We’re often asked about resume formats -- if there’s a cool, fancy one that everyone’s using these days, if graphics are necessary, and if there’s a standard format we use across all our clients. The short answer is: No. The longer answer is that while a good resume format is essential, it's only the first step in creating a resume that will get you the job.
Just like people, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Are you articulating the proper skills? Calling attention to the biggest highlights in your career? Telling your story as clearly as possible? You should pick a resume format that will convey your skills the right way for the job you want and the story you’re trying to tell. That might mean putting education first, or using a sidebar to include extracurricular achievements -- or it might mean skewing more traditionally so you can fit more on the page. But no matter what, you should let the content guide the format -- not the other way around.
Anyone can pull a cool format off the internet and fit their work history into it. Word even comes preloaded with a few formats that you can plug your info into. As long as your format meets the following criteria -- easy-to-read, fits on one page (unless you're an executive who needs a CV), doesn't include excess colors/graphics, highlights your contact information, past companies, positions, and dates -- it'll be pretty and function just fine. But if you want it to be great, think about the story you're trying to tell, and choose a format that will help you get there.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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? If you include too much information, you might start to sound a little ridiculous.
We often see candidates make the mistake of listing their key skills and illustrating them with “highlights” like the specific, detailed anecdotes above. Doing so often makes your resume harder for a hiring manager to parse through and may feel redundant. Plus, it can be tricky to convey the significance of your proudest accomplishment in just a few words. You'd do best to save some of this more nuanced information for the interview.
On your resume, you should want to 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." If you feel the need to get some results in there, that's fine, just make sure they're results that can be conveyed in a few words: "Implemented cost-saving solutions that saved $25K." Alternatively, you may want to add a little more about how you did something: "Created new system for tracking project submissions using Excel." This is okay too. What you'd want to avoid is: "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 meet the basic requirements of the job at hand -- 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
The job search can be frustrating -- especially when you feel like you’ve been submitting tons of job applications and aren’t getting any bites. But if you’ve sent out 50 applications and haven’t heard a word on any of them, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you assess the problem:
Are you qualified for the jobs you’re applying for?
Go back and take a look at the jobs you’ve been applying for. Re-read the job descriptions -- do these jobs actually make sense for you? Will the skills and experience you put in your resume prove you can do the job? If you’re an assistant applying for director-level jobs, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get any calls. It’s okay to reach a bit, but be realistic with your expectations. Conversely, you don’t want to apply for jobs you’re overqualified for either. If you’ve been an assistant for five years, it’s probably time to start looking at coordinator positions -- employers aren’t interested in hiring people who will get burned out quickly or start asking for a promotion after three months. Besides, you start to seem desperate if you’re applying for jobs that are too far below your level. Compare your resume to the job postings to see how well they align. If you don’t have a lot of the key required skills or are already doing work beyond what’s asked for, you may not be applying for the right jobs. Be a little more selective with your search, and try to focus on those jobs that match your qualifications.
Are you excited about the jobs you’re applying for?
Aside from being qualified for a job, it’s also important that you’re excited about a prospective position. It’s easy to spot a generic cover letter from someone who isn’t particularly passionate about the role. So don’t waste your time with applications you’re not excited about. A good test to figure out which opportunities are right: Try writing your cover letters from scratch -- you’ll find that they’ll flow much more easily for the jobs that really are a fit. Then, focus on those opportunities. You’ll have more luck if you’re going for quality over quantity.
How are you actually applying for these jobs?
If you’re both qualified and excited about the jobs you’re applying for but aren’t hearing anything back, you may be going about the job application process wrong. In Hollywood, most people are hired through referrals or promoted internally, so if you’re only using the online application to submit your resume, that’s probably your problem. Try to find a direct contact that can get your resume into the right hands. If you don’t know someone at the company or in the department you’re applying for, you can use LinkedIn to try to find a connection. Ideally, you’ll find someone who knows someone who can pass along your resume, but if this isn’t possible, a cold email can work too. Make sure you’re taking extra steps to get your resume to the hiring manager -- it will help prove how much you want the job.
Do you have a strong resume and cover letter?
If you’re doing everything above right, your problem is probably your resume or cover letter. A disorganized resume or cover letter with typos and poor writing is obviously not going to get you an interview, but that’s not the only thing that can make for a bad resume and cover letter. Do your resume and cover letter tell a story? And is that story one that shows you’re right for the job? You MUST tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting. You should always try to create a new cover letter for every job application, and sometimes, you should create a new resume as well (or at least make some tweaks) -- especially if you’re applying for executive level jobs. Take note of the nuances in the job posting, and make sure your resume and cover letter reflect the core skills of the role. A strong resume and cover letter match the job posting and demonstrate why it makes sense for the company to hire the candidate.
We recognize that all of this may sound like a lot of work -- and it is. But if you can be a little more targeted in your search and thorough with your process, you won’t have to send out nearly as many applications to secure an interview, and you'll be less stressed out in the process!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Most of the time, college career counselors and other resume writers don’t specialize in entertainment and/or haven’t worked in the industry. While they might have a useful resume format for you to work off and some tips for creating strong bullet points, there are a few things they might not know to tell you. Three examples you should be aware of as you create your resume:
1. Only include relevant information.
When crafting your resume, your goal should be to minimize the number of words on the page. Think carefully about what hiring managers actually want and need to see. First of all, no one cares about your GPA, and you should only include scholarships and awards that are widely known as prestigious or are specifically related to the industry. Remember that priorities within academia -- meaning the things that have been your top priorities for most of your life -- are not the same as those in the working world. Instead, experience is what counts; if you have industry internships, these should be the central focus of your resume because the skills you learned there will be the most relevant information for a hiring manager. If you have enough internship experience to fill up the page, leave all the other stuff off. Otherwise, include any non-industry professional experiences (internships and otherwise) or campus leadership experiences that have transferable skills, and list them in chronological order. You might even include some of your coursework in the education section to show additional knowledge of the industry. Bottom line, remember to be selective as you decide what experience and information to include on your resume. No one expects you to have a robust resume when you're first starting out, so less is more: Relevant = important, unrelated = unnecessary.
2. Don’t overdo it.
When applying for entry-level jobs, you want to demonstrate that you know your place and aren’t expecting to run the company. No one wants to hire people who are too big for their britches, so you have to find a way to show off your most impressive skills and experiences without sounding presumptuous. Listing student film projects on your resume can lead to this trap if you're not careful. If the entire experience section of your resume is organized by film titles and roles like executive producer, director, and writer without context, it will look like you’ve produced a bunch of content no one has ever heard of, and you’re going to sound like a quack. Instead, make it clear that these were all student films. Student film projects provide valuable experience but aren’t necessarily representative of working in the industry, so if you call attention to the fact that you worked on these films within the school setting (you may even want to list them in the education section if you have enough internships in the experience section), you’ll come across as a candidate with reasonable expectations for your first job. Which leads us to our next point . . .
3. Administrative skills matter.
Your first job in the entertainment industry will likely be some sort of assistant position -- executive assistant, writers’ assistant, production assistant, etc. And all of these roles require administrative skills that are far below what you’re capable of. Yes, it’s weird that you have to start your career off as a glorified secretary, but that’s just the way it is. And because of this, you need to remember to include administrative skills on your resume -- rolling calls, managing schedules, booking travel, reconciling expenses, maintaining office organization -- the job posting will list specifically what’s needed, so use it as a guide for what keywords to include on your resume. It can be tempting to brag about how you were the chairperson of your campus's business association, leading meetings, drafting proposals, and managing club members, but it's actually more important to list the administrative and organizational skills you gleaned from that experience. It's counterintuitive, but your resume is about proving you can do the job at hand, not about listing every achievement in your life.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan