Your resume is certainly an important part of your job application, but you’ll need more than a great resume to get your dream job. Many of our clients come to us frustrated because they’ve applied for tons of jobs and haven’t heard back. Often, their resume needs work, but sometimes, their job search strategy does, too.
The first key to a successful job search strategy is having a target. What kinds of roles are you looking for? What companies or projects are hiring for those roles? Why would the hiring managers for those roles be interested in your candidacy? Answering these questions will help you narrow your search to jobs that you’re interested in and qualified for, thereby increasing the odds that you’ll get an interview.
Then, you’ll want to make sure your materials are tailored to the specific job. Pay attention to keywords in the job posting and make sure you use the right verbiage in your resume. If the posting asks for a cover letter, write a fresh, clear cover letter indicating why you’d be a fit for the role. This seems simple, but plenty of candidates send in generic materials, and hiring managers can tell who put in the extra effort with their application; that’s the candidate they want to meet.
Next, you’ll have to do the legwork to get a referral. Hundreds of applications come in for most Hollywood jobs, and you don't want your resume to lost in the shuffle. A pop of color or a fancy format on your document won’t do the trick, but an email from someone the hiring manager trusts might! Take the extra time to see who in your network can pass your information along to the hiring team.
Once you start approaching your job search strategically, you’ll see better results. You may not submit to nearly as many jobs, but you’ll be submitting to the right roles for you and increase your chances of getting called in for an interview. Better yet, you’ll know the jobs you’re applying for are aligned with your vision for your career, and that’s perhaps most important of all.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
A professional summary is a brief section at the beginning of your resume that outlines your primary qualifications for a role. It's a very helpful section when used correctly, but it can also get you into trouble if you don't need one or don't use it properly. Here's a breakdown by career-level of whether you should include this section in your resume.
Entry-level: Entry-level resumes almost never need a professional summary. Very often, an entry-level resume will lead with the education section, which gives the reader enough context that the applicant is a recent grad and looking for an entry-level role. Since most entry-level candidates don’t have a proven track record of achievements in the industry, there’s not much to call out in a professional summary that's not obvious from the education, experience, or skills sections. If you're tempted to use this section to wax poetic about your perspective on the arts or to state an objective, don't do it! Your resume should be 100% focused on tangible, provable skills. Plus, your objective is obvious -- to get the job you're applying for. The only time we recommend an entry-level candidate include a professional summary is if they have previous work experience in another sector and are making a career transition – in this case, a summary could be used to indicate the desire for a transition and to call out transferable skills.
Mid-level: Mid-level candidates can sometimes benefit from a professional summary, especially if they have had a lot of varied experience and need a quick blurb to tie it all together. For instance, if you've spent several years in development, followed by a few in distribution, and are hoping to leverage both skillsets for a role in content strategy, a professional summary can help tell that story. Freelancers may also want to add a summary to the top of their credits lists to call out specific areas of expertise (i.e. a lot of experience in one particular genre) or to highlight awards or achievements. Additionally, if there's a very specific piece of information that showcases your unique capabilities for the role -- like a history of volunteer work with an organization that's aligned with the company's content mission or a track record of working across multiple genres -- you may want to highlight it in a summary to make sure the hiring manager doesn't miss it. However, if your career trajectory has been very linear, and it’s obvious from your experience section that the role you are applying for is a natural next step, you don’t need to bother with a professional summary -- your experience will speak for itself.
Senior-level: Most of the time, we recommend that senior executives include a professional summary in their resumes. Because senior executive resumes are often two pages long, a summary can give the hiring manager a quick overview of the candidate's main selling points without forcing them to read too much text. It’s also a good way to get the most important information at the top -- for example, if a very notable achievement (like an Emmy award) is buried three entries down in the experience section, a call-out in the summary will make it clear from the get-go. It can also be helpful to include some leadership capabilities in this section, like your passion for mentorship or your background supervising crews of over 100 people. However, if your experience is really straightforward, and your most important accomplishments are in your most recent role, you might find that this section is redundant. In that case, we recommend adding a core skills or areas of expertise section to the top of the resume to highlight some specific keywords in bold. This will help frame your experience without overwhelming the reader.
One thing to remember about professional summaries is that they must be tailored to the job posting. If you're applying for multiple very similar roles, you can likely have one summary and make minor tweaks, but if you are applying for different types of roles, you will want to make sure you are calling out the most relevant pieces of information in the summary for each one. If you choose to include a summary, always take the time to cross-reference it with the job posting at hand. If you don't have the bandwidth to revise this section for each application, a core skills section or even a simple headline under your name might be a better bet.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
If you're actively on the job hunt and have a good sense of the types of roles you're looking for, it’s smart to have a resume ready to send off at a moment’s notice. However, the most effective job applications are those that are specifically tailored to the role at hand, so if you have the time (and it might not take more than a few hours!), it’s worth it to tailor your resume to a job posting.
How does this work? First, take a look at the job posting and figure out the main qualifications the employer is looking for. These are usually listed near the top and are often paraphrased several times in the posting. Is it clear from a quick glance at your resume that you have these skills or desirable qualities? If not, is there a way to reframe your experience to call attention to them, either by reordering your bullet points, adding or removing entries in your experience section, or customizing your professional summary? Remember, your goal with your resume is to tell the story the hiring manager wants to hear: namely, that you are a great candidate for this specific role and are truly interested in the potential work. Hiring managers don't have a ton of time and won't do guesswork to figure out why you might be a great candidate if you don't spell it out for them. They will not assume you eagerly meant to apply for this specific role if your resume reflects a wildly different trajectory with no explanation; they'll instead assume that you were resume bombing every somewhat adjacent job ad in sight.
The second step is to look at specific keywords in the job posting and make sure you have described your experience similarly. In particular, look at the action verbs the job posting uses and see if you can tweak your bullet points to include those same words. For example, if your resume says “Interface with agents and managers to source IP,” and the job posting says “Liaise with representation to solicit pitches and writers,” you could make a simple tweak to the verbs in your bullet point to match theirs and explicitly show them you have the skills they are looking for. Furthermore, if there are any specialized skills or software called out in the posting as a “nice-to-have,” and you have those skills, feature them on your resume! Tweaking keywords in this way is helpful for hiring managers who are skimming, as well as for applicant tracking systems (ATS) that are literally designed to match specific keywords.
It might seem more time consuming to tailor your resume to every job, but you'll also get the right job faster, rather than getting stuck in an endless loop of submissions and silence. Plus, if you're conducting a targeted, strategic job search and only going for the jobs you are most excited about, you won't be applying for a ton of jobs each week anyway. Proving to the hiring manager that you really want this job is half the battle in the job application process, and tailoring your resume is the perfect way to start making the case for yourself
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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