For many job applicants, there's nothing scarier than a resume gap, especially if it's right at the top of your resume, showing the world of hiring managers that you've been unemployed for a long time. The fears run deep: Why should a hiring manager take a chance on you when no one else has? How will you convince a hiring manager you haven't just been lazing about for the last year watching Netflix? How will you hold back tears in a job interview when describing the often very emotional reason for a long gap (everything from the the depression of getting let go to having to take extended time off for a family emergency or needing a travel break for your own mental healing)?
Typically, we recommend that clients get crafty with the way they are presenting dates on their timeline (like using years instead of months) or use other activities to help fill the gaps (coursework, side jobs). But for gaps in 2020, all the rules are out the window, and you have nothing to be afraid of!
So many people were unemployed this year that no hiring manager is going to question a resume gap in 2020 (and yes, this is true even if you weren’t working for the first two months of the year). That said, if you were doing things to further your professional development, like taking online classes, creating your own content, volunteering, or doing freelance gigs, there’s nothing wrong with including that info on your resume, as long as it’s easy to explain. Those things can also make a good conversation starter in an interview.
But what about small side gigs like shopping for Instacart or delivering for DoorDash that you may have taken to help pay the bills? Do those belong on your resume? There's certainly no shame in finding ways to pay the bills, but unless you're applying for a job where that experience is relevant (for example, an Instacart job would be very applicable for a role as a personal assistant or one where you would be shopping and driving, but it won’t help you much otherwise), you should leave it off your resume. It’s better to have 2020 unaccounted for in order to keep your most recent entertainment experience at the top of your resume. The gap will barely be noticeable.
It’s likely that for many job seekers, the resume gap will continue well into 2021. But don’t stress, as this gap is not going to prevent you from getting interviews. Just remember that you are still the same talented person that you were in 2019, and on top of that, 2020 has made you even more resilient!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
This week is the five year anniversary of Hollywood Resumes! We’re so grateful for all the loyal readers talented clients who have supported us over the years. As we enter our sixth year in business, we’ve taken some time to reflect on what we’ve learned over the past five years. Here are a few trends we’ve noticed.
1. Many job seekers aren’t aware of their value. We’re often told that our consultation calls feel like therapy sessions, because we spend so much time digging into achievements and asking what our clients are most proud of, allowing them the opportunity to articulate their value and describe what they're really looking for in their next jobs. We've been surprised by how many clients don't see how much they bring to the table until we call out a particular achievement as worthwhile. "It's no big deal," or "Do people really care? I was just doing my job!" are common refrains. But it's this information that allows us to highlight the unique skills and biggest strengths of each client -- and back it up with hard evidence in their resume bullet points. These conversations also give our clients a confidence boost -- for many, it's a rare chance to be seen and heard. It’s shocking how many people are applying for jobs below their skill levels, and it’s because they’ve stopped fully believing in themselves. If this is you, consider making a list of accomplishments and use that as the basis for your job search.
2. Most job applicants either oversell or undersell themselves on their resumes. When we get incoming client resumes, we usually either see pages of dense text that no one will ever read, or sparse bullet points that don’t give readers much context about previous positions or highlight relevant achievements. It's our job to find a balance. We talk to our clients to figure out what their unique skills are and understand the full picture of their career trajectories, and then whittle that down based on what’s relevant for the specific roles they’re applying for. You can do this, too -- going back to the point above, you need to fully recognize your accomplishments and realize your value. Then, you have to take the extra step of sharing only the information that the hiring manager needs to see. The result is a clear, concise resume that may not include every little thing you’ve ever done, but it will prove that you’ve got what it takes to do the job you want.
3. Challenging career transitions are extremely common. A significant number of our clientele are people who are transitioning into entertainment from another industry, trying to move into an unfamiliar role across the industry, or trying to leave entertainment for a different sector. And on top of that, they’re trying to do that without having to take a significant pay cut. Many of our clients feel alone in these pursuits, but trust us -- five years of clients has proven otherwise! Here’s more good news: Hiring managers also recognize that not every person has had the perfect career trajectory. Yes, you’ve got to convince someone to take a chance on you. But remember, you have the advantage of a unique career path and a fresh perspective. Highlight it!
4. Non-traditional candidates have some of the most interesting job applications. Many people come to us because their experience doesn’t align perfectly with the jobs they want. They're often nervous that hiring managers won't take them seriously, but we see it differently -- these candidates know what they want and are willing to make risky career moves to pursue their passions. Beyond that, the experiences they may view as a drawback are often what will make them stand out from the crowd. Imagine what a Home Depot worker might know that they could bring to a personal assistant position supporting someone with a big estate. Or what a mom of five could bring to a job as a talent wrangler dealing with difficult celebrities. Or what a branded content producer could bring to a lifestyle network trying to reach a new target audience. It's all about finding the way to spin your story to make the connections for the hiring manager. When you do, you’ll have a much stronger application.
5. The job search takes effort. Our clients are pretty awesome -- we’ve gotten to know some incredible people over the years and heard some fascinating stories. Everyone has something special they bring to the table, and that’s what makes this job so exciting for us. However, there’s one thing our clients share: a commitment to bettering themselves and advancing their careers. Hiring a resume writer is one piece of that -- it’s evidence that our clients are investing in themselves. But passion for the work is really what predicates success -- those clients who have a clear vision for their careers are able to target their job searches and focus their energy on the jobs they really want. And on top of that, their enthusiasm sets them apart during interviews. If you want to succeed in this industry, you’ll have to take an active role in your job search.
But the biggest thing we’ve learned over the past five years? We love helping our clients! We’ve worked with so many talented people who we know will make a difference through their work and contribute great art to the world. So we thank you for that, and we look forward to serving you through 2021 and beyond
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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