It’s tempting to take the first job you're offered, especially since the entertainment industry is so competitive. But it’s always okay to decline an offer that you don’t feel is right for you. Here are some factors to consider as you make your decision:
Are you excited by the role? Hopefully, you'll do some soul searching about a role before you apply, reading the job posting carefully to make sure the company and work align with your own values (tip: check out the "Essential Questions to Guide Your Job Search" worksheet in our resource library!). But not all job postings are accurate, and you may learn new information during the interview process. Take a moment to reflect about what your day-to-day will be like once you have a clearer picture of the role. If you’re looking for a quick stepping stone and can gain some valuable skills with a short stint at this company, it might make sense to take the job even if it's not the most exciting role ever. But if you’re looking for long-term stability, consider what will make you happy in the long run. It’s hard to get excited to go to work every day if you’re doing something you don’t believe in.
What's the company/boss's reputation? One of the biggest factors that contributes to happiness (or dissatisfaction) at work is the culture of your team and larger company. There are plenty of places in Hollywood that make awesome content and have a certain cachet but are known for abusive or toxic environments. Do some research to dig up intel about the company culture or your prospective boss, and suss out the team during an interview to see if they seem happy. If you get weird vibes during the interview, you should think twice about accepting the offer. Trust your gut and your research, and if you don't like what you find, stay away!
Are there opportunities for growth? It's pretty common to want to land at a place where you'll have room to grow, whether that's in your title/salary, working at a more reputable or innovative company with exciting projects, or by learning new skills. If you're looking to grow and the job feels like a lateral move or a step down -- like taking a pay cut to go from Director of Development at well-known Prodco A to Director of Development at unestablished Prodco B -- you’re probably better off waiting a little longer for another opportunity where you can actually move up the ladder. It’s also a good idea to ask about room for growth during your interview. If the interviewer makes it clear that they don’t plan to promote unless one of the higher ups who has been there for a decade randomly decides to leave, this probably isn't an ideal situation if your ultimate goal is to stay within the same company for a long time. However, it's totally okay if growth isn't a priority for you right now! If you're comfortable with your title and salary bracket and are looking for something else, like greater work/life balance, you might approach this question differently. Instead, consider...
Does the job align with your lifestyle? Account for work-life balance and your financial situation when evaluating a job offer. If a job requires you to work late every night, and you have a newborn, is this the right situation for you? Will the paycheck be enough to either match or improve your current standard of living -- or if you're comfortable taking a pay cut, do the merits of this specific job and future earning potential align with your needs long-term? Is the commute so bad that it’s going to ruin your mental health, or is the job remote-only, and you're itching to get back to the office? Your job is just one element of your life, so take the time to determine if this role will be a boon for overall well-being or a detriment.
Keep in mind that the "right" answers to these questions will differ from person to person -- only you can decide whether declining a job offer is the correct move. Luckily, even if you end up in a job that isn't the right fit, you can always walk away. Most importantly, if you’re committed to your goals and don’t give up, eventually the right role will come along!
-- 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 finally got hired at what I thought was a great job, only to find out a few weeks in that the company was a nightmare to work for! I ended up resigning and am now back searching for jobs, but I'm nervous about the same thing happening again. I'm wondering if there's a way to tell whether a company is horrible to work for before you apply.
-- Scared of the Search
Dear Scared of the Search,
Kudos to you for prioritizing your well-being and walking away from a situation that didn't feel right! That takes a lot of bravery and strength.
It's not always possible to know what a company is like until you're already working there, but there are some red flags you can look out for along the way. When you a read a job posting, you should consider if anything sounds sketchy, like a promise of money down the line only after your work is done, an application fee, or other any other financial or invasive personal information request. If you haven't heard of the company previously, Google it to see if you can find a website. No online presence at all is a red flag, and if any articles come up about past lawsuits or allegations, avoid applying.
Even if the company is reputable, there may be other red flags in the job posting. Does it describe a position that sounds like it really should be multiple roles (meaning: can you envision one person being responsible for all of the tasks, or are there so many disparate responsibilities listed that it would be more typical for 2-3 people to share the duties)? Are there any trigger words, like "thick-skinned" and "no ego?" These can often mean you're expected to keep your head down and be yelled at from time to time.
It's also important to read the posting carefully to see whether the role matches what you're looking for, as not all jobs that are wrong for you are objectively bad. Read the company overview section (if there is one) to find out if the organization's values align with yours. Ask yourself if you're interested in spending your day doing the responsibilities listed and if they match your expectations for the position's title. Note whether the posting includes information about limited work/life balance -- sometimes, this is transparent, like "Must work long hours and occasional weekends," and sometimes it's less so, like "Looking for a dedicated team-player to contribute at a high level in our all-hands-on-deck, fast-paced, maximum-output environment." Keep an eye out for culture indicators, like the types of benefits offered; you might be the type of person who wants a relaxed, fun atmosphere with free lunch and a ping pong table and a gym on site, or you want to keep your head down at your desk from 9-5 and leave your socializing and fitness regimens out of the workplace -- sometimes you can find clues about these things in the posting.
Often, you can't determine everything about a company's culture or whether it's bad to work for before sending in your application, especially if it's a large company, and you're trying to assess one small department. Luckily, you have additional opportunities to evaluate during the interview process. Ask questions at the end of your interview, like "What is the company culture like?," "What is your day to day like?," or "What would success look like for a candidate in this role?" If there are yellow flags that come up in your interview, you can also address them -- "I noticed our interviews have all been scheduled for 8pm; is it typical to work into the evenings here?" While it's important to put your best foot forward at an interview and not ruffle feathers, it's equally important to protect yourself and make sure the company is a good fit for you.
Lastly, you can see if any of your contacts have experience working at the company or with anyone on the team and ask them for their insight. You can also check sites like Glassdoor and read reviews, though they're not always 100% accurate. If you're part of a tracking board or other networking group, you can ask if anyone has experience with X company and would be willing to chat with you, but know that these groups are often quite large and not as private as they may seem.
All this due diligence can be helpful, but it's not foolproof, as companies will sometimes act very differently in an interview than in practice, you might not meet some of the more problematic managers or get enough insight into problematic practices in the interview process, and your contacts may have had different experiences with the firm than you'll have. Ultimately, you'll just have to trust your gut, and know that if you end up somewhere that's not right, you can always do what you've already done: have the strength to quit.
-- Angela & Cindy
You’ve heard that your resume should be more than a list of responsibilities -- it's a story that explains why you’d be great for the job you’re applying for. But a lot of our clients struggle with what belongs in that story, especially when they're trying to convey results and accomplishments. Should you craft a bullet point about the time you saved the production $25K by switching to off-brand snacks for crafty? What about the new spreadsheet you designed to make reporting more effective, because your boss was using post-its to track everything instead of Excel? Is it relevant that you rolled calls for three bosses, one of whom had a serious temper? How much information is too much information?
We often see candidates make the mistake of listing their key skills and illustrating them with overly specific highlights like the detailed anecdotes above. Doing so often makes your resume harder for a hiring manager to parse through and may feel redundant. You'd do best to save some of this more nuanced information for the interview.
On your resume, you should focus on the big picture -- what are the key takeaways that will match the skills listed in the job posting? In the above examples, you might say “Managed production budgets and implemented cost-saving solutions,” “Created new tracking system,” or "Supported three executives." Or you can take it a step further by including top-level results: "Implemented cost-saving solutions that saved $25K." Alternatively, you may want to add a little more context about how you did something: "Created new system for tracking project submissions using Excel." But you'd want to avoid: "Converted supervisor's post-it reminder system into an Excel submissions tracking system to increase departmental efficiency." See the difference? Don't make a mountain out of a molehill. It's a waste of valuable resume space and makes you sound silly.
But don't discount all of these great stories and accomplishments -- even if they don't belong on your resume, they're still very important! Save them for the interview. When you're asked about an achievement you’re particularly proud of, your biggest strengths, or how you managed a challenging situation, use these anecdotes as examples to bolster your argument.
It can be frustrating to look at your resume and not see the full picture of who you are as a worker. No one wants to be boiled down to a one-page document that relies on bullet points and white space! But it’s important to remember that your resume is step 1 of your job application. You can supplement it somewhat with a cover letter, but the real moment to shine is the interview. Your resume should be simple, concise, and effectively communicate that you would succeed at the job you're applying for -- the last thing you want is for a hiring manager to get overwhelmed by the details and miss the bigger picture of your capabilities.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
So you’ve got a big interview coming up? You don’t want to go in cold. You may think you know everything there is to know about the job just from the posting, but from the hiring manager’s perspective, the differences between people who have taken time to prepare and those who shrugged it off is stark. An interviewer will always be impressed by someone who prepared, primarily because not preparing when the task at hand is really important to you (i.e. getting a job) shows that you're unlikely to prepare for tasks at work that might be less meaningful to you down the line, once you're settled into the job. Here are our three most valuable interview preparation tips:
1. Figure out the logistics. In pre-COVID days, this meant selecting an outfit, considering traffic, and making sure you showed up on time (i.e. ten minutes early) for an interview. But now, most interviews are happening virtually (at least initially). So yes, you still need to choose a professional top that will look good on camera, and it's a good idea to dress well head-to-toe in case of a Zoom fail or simply to feel confident. You also need to find a quiet spot with good lighting and a minimalist background and test your connection on the interview software before the interview. Sure, we all know technological challenges happen, but don’t let this be the thing that causes you to get flustered during an interview.
2. Prepare your interview answers. The “tell me about yourself” question is definitely going to get thrown at you in some form or another, so make sure you’ve come up with an elevator pitch that explains who you are and why you’re applying for this particular job. While there are other common interview questions, you never really know what else your interviewer will ask, or how they'll phrase it. A good way to mitigate surprises is to spend some time thinking about your answers, instead of the questions. We recommend making a list of your proudest achievements and the most notable projects you’ve completed. Under each, flag what the biggest challenges were, what you enjoyed most about them, what skills you used that helped the projects become successful, and what kind of impact they had on the company. Most likely, the things you list will have required a range of skills, and likely some of them will be your biggest strengths. But you also may have learned how to deal with a difficult situation, handle a mistake, collaborate with different personalities, and any other number of things that you may get asked during an interview. Review your list and talk to yourself about it so you get comfortable verbalizing your accomplishments -- you can read the list to a mirror or do a visualization exercise where you picture yourself mentoring someone down the line or being interviewed for a retrospective on your amazing career. The key is to answer these questions confidently and with specific examples, describing anecdotes in detail instead of just saying “oh yes, I’m very organized because I managed a phone sheet” or “I’m a good communicator because I communicated with many people every day.” Plus, a bonus to making this list is that you can revisit it any time you need a confidence booster!
3. Research the company. We’ve said this many times before, but employers want to hire employees who are passionate about the company. This is why it’s imperative that you research the company’s history and projects ahead of time. You may be asked about them in an interview, but even if you aren’t, you can show interest in the role by formulating very specific questions for the end of your interview that someone who wasn’t as invested wouldn’t know to ask. You should also research the people you will be meeting with, which is especially important at smaller companies that may have less of an online presence. If there's a natural opportunity, you can tee up a personal connection you may have to the interviewer. Don't get too personal though -- they're still a stranger! Think: you went to the same undergrad, grew up in the same hometown, worked with the same colleague back in the day. Keep mind, all this research is as much for you to make a good impression on them as it is for them to make a good impression on you. If you come across something questionable in your research, it's important that you find a way to ask about it before accepting an offer; job interviews are a two-way street to make sure the job is a real fit.
Beyond that, get a good night’s sleep, and be yourself! By following these tips, you’re already way ahead of the game!
Interview Coaching Session
A virtual mock interview.
Professionals of all levels with an upcoming job interview or who want to fine tune their interview skills may benefit from an interview coaching session.
You'll send us a job posting that interests you and some background about what you're hoping to gain from this interview -- is it your first job interview (in the industry or ever?), or are you consistently losing out on jobs during the interview phase? You'll then schedule a time to meet with one of us for a mock interview (on Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts), and we'll provide constructive feedback. We've designed the mock interview to mirror a "real" one and expect you to show up prepared and attired the way you would for an actual interview. This service also includes an interview preparation packet that we will share electronically in advance of our meeting.
We offer daytime, morning, evening, and weekend time slots to accommodate your schedule. You may reschedule or cancel your interview for a full refund up to 24 hours in advance of your appointment.
You may reschedule your coaching session or cancel for a full refund up to 24 hours in advance of your appointment. Cancellations and reschedules with less than 24 hours notice are nonrefundable. Please be on time; if you arrive more than 20 minutes late for your session, with or without notice, we will cancel the session, and you can reschedule by purchasing a new coaching session.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan