If you’re back in the job market after a long hiatus, you’re likely concerned that you don’t know how to look for jobs. Where you should apply? What are employers looking for these days? Where should you even begin?
Take a deep breath. Looking for jobs IS a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as you might fear! In fact, many of the same skills you’ve deployed in your past roles will come in super handy during your job search. It can help to think of your job search as a work project -- simply navigate the required steps the way you would any other professional task.
For instance, a great job search strategy includes reaching out to your network and asking for help, either for referrals to jobs or introductions to other folks to expand your contact list. It can be very daunting to conduct outreach on behalf of yourself, but you probably reached out to people all the time in previous roles! If you are or were an assistant, you have experience tracking down info for your boss and contacting others to schedule meetings. If you work in production, you’ve probably conducted outreach to crew up a show, source props, secure locations, obtain permits, and rent equipment. If you work in sales or representation, you’ve mastered the art of the warm intro and cold email. As you leverage your network to ask for support in your job search, imagine that you’re reaching out to someone for a business purpose you’re familiar with, and it’ll be that much easier.
There are other skills you already have that will help in your job search too. Researching target companies is just like creating lists of writers/directors or casting targets. If you have strong project management or organizational skills, tap into those to create a job search calendar to triage when you search certain sites and hold yourself accountable when applying for jobs. Following up on the status of your application or job interview is the same as managing any other type of follow-up. And so on!
Once you take the pressure off, it’ll become easier to focus on doing the work of applying for jobs -- that is, reading the posting carefully, creating a targeted resume and cover letter, and asking your network for referrals. Trust us: You got this.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Detail-oriented. Strong written and verbal communication skills. Go-getter.
These are the soft skills that are most often listed in job postings. They’re also the easiest ones for hiring managers to assess during the hiring process! And no, this is not because you’ve listed them on your resume. In fact, if you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that we recommend avoiding listing soft skills on your resume, and instead showing how you used those skills through bullet points that reflect tangible accomplishments.
One of the reasons we make that recommendation is because anyone can claim a soft skill, and without evidence to back it up, why would a hiring manager believe you? Beyond that, hiring managers can directly see if you have some of the soft skills they require through the application process. Let's go through a few examples how they assess these three skills.
Hiring managers can tell if you’re detail-oriented very easily. First, did you follow the application instructions in the job posting? If they asked for a cover letter, and you didn’t send one, you obviously missed that detail. If they asked you to include your top three favorite TV shows in the cover letter, and you don’t, they know you don’t pay attention to details or follow instructions. (That kind of call out is actually designed almost exclusively as a soft skills test, which is why it’s listed more in entry-level postings where applicants may not have proven their soft skills professionally yet!). Another way to see if you’re detail-oriented – does your resume match the job posting? Is it clear why you applied? Or did you send a production-oriented resume for a development executive role? A detail-oriented person will read the posting carefully and thoroughly and review their resume to make sure it aligns with the role.
Similarly, communication skills become evident throughout the application process. For example, if a person with strong written communication skills is applying for a job over email, they’ll send a short, well-written cover email instead of a blank email or a one-line “See attached.” When they’re contacted for an interview, they’ll respond professionally, with full, punctuated sentences, and no typos or grammatical errors. If a hiring manager reaches out to set an interview, and you reply to the email, “Yupp Monday 10am is good Thx,” you’re not demonstrating strong written communication skills for a professional environment. It’s also easy for hiring managers to get a sense of your verbal communication skills during the job interview. Sure, they’re looking to see if you’re really a fit based on a deeper dive into your professional background, but they’ll also know in a moment or two whether you are able to communicate your thoughts concisely and articulately.
A skill like “go-getter” is obvious to hiring managers too! Someone who truly takes initiative will do so during their job search. First, they’ll make sure their materials are as strong as can be and tailored to the job posting. Then, they’ll go the extra mile to see if they can get a referral to the position through their network or try to find a recruiter on LinkedIn who they can speak to directly. Even if they can’t find a connection, if they do get an interview, they’ll show proactivity by arriving on time, answering questions that demonstrate they've researched the company and projects, and sending a thank you note within 24 hours.
As you apply for jobs, keep in mind that hiring managers are vetting you beyond what’s written on your resume or said in your interview. One of the biggest missteps candidates can make is claiming a soft skill they don’t have, as it raises red flags about all their other qualifications the moment a hiring manager discovers one is a misrepresentation. Make sure you cultivate these skills (coaching can help!) and demonstrate them throughout the application process.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Many of our clients approach us when they’re frustrated by a long job search. They’ve been applying for months and getting no calls for interviews. Sometimes, they just need a stronger resume, and once they’ve got the right document in hand, the calls start coming in.
But often, the problem isn’t just their resume; it’s that they aren’t applying for the right jobs.
Applying for jobs isn’t a numbers game. It’s not like there’s a magic percentage of applications you can send in that result in a call for an interview. In fact, approaching the job search by resume bombing any job that’s remotely interesting is going to result in fewer interview calls and more desperation, because your documents won’t be convincing to the hiring manager! Instead, you should apply strategically for jobs that align with your career goals and interests.
How do you determine if you’re applying for the right jobs? First, make sure you identify what you actually want to do next. Are you looking to stay at the same level, or are you looking to level up? What kind of company do you want to work for? What level of work/life balance are you looking for? Do you want to work remotely, in the office, or hybrid? What skills did you enjoy utilizing from your previous jobs, and what kind of work do you never want to do again? Make sure you’re clear on the answers to these questions, so you can vet job postings against them.
Then, you need to make sure to read job postings carefully. Consider that many job titles are alike, while the duties are really different. For instance, a creative producer job at an ad agency isn’t the same as a creative producer job at a film production company, and neither job is the same as an on-air promotions producer at a broadcast network. If you apply for every “producer” role out there without reading through the listing, you’ll likely apply for jobs you’re not qualified for or don’t even want! Read each responsibility and qualification and ask yourself, “Can I do this? And do I want to do this?”
If you’re applying for a job you really want, you’re also more likely to get support from your network. Your friends and contacts will go out on a limb for you if they think you’ll be a good fit for the role, but they’re not going to put their reputations on the line to refer you for a role you might ultimately reject or not qualify for. Beyond that, hiring managers can tell the difference between a resume that was sent off willy-nilly and one that was customized for the job posting and showcases a real interest in the role. Make sure you fit into that latter category.
Spend a little extra time vetting the job posting and updating your application materials accordingly – it will pay off a lot more than taking the time to fire off 3 more resumes for jobs you wouldn’t even accept
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Once a job posting is up, how much time do you have to apply before you lose out on that opportunity? The answer is that it varies depending on the role, where it was posted, and who is hiring. Here are a few guidelines that will help you figure out whether you need to drop everything and apply right away.
In Hollywood, the jobs that get filled the fastest are entry-level roles, specifically writers’ room support staff like writers’ PAs, writers’ assistants, and script coordinators. These are most often filled by word of mouth or by someone asking for referrals through a tracking board. Quite often, the person collecting resumes will say they’re no longer accepting submissions after 200+ resumes pour in over the course of two hours. Similarly, assistant positions on the UTA job list and similar job boards get inundated with resumes just hours after the post goes up, though you likely have an extra day or two to apply for those, as the competition won’t be as fierce if you have a very strong resume and cover letter (most applicants for those roles "resume bomb" the openings, and hiring managers tend to wait a beat to gather stronger resumes). If you're applying for any of these types of roles, make sure you have a resume ready to go. Luckily, most entry-level postings are pretty short, and you can usually send the same resume out time and again without tweaking it. Assistant positions are typically filled in about two weeks, often because an executive is about to lose their support staff and want to get someone in quickly. At larger corporations -- especially where temps or floaters are an option -- the hiring manager might take more time to find the right person. And regardless of whether a posting is “closed” or not, you can still be considered if you can find someone to refer you – a hiring manager would always prefer a candidate who has been vetted by someone they know over someone they don't.
Beyond entry-level positions, there's a lot more disparity. The hiring timeline for freelance crew roles can vary depending on when the production will start, but these are also typically quick turnarounds. The good news is that your "resume" for a production role will usually take the form of a credits list or Staff Me Up profile, which should be pretty easy to maintain and send out at a moment’s notice. A good rule of thumb here is to update your materials every time you start a new job, so you're ready to apply as soon as your show wraps.
In-house mid-to senior-level roles generally don’t require such a rush. Companies hiring for these roles have a very specific need they are hoping someone can fill, so they're going to spend more time finding the right candidate for the job and really invest in that person. If you notice that a job posting just went up, try to be at the front of the pack of applicants and submit your application materials that week, but even if the posting has already been up a couple of weeks, it’s likely that the position is still open. If it has been open for a month when you find it, do some digging to see if you can get in contact with a recruiter or someone at the company who can tell you if they are still reviewing applications. You'll want to tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting, so it's clear to the hiring manager that you're a potential fit for the specific role and not just applying willy nilly. This is a pretty big mindset shift from entry-level roles, where you fire the same resume off to multiple jobs per week. A role that requires greater responsibility on the job also requires greater responsibility on the application side; it's more important to apply strategically than quickly. Take the time to read the posting carefully, revise your materials, and tap into your network for referrals.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan