Now that remote work is the new norm, it might be tempting to expand your job search beyond your geographic location -- especially if you've been searching for a while to no avail. What would happen, you wonder, if you apply for a job somewhere else?
If the posting is clear that the company is open to remote work, go for it! Similarly, if you know the company has a hybrid schedule and isn't based too far away for you to make it into the office from time to time (think: you're willing to fly to San Jose from LA a couple of times a month, or commute from NYC to Philly twice a week), there's no harm in applying!
However, if the posting doesn't mention remote work or flex schedules -- and especially if the nature of the job would make remote work nearly impossible (i.e. facilities manager) -- you have to consider whether you're willing to relocate for the role. If you are, make it clear in your application that that's the case. If you can clarify for employers that you have a connection to the area -- returning to your hometown, for example. If you’re planning a move regardless of getting a job, even better.
But if you’re not actually considering relocating, it's most likely a waste of time to apply for an in-person job that’s outside of your city! All too often, we see cover letters that say something along the lines of, “Your company sounds interesting, and if you ever have openings in my city, please keep me in mind." But hiring managers have a job to do -- fill the current opening. They aren’t going to remember you down the line if an opportunity does come up in your area. And if they don’t have an office in your area, it’s really unlikely they’re going to have an opportunity for you! They're also probably not going to reconfigure the role for you to be remote, unless they're actively recruiting you, or you know someone at the company who can champion you. Applying blindly and expecting the position to change because your resume is just. so. awesome. is only going to lead to disappointment.
You’re much better off focusing your job search on actionable opportunities. Meet as many people as you can in your area who are hiring in your field -- consider joining the local chapter of a professional association or networking group. Set informational interviews with local companies. If you’re looking for production roles in a smaller market, try to join Facebook groups for people who hire crews and make your location known. Call your local film permit office to see what productions are filming in your area and cold call those production offices. If you spend your time networking and pounding the pavement in a directed way, you’ll have much more success than if you send off a resume to a job you absolutely can’t get.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
The key to crafting a great resume and cover letter is using the job posting as your guide and tailoring your application to the specific requirements of the posting. If you can understand what the company is asking for, you’ll know how present yourself as the candidate they are looking for. But to do this effectively, you need to know how to read the posting. It seems simple, but a lot of job seekers are so excited to work at a particular company or get a particular title that they don't read a job posting carefully. Not only does that make their resume less effective, it can also lead to applying unnecessarily for jobs that don't align with their interests or qualifications. Let's break down how to read job postings section by section:
Company Profile: Often, job postings will contain a paragraph or more that describes the company, with particular attention to the company's values. If this is the case, it signals that the company has taken the time to define their company culture and has implemented policies that will align with these values. You may be inclined to gloss over this section, but read it carefully! Every company will try to present themselves in the best light, but you have to know what’s right for you – if they are describing things that are at odds with your preferred way of working, you may want to think twice about applying. For example, if you read “At XYZ company, we are all about collaboration. We have an open office plan and encourage conversation across teams and levels. You might say we're a family,” but you prefer working independently and minimizing hours at the office, this might not be the place for you. Conversely, if you’re loving what you’re reading and can give concrete examples of how some of these elements really speak to you, this may be something to include in your cover letter to give yourself that extra boost.
Culture sections like this also include words that have hidden meanings. In the above example, "family" often means that the company values loyalty, may not have a strict corporate structure or HR department, and expects that employees do things to pitch in beyond their job descriptions. "Fast-paced environment" often means you'll be working long hours to meet tight deadlines. Too much mumbo jumbo can indicate that the firm prioritizes external showmanship over internal grit, or that the company leans into buzzwords without substance. Mentions of diversity and inclusion don't necessarily mean the company delivers on those fronts, but indicate that they're aware, at the very least, that it should be a value.
Note that if there is nothing about the company culture in the job posting, a culture fit might not be the most important thing this company is looking for in a candidate. That’s not to say that the company doesn’t have a culture – all companies do – but it might not be the thing the company prides itself on above all else, and it may mean there aren't a ton of resources devoted to formalizing culture (or other aspects of HR). This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on what you're looking for in an employer.
Role Description: In addition to a company overview, there's often a brief summary of what the role is and what department it's in. You may have read Netflix's culture deck and know you want to work there, but you might not be happy in any department there -- a technical producer job at Netflix is a wildly different job from a creative producer role, even though "Producer" at Netflix may sound like your dream. Make sure you're applying for a role that aligns with your interests. This section in a posting is a quick way to tell if you're on the right path.
Responsibilities: This section is meant to describe the overall and day-to-day function of the role. The first few entries in this section are the most important, as postings tend to lead with the things that you’d be doing the most often. If you lack knowledge about several areas that are listed at the top, this role might be a stretch for you. Similarly, if there are more than one or two acronyms, jargon words, or task descriptions that you don't understand, even with a rudimentary Google search (i.e. the post asks for someone who's skilled at agile project management, and you have no idea what that is or why it's mentioned), then you're probably not a fit for the job. But if you think you have a pretty good overall sense of what the role is and feel confident you can do the job, you should apply, even if your skillset doesn’t precisely match every single one of the responsibilities on there.
The fun part about the responsibilities section is that you can often copy-paste language from it directly into your resume or cover letter. If the posting says “soliciting samples and pitches from agencies and reviewing submissions,” and you have something like this on your resume already, it’s worth updating the phrasing to match the posting – it will call attention to the fact that you have the EXACT skill they are looking for.
Qualifications/Requirements: Job postings often have an extra section at the bottom with some core skills and desired qualities they’d like to see in an applicant. Some of these qualifications will include familiarity with certain computer software or other hard skills, and in this case, make sure those keywords are on your resume (if they're true!). But it may also list intangible skills like “great communicator.” Don't put these soft skills in your skills section, but instead, double check that you have at least one bullet point that starts with “communicated” and shows that you have developed this skill through your duties in a previous position. There also might be some “nice-to-haves” listed -- include those as a bonus for the employer if you have them. Again, don't worry too much about not hitting all the requirements. The word "required" is misleading; they aren't going to toss an otherwise awesome resume into the trash just because you have six years of experience, not 7-10.
Short Postings: Often, and especially for entry-level or production roles, you'll see a paragraph instead of a formal posting. You may not even know what the company or show is! In this case, you have to know the job itself pretty well and what skills are required. The few that are listed are going to be the most important, and you should call them out on your resume and in your cover letter if you have them (i.e. if a posting lists rolling calls, make sure rolling calls or answering phones is on your resume; if you've never answered phone professionally, lean into customer service, multi-tasking, and organizational skills).
Application Instructions: Do not ignore this section! If the posting is on LinkedIn but asks for applications via email, apply via email, and not LinkedIn. If it asks for a resume and cover letter with a certain email subject line, attach all requested materials and follow directions EXACTLY. This is a test of attention to detail and also helps ensure that your resume won’t get lost. That said, you should always ask for a referral if possible, but you should also apply formally, as this is often required by HR departments.
By taking the extra time to read the job posting carefully, you'll make sure you're focused on applying for jobs you're interested in and qualified for, and that you're applying with a strong, tailored resume. Hiring managers sift through tons of applications that don't seem aligned with what they're looking for, but by making the clear case that your skills and experience match their posting, you'll stand out from the rest!
-- 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 know you always say to get your resume into the right hands by networking, and that a great way to build my network is to conduct informational interviews. I've set a few with people who work in my dream companies, in the departments I'd love to work in. But now what? What's my goal in these interviews? Should I be asking them to recommend me to join their team? Keep me posted for when there's an opening? What should I "get" when I hang up the phone with them? If the goal is a relationship, how should I nurture it -- especially now, when we can't meet in person?
-- Not-so-sure Networker
Dear No-so-sure Networker,
It's great that you're setting these interviews and getting going on a strong job search strategy. Taking that first step is often the hardest, so kudos to you for reaching out and getting these calls set!
Informational interviews can serve a variety of purposes, depending on your career goals. In some cases, you'll want to meet with as many people as you can to learn about various career paths, so you can determine a direction for your career. For those conversations, your primary goal would be to learn -- yes, a relationship may come from the call, but it's more of a fact-finding mission. In your case, though, it sounds like you have a clear idea of where you want to take your career and already have a list of target companies. So your "ultimate" goal is obviously to get a job at one of those dream companies! But in practice, it's a little less straightforward.
If you want to know what you should "have" when you hang up the phone -- though we hesitate to frame it that way, for reasons we'll explore below -- the answer is knowledge and a contact. You'll want to learn about the company and make sure it really sounds like a place you want to work. Can you get insight into the department or culture beyond what you've read in the trades? You also want to sow the seeds of a relationship with someone in the side of the industry you're pursuing who can let you know about openings at their company, or otherwise. You should always research the person you're meeting with to see if there's a particular thing that you would like to learn from them -- you might find there's a specific "ask" you have for that individual.
But your goal is manifold and nebulous, and not really something you can check off right when you hang up the phone. There are no KPI metrics for an informational interview, but rather a hope that you've established a meaningful connection. And that meaningful connection could have many beneficial results -- your contact may forward you job openings, pass your resume along when there's a job that seems up your alley (maybe even at their company!), introduce you to other people in the industry so you can expand your network, and/or become someone you can build a lasting relationship with. But really, it's less about "what you get" and more about a symbiotic, ongoing relationship.
There are many ways to nurture the relationship, even without meeting in person. Keep a list of who you're meeting with, when, and what was discussed so you can track the relationship, and then follow up every couple of months to check in (the holidays are a great time for this!) or send a friendly note if you read something interesting about them or their company in the trades. You also have a baked-in reason to reach out once in-person meetings become normal again -- something like, "I really appreciated the advice you gave me back in May. I'd love to meet up for a drink/coffee to say thank you now that we can do so safely! Please let me know if you'd be available." You don't want to be a pest, so you'll have to gauge how the person responds to your overtures, but as long as you are polite and checking in when it doesn't only benefit you (meaning you don't just ask for a favor every time), you should be able to build a relationship. And if the relationship doesn't pan out long-term, that's okay -- we encourage you to take this as a learning opportunity too, since some people offer great advice, even if they don't become trusted contacts.
You can't really control the outcome of the informational interview, but you can control what you put in. To that end, we recommend coming prepared with a list of questions, ideally based on some research on the person and company. Recognize that this person is doing you a huge favor by giving you wisdom and time, and they expect you to show respect by being prepared, not being pushy, and having an open mind. The less you're concerned with your "goal," the more likely you are to achieve it!
-- Angela & Cindy
If you work in entertainment (or are trying to work in entertainment), you've certainly heard the phrase “it’s all about who you know” about a thousand times. And there's a good chance this phrase has given you some anxiety at one point or another. It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone who is working in Hollywood has an awesomely large network, one that you could never cultivate, and therefore you won't be successful. Perhaps you've even blamed the small size of your network during a frustrating job search. But often, the problem isn’t in how big your network is. Rather, it’s how you use it.
Consider the idea of six degrees of separation. Even if you move to LA from a small town with no industry connections, you won’t be more than 6 degrees away from someone in the industry. Instead of lamenting that you don’t have any connections in the industry, start building your network through the people you do know. That means friends, relatives, and fellow alumni. Tell everyone you know what you want to do and ask if they know anyone who can help you -- or anyone who might know someone. Your best friend’s new boyfriend might have an aunt who works as an editor on a TV show, but if you haven’t shared your eagerness to meet anyone in the industry with her, how would she know to make that connection?
Often, people don’t put two-and-two together -- your best friend in the example above may know you want to meet people in Hollywood, but maybe she thinks of her boyfriend’s aunt as the lady who posts about her cats on Instagram, not as a well-known editor. This is where you’ll have to get a bit more assertive. We recommend using LinkedIn to find connections to your connections. Connect with everyone you know -- industry or otherwise -- and search their connections. You can filter by location or industry type or company. Conversely, if you have a dream company you want to make inroads with, type that company name into LinkedIn and see if any 2nd degree connections come up, or if you can reverse engineer your third degree connections based on alma mater or previous work history. Politely reach out to your direct contact and ask for a warm introduction for an informational meeting, or (if your direct contact is a close contact) see if they know the person well enough to pass your resume along for a specific opening. Boom -- you’ve got a connection!
Of course, you'll want to maintain your network as much as possible on a regular basis -- meeting up for (virtual) drinks and reaching out with a friendly update, congratulatory note, or holiday wish -- but as your network grows, that’s a bit unrealistic. Just because you lose touch with someone doesn’t mean they’re lost to you forever! There’s no harm in reaching out to get back in touch (politely -- we can’t stress this enough) to make a simple ask. It’s important not to sell yourself short here, either -- if you had a good relationship, the contact may be happy to hear from you, or even excited about a potential collaboration or opportunity! You can also see if anyone you have a stronger relationship with is still in regular touch with that person and ask if they’d be willing to put in a good word for you -- like “I was talking to Jane Doe -- remember Jane? -- and she mentioned she’s looking for jobs in film sales, and your company has an opening. Would you mind if I put you two back in touch to chat?” Remember that the worst thing that can happen is the person ignores you or refuses to connect, which leaves you in the same position you're in now. The cost/benefit analysis yields only benefit potential, no cost.
Even if you’re starting with zero first degree connections (like we did!), you will accumulate a network of people in the industry, and once you do, you just have to remember to tap into it. Sure, it takes some work, sleuthing, and confidence, but those are skills we know you can master.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan