"ASK HR" is our advice column where we answer readers' questions about pressing work dilemmas, job search queries, resumes, and navigating Hollywood. If you have a career-related question, email us, and the answer could appear in a future newsletter! All submissions will remain anonymous.
Dear Hollywood Resumes,
I applied for an internship at my dream company, but not in my dream department. About a week later, another posting went up, this time in a department that's more aligned with my ultimate goals, but I'm not sure if it sends the wrong message if I apply. And if I apply, should I send in a fresh cover letter? I'd love to work for this company one way or another, and it's a fairly small firm (under 30 employees), so I think either internship would be valuable long-term, but I also don't want to nix my chances by submitting for two internships! Help!
-- Doubting a Double Down
Dear Doubting a Double Down,
There's certainly reason to be wary of seeming inauthentic if you apply to multiple jobs in different departments at a company -- for instance, if you say in one cover letter that your goal is to be a marketing executive, but in the other, you write that your dream is to handle post-production services, it'll be clear to the hiring team that you're either lying or not really committed to a path. But that's more of an issue later on in your career once you've established a clear trajectory, or if you're applying to a large company like a studio and inundating their HR portal with hundreds of resumes for unrelated jobs. But in this case, you're applying for an internship, so it's fairly reasonable to assume that you're interested in learning about multiple areas of the industry. Plus, you call this company your "dream" company -- presumably, there's something specific about this firm's work or culture that speaks to you. That's great! Companies want to hire interns (and full-time employees!) that really want to be there, and you've got that box checked.
The question is, how do you convey to the hiring manager what you've conveyed to us? First, you can assume that at such a small company, there's either one internship coordinator or that the departments talk to each other. If you can, reach out to the person who posted the second internship and let them know you recently applied for an internship in Department A, read about the posting in Department B, and would love to be considered for either because you're passionate about the company. Here's where you briefly reference what makes this company your dream company (and we do mean brief; don't expound on all the ways the work they're doing is changing society, because you're not actually privy to the inner workings of the company). If the posting is generic, and you can't find a direct contact, (although, at a small company, you should be able to do some LinkedIn research to find the right person and figure out their direct contact info), tweak your initial cover letter to include your interest in both internships. If there's something specific about your skills that would make you an asset to Department B that you didn't reference in your previous letter, feel free to add that in as well.
-- Angela & Cindy
This week is the five year anniversary of Hollywood Resumes! We’re so grateful for all the loyal readers talented clients who have supported us over the years. As we enter our sixth year in business, we’ve taken some time to reflect on what we’ve learned over the past five years. Here are a few trends we’ve noticed.
1. Many job seekers aren’t aware of their value. We’re often told that our consultation calls feel like therapy sessions, because we spend so much time digging into achievements and asking what our clients are most proud of, allowing them the opportunity to articulate their value and describe what they're really looking for in their next jobs. We've been surprised by how many clients don't see how much they bring to the table until we call out a particular achievement as worthwhile. "It's no big deal," or "Do people really care? I was just doing my job!" are common refrains. But it's this information that allows us to highlight the unique skills and biggest strengths of each client -- and back it up with hard evidence in their resume bullet points. These conversations also give our clients a confidence boost -- for many, it's a rare chance to be seen and heard. It’s shocking how many people are applying for jobs below their skill levels, and it’s because they’ve stopped fully believing in themselves. If this is you, consider making a list of accomplishments and use that as the basis for your job search.
2. Most job applicants either oversell or undersell themselves on their resumes. When we get incoming client resumes, we usually either see pages of dense text that no one will ever read, or sparse bullet points that don’t give readers much context about previous positions or highlight relevant achievements. It's our job to find a balance. We talk to our clients to figure out what their unique skills are and understand the full picture of their career trajectories, and then whittle that down based on what’s relevant for the specific roles they’re applying for. You can do this, too -- going back to the point above, you need to fully recognize your accomplishments and realize your value. Then, you have to take the extra step of sharing only the information that the hiring manager needs to see. The result is a clear, concise resume that may not include every little thing you’ve ever done, but it will prove that you’ve got what it takes to do the job you want.
3. Challenging career transitions are extremely common. A significant number of our clientele are people who are transitioning into entertainment from another industry, trying to move into an unfamiliar role across the industry, or trying to leave entertainment for a different sector. And on top of that, they’re trying to do that without having to take a significant pay cut. Many of our clients feel alone in these pursuits, but trust us -- five years of clients has proven otherwise! Here’s more good news: Hiring managers also recognize that not every person has had the perfect career trajectory. Yes, you’ve got to convince someone to take a chance on you. But remember, you have the advantage of a unique career path and a fresh perspective. Highlight it!
4. Non-traditional candidates have some of the most interesting job applications. Many people come to us because their experience doesn’t align perfectly with the jobs they want. They're often nervous that hiring managers won't take them seriously, but we see it differently -- these candidates know what they want and are willing to make risky career moves to pursue their passions. Beyond that, the experiences they may view as a drawback are often what will make them stand out from the crowd. Imagine what a Home Depot worker might know that they could bring to a personal assistant position supporting someone with a big estate. Or what a mom of five could bring to a job as a talent wrangler dealing with difficult celebrities. Or what a branded content producer could bring to a lifestyle network trying to reach a new target audience. It's all about finding the way to spin your story to make the connections for the hiring manager. When you do, you’ll have a much stronger application.
5. The job search takes effort. Our clients are pretty awesome -- we’ve gotten to know some incredible people over the years and heard some fascinating stories. Everyone has something special they bring to the table, and that’s what makes this job so exciting for us. However, there’s one thing our clients share: a commitment to bettering themselves and advancing their careers. Hiring a resume writer is one piece of that -- it’s evidence that our clients are investing in themselves. But passion for the work is really what predicates success -- those clients who have a clear vision for their careers are able to target their job searches and focus their energy on the jobs they really want. And on top of that, their enthusiasm sets them apart during interviews. If you want to succeed in this industry, you’ll have to take an active role in your job search.
But the biggest thing we’ve learned over the past five years? We love helping our clients! We’ve worked with so many talented people who we know will make a difference through their work and contribute great art to the world. So we thank you for that, and we look forward to serving you through 2021 and beyond
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Thank you notes are arguably the easiest part of the job application -- they’re short, conversational, and don’t take all that much brain power to write. However, you’ve still got to be extremely meticulous about proofreading your thank you notes before clicking send. When writing a resume, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on perfection. You’ve probably gone through your resume line by line multiple times to avoid the sneaky errors and typos that resumes are known for. But have you made a habit of doing the same thing with your thank you notes? If not, it’s time to start. Spelling and grammatical errors in a thank you note indicate that you lack attention to detail and/or are a poor writer. Neither of these things are acceptable to a hiring manager.
Because we don’t expect to find errors in thank you notes, they’re easy to overlook. Once you’ve written your thank you email, slowly re-read it several times out loud. You’d be amazed at how often you’ll inadvertently leave out a word or include some repetitive verbiage. And if grammar isn’t your strong suit, have someone else proofread your thank you note for you. It may seem silly to put that much work into such a short paragraph, but taking this extra step will always be worthwhile. Don’t let the easiest part of your job application be the thing that trips you up.
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