You’re applying for entertainment industry jobs, so you should list all your credits on your resume, right? Wrong. Credits lists are intended for those looking to work on the production side of the industry, but they don't make sense for everyone.
We often see candidates trying to break into an office-based role with a resume that focuses more on credits than on actual job responsibilities. And sure, if you’ve got an exceptionally strong and long roster of credits (we're talking five to ten roles as a PA, Production Coordinator, or any other below-the-line job on a network TV series or studio feature), maybe you can get away with it. But if you’ve directed seven short films or indies no one’s heard of -- or worse, AD’ed seventeen -- you’re not presenting yourself with the right skills to impress someone looking to fill a spot in their office.
Rethink how you describe your role in some of the films you’ve worked on (or reconsider listing them at all) and add in non-industry jobs that paid your bills between gigs. When you can showcase how the skills you’ve gained on set or in non-industry positions will translate to the office, you’ll get called in for an interview. But simply listing titles no one’s heard of is a sure way to get your resume thrown in the trash.
Getting fired can be a soul-crushing experience that may cause you to question yourself on many levels, but it will only be a minor setback if you know how to handle the situation properly. People are fired all the time for a variety of reasons – personalities clash, the company’s needs change, and sometimes it’s just clear that the position isn’t a good fit. Whatever the reason, you can take solace in the fact that you’re free from a job that wasn’t right for you and now have an opportunity to find something even better. However, you will need to be careful how you address the issue of getting fired in an interview. You will inevitably be asked why you left your previous position, but blatantly announcing, “I got fired!” is not the best idea, especially if it happens at the beginning of your interview. Even though it’s a common situation, you don’t want the hiring manager spending the interview wondering why you got fired instead of focusing on all your great answers to his other questions.
Instead, we recommend that you gloss over this portion of the interview, focusing more on what’s to come than what happened in the past. You “left” your previous employer (this isn’t a lie), and that’s really all that matters at this point. Briefly state that your last job wasn’t a good fit, and explain why you feel that the position you’re applying for is more in line with your interests. For example, if you were fired from a reality TV desk and are trying to break into scripted, you would simply say, “I left because it wasn’t a good fit for me, as I am more passionate about scripted television.” Even if you are applying for another similar job, you can still use this tactic – just find some type of difference between the two companies, and focus on what the new company has that the old one is missing. In the reality TV situation, maybe you like the new company’s shows better or have heard things about the company culture that seem more appealing than your previous office environment. If you were fired, something clearly wasn’t working out, so figure out what that was and pivot away from it.
Seems simple enough, right? But you’re probably still worried that the employer is going to find out that you were fired and think you were lying. Again, you aren’t lying by saying you “left” (just don’t say that you “quit” when you were actually asked to leave). But, unless they knew that you were fired before the interview (maybe a friend passed your resume along and explained the situation), they’re probably not going to find out unless they have a friend at the previous company that they call for a reference. You can get ahead of this by providing a list of references of people who know you well and can vouch for you as an employee. The fact that you were fired may or may not come up during a reference check, but if you’re listing the right reference, they’ll describe the situation in a way that presents you in a positive light, suggesting that your previous firing was a fluke or isn’t relevant to the new position. Or they might not mention it at all. Once you have an offer, you’re home free. Even if it comes up during a background check, you can’t have an offer revoked because you told the new employer that you “left.” So remember, all hope is not lost if you get fired. Don’t get too discouraged, and definitely don’t give up on your goals – the right position is just around the corner!
A resume mistake we see often, especially among recent grads, is a division of the experience section of your resume, usually with one “professional experience” or "relevant experience" section and an “internship experience” or "other experience" section. You may think this separation makes your resume easier to read, but it's actually illogical from a hiring manager's perspective.
Your resume is meant to tell a story, so you’ll want to list ALL your “experience” chronologically, in one section. You’re painting a picture of yourself to the hiring manager, and the goal is to convince him that a) you’ve got the qualifications to handle the open position, and b) you’re an organized, motivated, responsible person who will get the job done. If you’ve completed internships or performed volunteer work that can demonstrate these qualities, you should include them as part of your resume story. Putting internship experience in a separate section diminishes the importance of the work you did at each company and suggests that you didn’t learn anything during the internship. The same goes for college leadership experiences – if you’re lacking professional experience in the field but have taken on meaningful roles during your time as an undergrad, you can include them in your resume timeline to help tell your story. You don’t need to break these out into a separate section – any type of experience counts for something, regardless of the context.
Second, having multiple sections suggests that some of the positions you’ve held are less relevant to the job you’re applying for than others (especially when you title one section "relevant experience" and another "other experience," which is basically code for "irrelevant experience"). As we’ve said many times, you always want your resume tohighlight the responsibilities that are most pertinent to the job you’re applying for. You’ve got limited space on your one-page resume, so why would you waste it by listing extraneous positions (and calling attention to them by giving them their own section)? If there’s a gap in your resume timeline, you might need to fill it in with whatever you were doing at that time -- carefully crafting your bullet points to showcase skills you learned there that will be helpful in the position you’re applying for -- but that gap explanation is actually useful to the person reviewing your resume. In general, if you have enough related experience, you don’t need to include your freshman year job at Starbucks or that you were the president of the modern dance club in college, but if you don't have any other experience, you can pull the transferable skills from Starbucks and club leadership, making those seemingly "irrelevant" experiences relevant. Once you've built up more professional experience, you can remove the college leadership activities and volunteer work (or internships) outside the industry from your resume. You’ll eventually get to the point where you don’t need to list any internships or college experience on your resume, but until then, be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and showcase it all in a clear way.
You list all of your past jobs, skills, and achievements on LinkedIn. So why not just copy it all and use it as your resume? Because doing so will pretty much guarantee you don’t get the job. How’s that? Chances are, your LinkedIn profile is an overview of everything you’ve done. It’s an inviting buffet of skill sets that’s designed to show recruiters and professional contacts that you’re up for whatever job they have in mind for you, and to encourage networking opportunities, it may be written conversationally. Or, your profile is a thin construction of your work history, with details spared, so that you keep a low Google footprint and don’t get pigeonholed when, say, you juggle multiple types of jobs/career paths (like an aspiring writer who's an assistant at an agency). Either type of profile is fine...for LinkedIn.
But when employers review your resume, they don’t want to see the whole smorgasbord, and they certainly don't want to see an empty bread basket -- they want to see if your skills align with what they’re looking for. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Tailor your resume to the job posting. Even if all the companies you’ve listed on LinkedIn are relevant to the job at hand (a rarity!), in your resume, take the time to edit out the unnecessary bullet points or descriptors, and abandon the headline. LinkedIn is the salad bar, with choices upon choices. Your resume should be the curated chef’s menu.