AI is the talk of the town these days. It’s coming for all our jobs, maybe. But is it helpful for our job applications? Should you use ChatGPT to write your resume?
We conducted several experiments with fictionalized candidates and real job postings to test ChatGPT’s capabilities. Obviously, as resume writers, we have a huge stake in this question, so we were very scared of what we’d find. But our ultimate goal is to help Hollywood professionals navigate their careers (in and out of the industry), so if ChatGPT’s resume writing prowess would mean that we’d lean more into the career coaching side of things, we'd be open to that, too.
What we found was that ChatGPT can write a semi-decent resume, but it lacks specificity and won't stand out from the crowd. And it takes some finesse to get a final product that's close to decent. For one of our experiments, we shared a job posting for a branded content producer and wrote about our fictional candidate’s experience by using some of the skills and keywords we’d use ourselves, if we’d been hired to write the candidate’s resume. ChatGPT’s version was pretty good – it spit back a lot of the keywords we input and used mostly strong action verbs. However, the ChatGPT resume included an objective and listed soft skills, which we (and most experts) don’t recommend. And more importantly, it didn’t include any achievements or context and read as very generic – for example:
We then tried an approach more akin to the way our clients approach us initially. Instead of sharing a specific job posting, we shared a broad role category (development executive). We also prompted ChatGPT with a more casual way of explaining our fictional candidate’s background, the way our clients often do in their initial outreach to us and before we ask follow up questions on our calls. This version was much less successful. For example:
Based on our assessment, ChatGPT is not capable of writing a strong resume on its own. But it could be a good starting place for you to write your own materials. You’ll need to spoonfeed it details using the right terminology and do some pretty heavy editing to personalize it and make it read like a human wrote it. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys the revision process but hates staring at a blank page, you might find ChatGPT to be a helpful tool to point you in the right direction.
However, if you’re having trouble figuring out which of your achievements to highlight in your application, or you don’t have the time to redline an AI-generated document, or you’re not confident in your ability to write strong, clear prompts, you may be better off staying away from these tools, at least for now. Their promise of the ability to write an interview-worthy resume in the blink of an eye isn’t fully realized. As human resume writers, we can ask the right probing questions to pinpoint our clients' relevant achievements and write their documents in a way that reflects their and our humanity. If you don’t have the budget for a human resume writer, you may still be better off on your own -- create a skills list (with the brainstorming help of friends and colleagues), follow our tips for writing strong materials, and have a friend look the documents over for typos and clarity.
Remember, the hiring manager wants to hire a human for the open role (for now!). Whether you use ChatGPT as a starting point or not, make sure your unique perspective and background comes through in your application.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Self-starter. Strong communication skills. Detail-oriented. Team player. Effective multi-tasker. These are common soft skills listed in job postings, and you may be tempted to include them on your resume as keywords. After all, we always say to use the verbiage from the posting in your resume!
But these words are also meaningless on their own. Anyone can list “self-starter” in a skills section. But how does a hiring manager know it’s true? They can’t, unless you prove it. Luckily, proving skills is easy.
For example, if you want to convey that you’re a self-starter, you can write a bullet point that demonstrates a time you took initiative successfully – “Initiated new competitive tracking database; conducted daily trend research and generated concepts for growing development slate.” That shows you’re a self-starter, while also providing the hiring manager with much-needed context to see what kinds of ideas and projects you bring to the table. Plus, you get some bonus keywords and skills in there without taking up too much space! This is much more effective than listing a random skill with no evidence, because it allows the hiring manager to picture you in your last role and in the open role, as well.
You’ll also be given the opportunity to elaborate on soft skills in an interview. In fact, one of the purposes of an interview is to gut check whether you have the soft skills they’re looking for. You may say you’re an effective communicator, but were your emails to the hiring manager polite and timely? Keep in mind that your resume is only one piece of your job application, and its purpose is to get you in the door, so you and the hiring team can continue to assess whether you’re a fit. Focus on including relevant, tangible skills with achievements and context, and the soft skills will follow.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
What’s better: one versatile resume you can send to any employer, or different resumes for each job you’re applying for? It's a question we get asked all the time. And the answer is never satisfying: It depends. But here are some general guidelines you can rely on.
If you’re looking exclusively for the same type of job -- whether it’s an assistant desk or a drama development executive role -- you can have one resume that you consistently send out. This is especially true if you’re applying for jobs with 2-sentence descriptions on the UTA job list or having friends pass along your resume to their contacts before there’s a publicly available job posting. For any higher-level positions, you might consider tweaking your professional summary to add in something specific that’s worth calling out -- for example, if you’re bilingual in Spanish and up for a development job at Univision, noting that would be super relevant for that one job, but less important for the same job at Starz. Beyond that, you can keep the one resume.
If you’re open to a multitude of positions that are all sort of similar but not exactly the same, you may be able to craft one resume that you can tweak for different jobs. For instance, if you’re applying for marketing roles, you might have one version of your resume that’s tailored more to agency jobs, one that’s geared toward the brand side, one that shows your creative direction experience, and one that highlights your relationships with influencers. The content might be the same across all four, but you’d likely reframe parts of your professional summary, reorganize your areas of expertise/core skills section, and reorder the skills and achievements in your bullet points to align with the priority of the job posting. To take it a step further, you could cross check your resume against each posting and ensure you’re using the right keywords -- if you wrote “third party vendors,” and they only reference “external production teams,” you should make that quick fix. To make this entire process less overwhelming, we recommend having one strong resume that encompasses everything you want to bring to the table and making minor edits as needed before sending it off. Just remember to proofread! It's really easy for typos to sneak in when you are making small tweaks.
There are some times when you’ll want multiple entirely different resumes. If you’re applying for jobs on two totally separate career paths -- for example, freelance story producing and in-house development roles -- you will be best served by having two resumes that each tell the version of your story that will get you hired. If one of the paths you are looking for feels more in line with your current trajectory and the other is a bit more of a transition, then one resume would be a simple recounting of what you’ve done that clearly aligns with the role, and the other would involve leaning into transferable skills. The more different the career paths, the more different the resumes will be. For example, plenty of writers and directors have a creative resume, a credits list, and a separate resume tailored to their day jobs (even if those jobs are within the industry).
The main thing to keep in mind is that the goal for your resume is to tell the story of why you’re right for the job that you applied for. Lean into your story skills to get this right: Jobs that are largely the same will need the same plot points from your career story, jobs that are somewhat similar might need you to repurpose some resume B-roll, and jobs that are totally different will need different arcs altogether.
-- Angela Silak and Cindy Kaplan
If you’re thinking about starting to look for a new job, the most important tool you'll need to get started is a skills list – that is, a long list of all the responsibilities and projects you’ve taken on in previous roles and the skills you’ve learned from each. It takes some time to create a skills list, but it's very worthwhile, because it helps you see your main strengths and pinpoint projects you were proud of. Not only will this be a huge confidence boost, but it will also serve as the basis for your resume and interview anecdotes.
To create a skills list, make a chart that lists out all the previous roles you’ve held. And don’t limit this to paid work experience either. Volunteer experience and leadership roles in school count as well. Even acting as a parent or caretaker can provide skills that will be useful at work – your skills can come from anywhere!
Under each entry, think about all the things you did in that role. What did your day to day look like? What were some key projects you completed? What were your biggest achievements? List them out, then look at each to extract the core skill you used for every task.
As you list out the skills, you’ll probably notice some repetition – and that’s a good thing! These are indicators of your main areas of expertise. And by creating a skills list, you now have evidence to back up the fact that you have deep experience in these areas. These are the things you are going to want to highlight in your personal branding materials and during interviews. Be sure to refer back to your skills list when you work on your job applications.
As you look at the final document, consider what tasks you enjoyed doing and would want to continue doing in future roles. Target your job search to roles that will let you utilize your main areas of expertise in a way that excites you. And most importantly, take a moment (or more!) to be proud of everything you've accomplished so far, and reread your list whenever your job search leads to self-doubt. Your imposter syndrome voice will quiet down when you force it to face the fact of everything awesome you've achieved.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan