One of our big beliefs at Hollywood Resumes is that people are people first and workers second; your job is important, but most of us want to achieve some level of work/life balance. And that means having interests outside of the office!
Participating in community organizations or volunteering for local non-profits is a popular outside-of-work hobby. Especially now, so many people are coming together to advocate for racial justice or give back to people suffering from COVID. But is it a good idea to include volunteer work on your resume? If so, how should you do it? The answer depends on the nature of the volunteer work.
If you're a leader in a community organization -- say you run a committee or chaired a fundraising event -- you might consider including your volunteer experience alongside your other professional experience. This is especially true for people who volunteered during a professional gap, as it shows how you spent that time. Treat your volunteer experience like any other job in your chronology, with your title, dates, and bullets indicating your skills and achievements. Think about what skills you utilize in your volunteer roles that transfer to the job you're applying for, in the same way you'd evaluate past professional experience.
However, if your leadership experience doesn't translate to the role you're applying for, would push relevant experience down in the chronology, or is more participatory than leadership-driven (i.e. you serve food at a local shelter every weekend), you can simply list the organization in a profile or skills and interests section at the bottom of the page, or, if it's somewhat relevant to the job posting, you can include it at the tail end of your professional summary. On LinkedIn, you can elaborate more about your role or provide some background on the organization and why it's important to you.
Things get a little tricky if the organization you volunteer with could come across as controversial or lead people to make snap judgements about you. This happens primarily with religious or political organizations, as some people may presume that you are so passionate about your faith or political ideology that you'll bring it up daily in the office and create an uncomfortable HR situation. The good news is that more companies are embracing religious and cultural diversity and leaning into political and social advocacy, so in some cases, it might be a bonus -- it really depends on the company culture. You'll have to evaluate this on a case-by-case basis by considering what you know about the company and the team, how relevant the skills you derived from your volunteer experience are, and how important it is that your employers embrace your extracurricular activities. There's no hard and fast rule, so you may find yourself adding the information or removing it depending on the job you're applying for.
As with everything that goes in your application materials, evaluate how volunteer work contributes to the story you're trying to tell a future employer. If you always go back to your story, you'll know what's relevant to include and what can be left off.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
We get a lot of questions about keywords in resumes – how can you use keywords to get past applicant tracking systems, and what words are hiring managers going to respond to most? The answer is in the job posting.
When crafting your resume, use the job posting as your guide by copying some of the keywords into your resume strategically. Think about what the most important things a recruiter might filter for are and really hone in on those.
Start broad, using the job title in the posting. If you are applying for an assistant position, you'll want to have the words assistant or assist in your resume. Similarly, if you’re applying for a manager position, you probably want the words manager or manage in there. Most likely, you'll include these keywords in your past titles and chronology bullets, but if you need to get creative because of a career transition, you could fit these keywords into a professional summary or areas of expertise section. In some cases, you could even put the job title in your header.
Next, you'll want to look at the core skills in the posting. The qualifications listed toward the top of a posting tend to be most important, but keep an eye out for specific skills that might be a requirement. If you see that the company is looking for an Excel expert, spell that out, instead of just listing Microsoft Office. Or, if they need someone with excellent writing skills, make sure you have the word write. Be careful about intangible skills though – if the posting is asking for someone who is motivated, it’s unlikely that they’re going to use "motivated" as a search term. You’ll need to prove you’re motivated by showing how you took initiative on projects in your bullet points.
Additionally, you should only use keywords you can actually back up in an interview. You may not have all the qualifications or meet all the requirements listed in the posting, but don't be tempted to claim them just so your resume doesn't get filtered out! It's okay if you're not an exact match -- either the hiring manager is open to candidates who possess only a majority of the skills, or the position really requires specific knowledge that you won't be able to fake in an interview. You don't want to get caught having lied on your resume.
And remember that getting a resume into a real person’s hands is a far more reliable way to get an interview than by submitting through a job portal. So when using important keywords that you’ve pulled from the job posting, make sure they’ll pop out to a human and not only a machine. Lead your bullet points with the same strong action verbs that have been described, or call attention to them in core skills sections (it's worth repeating: only include tangible skills!). The right keywords are not going to get you the job, but they will help direct the eye of a hiring manager and encourage them to call you in for an interview.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Adulting means you need a job! We were thrilled to offer advice to emerging professionals -- check out the guest blog we wrote for Adulting with Jane for 5 tips for writing a great resume and hear us recount some resume dos and don'ts on the How Did I Get This Far? poducast
If you work in entertainment, you’re a storyteller, in one way or another. And when you’re looking for jobs, those storytelling skills should be put to use when you write your resume. Every good resume tells a story – the story of your work history and why it makes sense for a specific employer to hire you. And every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. Keep this in mind as you start to craft your resume – it will help dictate the structure, format, and verbiage you use.
The beginning of your resume is where you introduce yourself. When you meet someone new, you typically shake hands and tell the person your name. You can’t shake hands on paper, but you can put your name across the top in big, bold letters. Announce yourself proudly – you’ve got a lot of great stuff to share! Additionally, an introductory conversation often begins with where you’re from – in a resume, that takes the form of contact info. This should all be in the resume header.
Whatever goes next on your resume is going to be the information that gives the hiring manager context for all the other stuff they’re about to read. The first section after the header varies from person to person, depending on what’s most important to get across. For recent grads, it should be education, and your story will read as “Hi, I’m a recent grad looking for an entry-level position. Look at all the impressive stuff I did while I was in college!” For many people, experience will lead the resume – “Hi, I’ve spent the past 5 years as a development executive at Comedy Central.”
Hopefully that first thing has a natural lead-in to whatever job you’re applying for. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider a professional summary that calls attention to your areas of expertise and specializations. A professional summary or list of core skills is also helpful for executives with a dense work history – if the hiring manager only read the professional summary or saw a few words called out in bold, they’d be able to get a sense of what the person brings to the table and can choose to read further if that person sounds like a fit. Think about how you want to frame yourself, and let that dictate however you start your story.
The rest of your resume should unfold naturally based on whatever information you’ve set up at the top. Typically, this takes the form of a timeline that shows your trajectory in reverse chronological order. A hiring manager should be able to see career progression and any key achievements that happened along the way. Within your resume bullet points, you provide supporting information to back up the argument that you’re right for the job, including the relevant skills you’ve acquired in each role.
And the end of your resume should be the “extras,” things that don’t need a whole lot of space, like computer skills, languages, and interests. Sometimes this is a spot to get in keywords for applicant tracking systems. But it’s also a place to share information that’s going to round you out as a person and make it seem like there’s more to you than the stuff you’ve done at work – like volunteer work, hobbies, and various achievements. Again, the details all depend on the specific person, but it’s a nice way to tag your story.
Keep in mind that your story may need to change slightly depending on the job you apply for; it all goes back to tailoring your resume to the job posting. There’s no way you can fit your entire biography into one or two pages, but by choosing the most relevant information selectively, you can build a profile that positions you for the position you’re interested in. Just remember that the story you need to tell is the one the hiring manager is looking for. Be authentic, but present information in the way they’ll be able to understand it.