assistant jobs is a pretty unique process – you’ll want to highlight your administrative acumen and have a resume that focuses on your ability to answer phones, handle heavy scheduling, maintain organization, provide customer service, and process various types of paperwork. It’s okay to show some achievements, and you definitely want to highlight how your unique perspective will make you an asset to the organization, but make sure your resume clearly indicates that you understand the role of an assistant, and that your cover letter expresses your humility. You may still find some ageist hiring managers -- this is an unfortunate reality of the business that is hopefully changing but not yet changed -- but all you need is one to take a chance on you.
Breaking into Hollywood later in life is difficult, but not impossible. And as the industry opens up to include more historically marginalized perspectives, we hope it will also make room for people who didn’t have the opportunity to pursue their entertainment dreams at 23. If you’re a storyteller, you’ll find a way to tell your story – and we’re here, excited to help however we can!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan