As professional resume writers, we've helped plenty of clients with standard career trajectories that fit perfectly into the Hollywood playbook update their resumes. But we’ve also worked with just as many "non-traditional candidates" who don’t quite fit the mold, like those who studied something completely unrelated in school, moms who took time off to raise kids, people making a career transition from a different industry, and the list goes on. When working with non-traditional candidates, we might have to spend a little extra time brainstorming how to spin their skills and experiences into language an entertainment industry hiring manager will understand, but ultimately, their different backgrounds and trajectories make for interesting stories that can enhance their job applications. If your background doesn't fit neatly into the typical Hollywood ladder model, you need to understand the added value you bring to the table and highlight it in your job application materials. And if you’re hiring a new team member, consider looking beyond those candidates who check all the boxes -- you'll be surprised at the talent you can find! Here are three reasons that non-traditional candidates can make great employees:
1. They bring a unique perspective. One of the best things about non-traditional candidates is that they bring skills, experience, and a point of view to a role that you often won’t find in your average applicant. They may have learned an organizational system in a different industry that could help streamline an entertainment process and save the company money. Or they might be very business-minded and supply some broad strategic ideas that could boost business development. Maybe they’ve been a caretaker previously and know how to manage interpersonal relationships in a way that brings the team closer together. And most importantly, their life stories are different. Someone who hasn’t worked in Hollywood and has a distinct worldview will bring a fresh perspective to storytelling. All of these things can add tremendous value to a team.
2. They take risks. It’s terrifying to apply for jobs when you know you’re facing an uphill battle in the hiring process. And even scarier is dropping everything and trying to make a total career switch later in life. People who do this are inevitably willing to take risks. And in Hollywood, that’s what’s needed to keep content fresh and interesting. In an industry of remakes and reboots where “no” is one of the most frequently heard words, it’s the people who take risks and succeed that will ultimately end up on top. And this willingness to take risks brings us to our final point about non-traditional candidates…
3. They really want the job. Why would a person drop everything to work in a cutthroat industry if they weren’t incredibly passionate about it? Non-traditional candidates are excited, eager, and willing to put in tons of hard work to get the job done. No one makes a better employee than someone who really wants to be there. So take them seriously – they probably know more about the industry than you think, and they’re certainly prepared to learn.
The next time you're hiring for a role, don't discount candidates who have a different background from the rest of the applicants in your pile of resumes. Have compassion, and give these deserving applicants a chance. And for those of you who are non-traditional candidates, understand your own worth when applying for jobs. Show the hiring manager why you’re an undeniably strong candidate by presenting not only your transferable skills, but those unique skills and life experiences that will set you apart from other candidates. It might not be the easiest path, but if you don’t give up, you’ll eventually succeed.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
The job search can be frustrating -- especially when you feel like you’ve been submitting tons of job applications and aren’t getting any bites. But if you’ve sent out 50 applications and haven’t heard a word on any of them, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you assess the problem:
Are you qualified for the jobs you’re applying for?
Go back and take a look at the jobs you’ve been applying for. Re-read the job descriptions -- do these jobs actually make sense for you? Will the skills and experience you put in your resume prove you can do the job? If you’re an assistant applying for director-level jobs, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get any calls. It’s okay to reach a bit, but be realistic with your expectations. Conversely, you don’t want to apply for jobs you’re overqualified for either. If you’ve been an assistant for five years, it’s probably time to start looking at coordinator positions -- employers aren’t interested in hiring people who will get burned out quickly or start asking for a promotion after three months. Besides, you start to seem desperate if you’re applying for jobs that are too far below your level. Compare your resume to the job postings to see how well they align. If you don’t have a lot of the key required skills or are already doing work beyond what’s asked for, you may not be applying for the right jobs. Be a little more selective with your search, and try to focus on those jobs that match your qualifications.
Are you excited about the jobs you’re applying for?
Aside from being qualified for a job, it’s also important that you’re excited about a prospective position. It’s easy to spot a generic cover letter from someone who isn’t particularly passionate about the role. So don’t waste your time with applications you’re not excited about. A good test to figure out which opportunities are right: Try writing your cover letters from scratch -- you’ll find that they’ll flow much more easily for the jobs that really are a fit. Then, focus on those opportunities. You’ll have more luck if you’re going for quality over quantity.
How are you actually applying for these jobs?
If you’re both qualified and excited about the jobs you’re applying for but aren’t hearing anything back, you may be going about the job application process wrong. In Hollywood, most people are hired through referrals or promoted internally, so if you’re only using the online application to submit your resume, that’s probably your problem. Try to find a direct contact that can get your resume into the right hands. If you don’t know someone at the company or in the department you’re applying for, you can use LinkedIn to try to find a connection. Ideally, you’ll find someone who knows someone who can pass along your resume, but if this isn’t possible, a cold email can work too. Make sure you’re taking extra steps to get your resume to the hiring manager -- it will help prove how much you want the job.
Do you have a strong resume and cover letter?
If you’re doing everything above right, your problem is probably your resume or cover letter. A disorganized resume or cover letter with typos and poor writing is obviously not going to get you an interview, but that’s not the only thing that can make for a bad resume and cover letter. Do your resume and cover letter tell a story? And is that story one that shows you’re right for the job? You MUST tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting. You should always try to create a new cover letter for every job application, and sometimes, you should create a new resume as well (or at least make some tweaks) -- especially if you’re applying for executive level jobs. Take note of the nuances in the job posting, and make sure your resume and cover letter reflect the core skills of the role. A strong resume and cover letter match the job posting and demonstrate why it makes sense for the company to hire the candidate.
We recognize that all of this may sound like a lot of work -- and it is. But if you can be a little more targeted in your search and thorough with your process, you won’t have to send out nearly as many applications to secure an interview, and you'll be less stressed out in the process!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
We’re often asked what to write in the subject line of a cover email. Some people like to get creative and put things like “Rockstar Assistant Candidate” in their subject lines, and while there are definitely hiring managers that will respond well to this, it’s also possible that some will think it's overly showy. Because of this, we like to play it a little safer.
From our perspective, there are two good options for your subject line. Often, the hiring manager will indicate the exact verbiage for the subject line in a posting as a test to see which candidates can and cannot follow directions -- an easy way to weed out unqualified applicants. When there's a specific directive, follow it exactly -- if they used all caps or a colon, you should do that too. In this case, if you choose to go with your own subject line, don't be surprised when you don't get a phone call for an interview.
When there are no specific subject line instructions in the posting, we like to use “[Position title] Candidate: [First & Last Name]” (for example, “Agency Assistant Candidate: John Smith”). Using this format allows you to clearly indicate what position you are applying for, and it also helps you stand out in the crowd. Many email programs tend to group emails that have the same subject line together, and using your name will ensure that you will get your own thread. Plus, it makes your email easily searchable later on.
Realistically, your email subject line won’t make or break your application (unless you have a spelling error or fail to follow instructions). There are plenty of options that are perfectly acceptable, so pick one and then focus on creating a stellar cover email!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Accepting a new job is a BIG deal. And if you end up in the wrong position, you could potentially have a few miserable months ahead of you or a much harder time making a career transition later on. Yes, the entertainment industry can be competitive, but that doesn’t mean you should always take the first job you’re offered.
The beginning of your job search is when you should be most picky. Assess what jobs are available and make note of how many interviews you’re landing. If you’re getting called in for tons of interviews (even if they aren’t working out), you’re probably a strong candidate for the types of roles you’re applying for, so if you can financially afford to take your time with the job search, it’s a good idea to wait until a position comes along that aligns with your interests and sets you up for future success. It’s also important to consider who’s on the team you’ll be working for -- if a potential boss has a terrible reputation, you’d probably be better off passing on the position and finding a more pleasant working environment.
We understand that some people won’t have the luxury of passing on a job offer, and in that case, you’ll need to be a little more strategic about your search. If you aren’t getting interviews (and you’re 100% confident that your resume and cover letter are stellar), you may want to re-evaluate the positions you’re applying for. If employers aren’t seeing a match, perhaps you should broaden your search -- it’s possible that something you hadn’t considered before could be a better fit.
Most importantly, go with your gut. Do your best to avoid taking a job because you’re desperate. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not the perfect job for you. It’s okay to pass on an opportunity that you aren’t excited about -- you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan