In Hollywood, many job openings require that you apply via email. For these types of job applications, you should always send a cover email -- that is, a short email indicating your intention in applying and interest in the role. While a cover email is not a formally required piece of a job application (you’ll never see it requested in the application instructions), it is one of the most important factors in getting your resume opened by a hiring manager. Especially for freelance or entry-level roles that are posted widely, hiring managers receive so many job applications that they tend to consider only the candidates who have articulated their intention in applying in a concise and friendly way in the body of the email.
The good news is, writing a cover email is a quick and simple process! Ideally, you’ll address the email to an actual person (“Hi Jane,”), but if the email address is generic, “Hi,” or “Dear Hiring Manager,” is appropriate. Then, you’ll write a short paragraph stating your interest in a particular role, who you are/what you are doing now, any key selling points, and then indicate your desire to schedule an interview. In total, the cover email should be about 3-4 sentences. You can write conversationally – keep it professional of course, but the tone you would use in a regular work email will work here too.
We’ve found that a good cover email makes all the difference in your chances of getting an interview – no one likes opening an email from a total stranger that just has an attachment, or the very stand-offish "Resume attached." Make sure you don't skip this step when you apply for roles via email, even if you're also attaching a formal cover letter per the application instructions.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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
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
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