Over the years, we have seen some pretty ridiculous skills sections on resumes, like when the skills take up half the page and don't correlate logically to a previous role, or list every software known to mankind. We blame the internet -- a lot of generic resume advice you'll find online includes listing as many keywords as possible so you'll get past the evil ATS robots. On the other hand, we also find that many resumes are missing relevant skills that would be helpful to a hiring manager. Here are some tips for crafting the skills section of your resume:
1. Avoid intangible, "soft" skills. "Self-starter," "strong communicator," and "detail-oriented" all sound interesting, but you can't prove them out of context. Instead, illustrate those skills in your bullet points.
2. List relevant software/tools. If the job posting calls out a specific software, make sure you list it (even Microsoft Office -- don't get weeded out by an applicant tracking system for a role because you left out such a basic skill). And if you're applying for very technical roles, it's even more crucial to list the requested software on your resume. But also think about what programs might be useful in a role, even if they're not listed. If you're applying for a writers' room support staff position, you should include knowledge of Final Draft, as it shows you understand the requirements of the job. Any design or post-production position should include the design tools you're proficient in. You should also include cameras or lighting equipment if the position requires that knowledge. But don't list every tool you've ever used -- you might know Jira, but the development executives considering you for a coordinator role likely don't know what that is and don't care.
3. Don't list anything too basic if it's not specified in a posting. Everyone knows how to use Zoom by now. Most people can organize their files with Box, DropBox, or Google Drive. Unless the posting specifically calls out these everyday tools (or you're applying for a job at one of those companies), leave it out! Same goes for social media -- unless the job is related to social media (i.e. digital marketing, account management, or influencer talent representation), at a social media company, or you're an influencer yourself, you can leave it off.
4. Include any foreign languages you speak. Many Americans don't speak more than one language, so it's pretty impressive and a great talking point if you do. Definitely include any language skills that would help you in the job you're applying for (i.e. fluency in Spanish or Mandarin is almost always helpful, and you'd want to highlight your command of Japanese if you're applying for a job in anime), and strongly consider including a language skill that isn't as relevant if you have the space (For example, you likely won't be using Latin at work, but listing it makes you memorable!). You don't need to be fluent to list a language, but if you're not fluent, make sure to indicate your level, like conversational Spanish, advanced French, or basic Italian.
Remember: Your skills section is an important footnote for your resume. It's there to illustrate relevant qualifications that don't fit properly anywhere else, but it shouldn't overwhelm your overall story. Oh, and make sure it's all true.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
"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.