One of the most important parts of the job application process is understanding how to read a job posting. It seems simple enough on the surface, but job postings can be tricky! Some job seekers misread the posting and end up highlighting all the wrong skills in their resumes and cover letters -- which means they don't get called in for an interview. Others get so intimidated by all the "requirements" that they never bother to apply. This really boils down to a misunderstanding of what qualifications are most important in a posting -- how can you read between the lines to figure out what a hiring manager really wants? Here are six steps for breaking it down:
1. Read beyond the title. Many jobs will use similar titles for totally different jobs -- producer, for instance, can mean just about anything! Read closely to make sure the description sounds like something you'd be interested in doing, in a department that makes sense for your career trajectory.
2. Assess the general responsibilities and requirements. Without digging into the nitty gritty of specific skills, do you understand the job on a macro level? Can you picture the day-to-day of the role? Could you explain the basic functions of the job and why you're interested in applying to your best friend? If there are a bunch of acronyms you don't understand or you can't envision how the department fits into the company's business model, that could be a red flag that it's not right for you. But if it mostly makes sense, read on.
3. Analyze the qualifications. You don't need to meet every single one of the qualifications listed to apply -- most of the time, companies will list more than are actually necessary in order to weed out super unqualified candidates. However, you should be able to meet around half of them (more if they only list 3-5, less if they list 10+). Some requirements will matter more than others -- generally, the most important ones will be listed near the top of the posting, so make sure those skills are covered in your resume and cover letter. Specific technical skills and software proficiency are more important for some jobs than others (i.e. you'll 100% need to know Avid for an editing job that requires Avid proficiency, but for a creative director job, Avid might be more of a "nice-to-have"). Look at the job posting to see what skills and keywords come up most often, as those are the most critical to the job.
4. Consider the seniority level. Contrary to popular belief, the number of years of experience is actually the least important qualification in a job posting. If you have four years of experience and the posting calls for 5-7, apply! You may have done enough in your four years to merit the job. The listing of years of experience is meant to indicate the level of the position -- entry-level, low-level, mid-level, senior, or executive -- so think about your own experience in those terms instead of in dates. If you have 10 years of experience and apply for a job that only asks for four, be aware that the salary might be lower than you'd like it to be. If you're applying for something that requires far fewer years of experience than you have, you'll need to decide if you would feel challenged enough in that role.
5. Measure your interest. You may understand the job and be capable of doing it, but do you want to? There are often clues to the true nature of the position in the job posting. "Thick-skinned," for instance, is code for "The boss is a jerk who will yell at you." A job posting that lists a ton of different responsibilities -- like a posting for a marketing associate who is responsible for monitoring the front desk, ordering office supplies, planning events, submitting payroll, writing a blog, monitoring social media accounts, designing flyers, creating pitch decks, sourcing new clients, and "other tasks as needed" -- is likely the company's way of rolling multiple jobs into one for the same low pay and long hours. Even if the posting doesn't include these red flags, consider the responsibilities alongside your own preferred work tasks. If you hated making data-driven decisions at your last job, you probably don't want to spend a significant chunk of time making data-driven decisions at your next job, even if you're good at it.
6. Prove you read the posting. You'll need to communicate to the hiring manager that you read the posting with this level of intensity. The way to do this is to mirror the posting in your resume. Read the job posting and your resume as a call and response -- add the question "Can you" to the beginning of each listed responsibility and write your resume bullets as though the words, "Yes, I can, and the proof is that at my last job, I..." appear before each one. This will show the hiring manager that you didn't just shoot off your resume to hundreds of job postings hoping one stuck, but rather that you're invested in this specific role.
Remember: Applying for a job is not a commitment that you'll take it if it's offered, so you don't need to get caught up in analyzing the posting endlessly to make sure it's truly the perfect dream job. If the posting is vague, or the interviewer presents a different picture of the job than the one you understood from the posting, or the company gives you a weird vibe during the hiring process, or you get a better offer elsewhere, it's okay to walk away! Take it one step at a time: Read the job posting thoroughly, submit your best application, and take it from there!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Applying for a job in the best of times can be scary, and in these very-much-not-the-best-times, it can be downright terrifying! But what if we told you you might be your own worst enemy right now? And that once you stop getting in your own way, you'll have a much smoother go of it?
Here are three things that cause job seekers to inadvertently hold themselves back (and some tips for getting around them!):
1. OVERTHINKING YOUR RESUME STRATEGY
Do you find yourself harping on whether your resume should have color, use a fancy format, or implement a grand graphic design? Are you considering leaving dates off of your resume for fear of being rejected because of your age? Are you utterly convinced the hiring manager won't take you seriously because you've been freelancing for 15 years? If these and other concerns keep you up at night, you're not alone. There's tons of resume advice out there, and not all of it is good OR relevant when transitioning into, within, or out of the entertainment industry. Plus, it's human nature to try to control the little things (like your resume details) when you can't control the bigger things (like when the role that's perfect for you will open up).
But the truth is, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting a resume. There are a few basic principles you should follow, but since every candidate is unique, every resume is unique. Your resume needs to be the best reflection of your capabilities to do the job you're applying for. That means you must tell your story clearly, concisely, and concretely; your resume needs a beginning, middle, and end and should give the hiring manager a clear picture of where you've worked, in what capacity, and what skills you developed there. Don't worry too much about the hiring manager's biases; if you're including relevant skills, contextualizing your experience, and using the language of the job posting to generally guide your resume content, you'll be ahead of the curve. Focus only on telling the clear story of why your work history makes you a fit for the role, and you'll be able to put the puzzle pieces of your format together.
And if you're still worried that you don't have the "right" experience for the job, remember that those little things that depart from the hiring manager's expectations are often what make you stand out from other candidates. If you can bring a unique perspective to the table, consider it a bonus!
2. OVER-WRITING YOUR RESUME
Are having trouble fitting your resume on one page (or two if you're applying for an executive-level role)? Do you get nervous that the one thing the hiring manager is really looking for will be the one accomplishment you leave out? Do you find yourself doing complex math problems just so you can show the incremental growth of a show's ratings from before your time working on it to now?
If so, stop. Your resume is not intended to be a lengthy history of everything you've ever done. It's an overview with the goal of selling yourself as the right candidate for the role. How do you sell yourself? By responding to the buyer's needs. In this instance, that means tailoring your resume to the job posting and listing only the skills you have that align with what they're looking for. You have a cheat sheet for this test: If a skill is listed in the job posting, it's relevant, and if it isn't listed, it's not. That doesn't mean you need to repeat every single skill listed, either. Often, a job posting includes soft skills like communication and time management that you can illustrate in the context of other bullets. Focus on the requirements and any skills that come up multiple times -- those are the main skills the hiring manager is looking for.
And when it comes to listing accomplishments, don't go overboard. The hiring manager doesn't want to scan meaningless numbers, but rather, she wants to get a picture of how successful you were in your last role. Did you have a high volume of work? Did you develop a new initiative for the company? Did you work with any notable brands or on major projects? You know what you're most proud of at work without pulling out a calculator, so write that.
3. OVER-APPLYING FOR ROLES
If you're applying for 50 jobs a day -- or even 10! -- you're doing it wrong. Especially in this job market, it's unlikely that there are more than one or two new postings for the role you really want that will show up in a day. And here's the thing: Hiring managers want to hire someone who wants the job, not someone who knows how to submit an application quickly.
Slow down, and narrow your search. "Something in marketing" is not narrow, while "content writer for digital marketing firm" is. You should also create a targeted list of companies you're interested in. As long as you can articulate a specific goal, you're on the right track. Then, focus your networking efforts on people at those companies and in those roles. Tell everyone you know what you're looking for (be specific!) and ask them for help. When you see a posting you want to apply to, find someone -- or multiple someones -- who can refer you. Reach out to the recruiter on LinkedIn and express your interest. Make it clear that you really want this particular job. Yes, each application will take more time, but your application to interview ratio will be more favorable.
Following these tips won't make the job application process super duper fun, but it will make it more fruitful and less stressful. And if you still need support, ask for it! Have friends hold you accountable. Get a second set of eyes on your resume, whether it's a professional look from us or from a trusted peer. You don't have to go at this alone.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
You're ready to shake things up in your career, but you don't know exactly what you want to do next. All you know is you're done freelancing. As long as it's in-house, stable, and comes with benefits, you're interested.
Many of our clients feel this way and plan to put feelers out across the industry to land their next jobs. Although a more targeted approach will likely yield better results -- for instance, identifying a few companies that really interest you, or narrowing down job titles to those that include the skills you most enjoy -- it's completely understandable that you might want to test multiple waters as you make that career transition. But if you choose this path, you're going to need to spend a little more time than usual on your job applications.
Well, when you apply for a wide variety of jobs, you shouldn't be using the same resume for every application. Different positions require different skills, so you'll want to alter your resume accordingly. Look at the skills each posting asks for, and find the experiences you've had in the past that match what's listed. Think about everything you've done previously that qualifies you for the role, even if it wasn't a major aspect of your job, and include it on your resume.
You don't need to start from scratch every time. Instead, create a resume that encompasses all the different skills you bring to the table and orient it so it aligns with the jobs you're most excited about -- your professional summary (if you have one) and primary bullet points should match that particular type of role. This way, you'll have one resume for the bulk of your applications, and you may just need to do a quick keyword pass or remove one or two irrelevant bullet points each time.
But when you apply for a job that's a little different, you should revise your professional summary and reorganize (or rewrite) your bullets to match the specific nature of the role -- for example, if you're mostly applying for in-house producer roles at a network, but an open creative director role at a branded content firm catches your eye, you'd tweak your professional summary to include references to work you've done with brands and rearrange your bullet points to highlight skills related to integrations and branded content.
If you're applying equally to wildly disparate jobs -- like a post-production supervisor and a marketing director -- you'll need two separate resumes as your base. It may seem like a lot of work, but it's better to spend a few hours crafting multiple resumes (or hire us to do it!) than to spend weeks or months applying for jobs and getting nowhere. A generic resume simply won't work in this case. For one, you'll be up against a bunch of more traditional candidates who have the exact experience the hiring manager is looking for. You're not going to be able to compete with them if you're forcing the hiring manager to do a ton of extra work to identify the skills they're looking for in your resume (trust us, they won't bother). Plus, hiring managers can tell when your resume is one-size-fits-all, and that doesn't convey passion for that company or role, nor will it convince them that you're a multi-talented hyphenate they'd be honored to have on payroll.
The bottom line: You'll have much better luck in the job hunt if your resume is targeted, focused, and tells a clear story to the hiring manager about why you're the right fit for that particular job. So take the extra time to tailor your resume to the job posting -- it will make your job search that much shorter!
-- Angela Silak and 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've been on the hunt for an entry-level Hollywood job since before COVID hit. I'd been volunteering for a local film festival, but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, and many of the industry jobs I applied to postponed their hiring processes. I took a job at a fast food restaurant to pay the bills in the meantime. Is it worth including this job on my resume? How will hiring managers perceive this experience?
-- Dollar Menu Dilemma
Dear Dollar Menu Dilemma,
Ordinarily, it's perfectly reasonable to cover a gap on your resume with a non-industry job, even if the job is in the service industry. There are a ton of transferable skills between food service and entertainment, especially when you're looking for an entry-level role -- a lot of an assistant's job comes down to customer service, whether it's handling clients or dealing with a boss who has an endless list of requests.
However, the pandemic is an unusual circumstance. Hiring managers know that there's unprecedented unemployment and underemployment right now, and the memory of the pandemic won't fade even when the economy ticks back up. You're better off starting your resume with the film festival job, since that's industry related. A hiring manager will see that your tenure with the festival ended in the spring and won't bat an eye -- of course the event was cancelled, and of course you haven't secured a new position in this time. If you were to open your resume with your fast food job, the hiring manager may not look further down your resume to see your relevant roles. In this case, it's smarter to have a gap.
If you're asked in an interview what you've been doing since March, feel free to share that you're currently working in food service to pay the bills. There's no shame in that. You can also mention any non-work activities you've been up to, like volunteering, attending virtual industry events, and engaging in social activism. Be confident as you explain how you've spent your time, and use this opportunity to convey that you're a go-getter who doesn't just watch the world from the sidelines.
-- Angela & Cindy