One of the most common resume questions we get is how to format a resume, but choosing the right format won't matter if your resume doesn't have strong content. A great resume is one that’s filled with well-crafted bullet points.
The first rule of resume bullet points is to lead with a strong action verb. These are words that connote soft interpersonal skills (communicate, collaborate, interface, liaise), leadership (managed, oversaw, spearheaded, supervised), creativity (ideated, conceptualized, developed), and achievements (initiated, innovated, created, launched), as well as requisite hard skills (organized, assisted, designed, executed).
The bullet should convey how you used the skill represented by the verb: What did you do, how did you do it, why did you do it, and what were the results? You want to make it clear to your potential employer how you provided value in your previous roles in a way that aligns with their expectations for the open position. Use the job posting as a guide and incorporate the language the employer uses to describe your work. For example, if they are looking for someone who can draft press releases, pitch decks, one-sheets, and other marketing materials, you can have a bullet that says, “Drafted marketing materials for film distributor’s slate of 7 films annually, including press releases, pitch decks, one sheets, and social content.” This kind of bullet offers context to the hiring manager for where you developed the requisite skills and describes the scope of your work.
Another nifty trick for writing bullet points is to use semicolons to link similar skills or experiences. You can use this technique to add more detail to shorter bullets, like in this example: “Provided administrative assistance to busy talent agent; rolled calls, scheduled meetings, booked travel, and reconciled expenses.” You can also use a semicolon to highlight a specific accomplishment, as in, “Managed development slate of 15+ comedy projects; sold SHOW X to ZYX Network, the highest rated primetime series among women 25-54 in network history.”
As you craft your resume, focus on writing bullet points that showcase your skills and achievements as they relate to the job you’re applying for, and make sure to provide context to the hiring manager so they can get a clear picture of your work history. Take it one bullet at a time, and you’ll be well on your way to a strong resume!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
If you're a college student seeking an internship, or a recent grad (congratulations!) seeking your first post-college job, you're probably overwhelmed by all the competing resume advice out there. One of the reasons we founded Hollywood Resumes was because we had so few resources at our disposal when we first broke into the industry. College career centers aren't always equipped to guide students on the specifics of the entertainment industry, and most resume writing advice is tailored to professionals further along in their careers. But we've got you covered -- here are the top 5 things you should know about your entry-level resume:
1. Education belongs at the top, 99% of the time. Your resume tells your story, and like all good stories, it establishes context through character and setting. If you're looking for an internship, your story is that you are a current student looking to grow your career. The fact that you're in school and the things you're accomplishing there (coursework, leadership activities) are the most important anchors to your candidacy, and any jobs you've held are made all the more impressive with the context that you were simultaneously completing coursework. This holds true for recent grads as well, and it's important for employers to know that this is your first foray into the full-time workforce. There are some times when recent grads might include education at the bottom of their resumes, like if you've worked full-time while completing your degree, or if you're on your second career, but these are rare.
2. Context is critical! When you're in college, it's easy to get swallowed by the bubble of campus life and forget that the outside world has no idea what goes on at your university. Most hiring managers won't recognize the names of your programs or awards (even if they are prestigious!), and unless a club name is super obvious (think: UCLA Screenwriting Society), they won't know what it is. Your tenure with a campus improv troupe is very relevant if you're pursuing a career in comedy, but listing that you were president of Duck Duck Moose on your resume is pretty silly without the context that it's an improv troupe. Make sure you explain anything that an outsider wouldn't know, either with a bullet point establishing context or an added clause, like "Recipient of Jane Doe Award for outstanding campus leadership" instead of just "Jane Doe Award."
3. Your experience doesn't all have to be paid or professional! It's perfectly normal not to have much professional experience while you're a student. And your experience is valuable, even if it wasn't paid or professional. Leadership activities, volunteering, internships, and practicum courses can all be relevant, and may be included in the experience section of your resume. Don't fall into the trap of separating your experience into "relevant experience" and "other experience" -- any experience on your resume should be relevant. If you were involved in a club that isn't really relevant -- like intramural fencing -- you can list it as an activity in the education section. But if you were captain of your intramural fencing team and don't have too much other experience, feel free to list it as a job and highlight all the logistical and leadership elements of that role.
4. Consider what skills entry-level Hollywood roles require. This is a little different for internships and assistant jobs. Internship hiring managers are looking for people who are eager, leaders, good at research, organized, and willing to learn. It's a good idea to lean into impressive achievements from your work, past internships, extracurricular activities, and coursework. On the other hand, hiring managers who are looking for an assistant want someone who can answer phones and handle scheduling, is humble enough to do administrative work, and is resourceful. If your resume showcases only major achievements but doesn't indicate any administrative abilities, it likely won't connect with the hiring team. Unlike most fields that want to hire the best of the best out of school and train them to grow, Hollywood is all about whether you are capable of doing the very basic administrative tasks. You probably can, but make sure that's clear to the hiring team. It can be hard to let go of some of your bigger achievements, especially if your peers applying in other fields are showboating on their resumes, but it's worth it, and you can always save those achievements for interview anecdotes!
5. Student films are great, but not professional. Similar to the above, you don't want to oversell your student films. It's wonderful if you had the opportunity to produce and direct films as part of your coursework! But a resume filled with the title "Producer/Director" is going to confuse hiring managers. They'll either think your resume got lost in the wrong pile, or that you don't have the humility to work your way up the ladder. If your student projects won festival awards, list that as an achievement, or if you can pull skills for PA roles from your time on set, list them as jobs with the clear indication that they were student projects. However, if you're not applying for roles on set, and your projects didn't break out of the school circuit, you may want to minimize them on your resume. You should also consider whether the project is your best work. If the first film you did as a freshman is on your resume and searchable on Vimeo, you can bet the hiring manager can find it and assume that your touting the project is an indication of your skills and taste. The whole point of student films is to practice and refine your skills, so there's no shame if your project isn't perfect -- but it's also not necessarily relevant beyond your overall coursework.
Finally, remember that you can get and do deserve your dream job! And with a great resume, you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd. Good luck!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It's really important to have a focused and targeted resume that will get you a particular job, but it’s also important to realize when your resume is too specific and potentially limiting your growth. This is especially relevant if you’re trying to jump from one side of the industry to another, like the transition from production to development. Once you’ve set yourself on a track, it can be hard to make a switch, especially if you’ve worked several jobs within that track. To make a career transition, you'll need your resume and cover letter to show that you're truly interested in a career switch and that your skills are transferable. Otherwise, you run the risk of hiring managers thinking your resume was submitted accidentally or carelessly, and they'll assume you're not really a viable candidate. Here are a few resume tips that can help expand your career potential:
1. Consider a professional summary. In many cases, you may want to add a professional summary that can showcase your desire for a transition and highlight the key skills and unique perspective you'd bring to the work. This is different from an objective statement; instead of "Objective: Secure role as a development executive," you'd frame it as, "Producer with 10+ years' experience crafting top-rated unscripted series seeking transition to development. Proven track record of conceptualizing storylines, identifying unique characters, and shepherding projects through all phases of content lifecycle. Able to manage teams and assess production viability due to extensive background overseeing logistics for large-scale domestic and international productions." By including this info at the top of your resume, you've primed the reader to approach the rest of your resume with the knowledge that you a) desire a career transition and b) have gained transferable skills through previous experiences, so they'll be more likely to read further.
2. Highlight specific keywords. Another option is to lead with an areas of expertise or core skills section, where you list relevant keywords that indicate your transferable skills. This section is especially helpful if you need to use specific language that's relevant to your potential new role but differs from the jargon used in your previous line of work. Maybe you don't have the title "project manager" on your resume, but if you've been a line producer for a while, you definitely have project management skills, and it's certainly okay to list "project management" here!
3. Write strategic bullet points. As you craft the bullet points in your experience section, take care to focus only on the most transferable, relevant skills. If you were an assistant to an agent, but you're looking to move to the production side of the industry, don't include too much about answering heavy phones. Instead, focus on covering several projects simultaneously, tracking information, and managing complex schedules -- all skills that will be useful on set.
4. Showcase interests and passions. You can also indicate interest in the type of work you're hoping to transition to by listing professional development courses you've taken, citing side projects you've completed, or naming the type of content you're transitioning to in your professional summary or skills & interests section. This will help solidify your desire to broaden your work.
There’s always a way to spin your experience to align with what hiring managers are looking for. And if you find yourself in a position or track you don’t enjoy, try to switch over as soon as possible -- it only gets harder the longer you wait. Plus, you deserve to be happy with your work!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
It’s sad but true – ageism has a big impact on the hiring process, probably more so in Hollywood than in other industries. When the whole job is about trying to create the “next big thing,” there’s a tendency for employers to write off older candidates as out of touch. At the same time, it’s also possible to be “too young” for a role. A hiring manager might assume a young candidate doesn’t have enough experience to succeed in a certain role, when in reality, that person is perfectly capable of the job. To be clear: we're avidly opposed to ageism or discrimination in any and all forms, and if you have the power to reform the system, even in a small way (like by changing your own thinking about candidates when your team is hiring), please use it.
Until the system changes, we want to help you get around it. There are things you can do in your job search and in your resume to shift the odds back into your favor, so hiring managers can see that you're a qualified candidate.
First, let's name the problem more acutely. In general, there’s a widely accepted notion that assistants are in their early or mid-twenties, mid-level professionals are in their 30s, and more senior-level executives, producers, and other professionals are over 40. There are tons and tons of exceptions to this rule at every company and on every show, but when it comes to your resume, you don’t want to look like the exception.
The easiest way to hide your age on your resume is by leaving off your college graduation year (if you didn't go to or graduate from college, you can leave off the education section entirely). Leaving off your graduation year helps both sides of the ageism coin -- if you're older, no one will know, and if you're younger and fast-tracked your way up the ladder, you'll avoid skepticism or discrimination from hiring managers who don't want to hire someone younger than the rest of the team.
You will likely want to include dates in your experience section though. While functional resumes can work for some candidates with very unusual trajectories, most hiring managers (and ATS) prefer to see a chronology. In fact, leaving off dates can sometimes arouse suspicion that you're trying to hide something. That said, you don't need to include everything you've ever done. Try to keep your resume to the last 10-15 years of employment if you're going for mid-level roles, and don't go back more than 20 if you can help it. There are exceptions to this rule -- if you're returning to the workforce after a significant hiatus, and your last relevant experience is from 25 years ago, you may have to include it, but if you have enough work history to cover the last decade or so, stick to that. So much has changed about work even in the last 5 years that it’s likely a job from 25 years ago isn’t going to be too useful in convincing a hiring manager you’re right for whatever job you’re currently applying for anyway.
If you're younger and moving faster than the normal trajectory – say you’ve made it to VP level by 30 – your short chronology may give away your age. While some hiring managers will be impressed by your success, others in your office might be jealous of your quick ascent. In this case, you need to let your experience speak for itself. Make sure your resume is 100% perfect, and take care to highlight your biggest achievements – show your potential employer why you were able to rise through the ranks so quickly. If you’re an undeniably great candidate and come across as a smart and humble person in an interview, they'll likely move past your age.
One situation we come across frequently is older candidates looking for entry-level roles – often these are people starting over in entertainment as a second career. (We don't recommend taking a step backward if you're trying to move to a new side of the industry). Unfortunately, this group has one of the toughest hills to climb for a few reasons. First, hiring managers want to pay entry-level salaries for entry-level roles and often suspect an older person will want a larger salary than the role is budgeted for. Some people are uncomfortable bossing around an assistant older than they are, others are concerned that an older candidate will get bored with thankless assistant responsibilities, etc. It's important to keep this in mind as you assess whether you really want to start over in entertainment, and whether there's a more lateral way into the industry. If you do decide to go the assistant route, identify what sets you apart, and make it very clear in your resume and cover letter -- include transferable skills, either from your previous career or your time out of the workforce as a caregiver. Don't discount the serious life experience you've had and the perspective you've gained; with age comes wisdom! Make sure you clarify your willingness to start from the bottom and passion for the field in your cover letter. (To those hiring: Keep these candidates top of mind! Their bravery and passion will make them excellent workers and a boon to your organization!).
There are also small tweaks you can make to your resume to mitigate ageism. Choose a modern, readable font (not Times New Roman), use a clear format that's not too graphic or Instagram-y, and use a gmail email address instead of .edu or yahoo, hotmail, AOL, or earthlink. Beyond your documents, lean into your network for referrals. When others vouch for you, hiring managers will see more clearly that age isn't a relevant factor.
Most importantly, don't worry too much ageism. You don't want to work for someone who doesn't want to hire you, especially when that someone engages in discrimination. Focus on your achievements, what you bring to the table, and why you'd be great for the role, and the right people will notice.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan