The job search can be frustrating -- especially when you feel like you’ve been submitting tons of job applications and aren’t getting any bites. But if you’ve sent out 50 applications and haven’t heard a word on any of them, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you assess the problem:
Are you qualified for the jobs you’re applying for?
Go back and take a look at the jobs you’ve been applying for. Re-read the job descriptions -- do these jobs actually make sense for you? Will the skills and experience you put in your resume prove you can do the job? If you’re an assistant applying for director-level jobs, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get any calls. It’s okay to reach a bit, but be realistic with your expectations. Conversely, you don’t want to apply for jobs you’re overqualified for either. If you’ve been an assistant for five years, it’s probably time to start looking at coordinator positions -- employers aren’t interested in hiring people who will get burned out quickly or start asking for a promotion after three months. Besides, you start to seem desperate if you’re applying for jobs that are too far below your level. Compare your resume to the job postings to see how well they align. If you don’t have a lot of the key required skills or are already doing work beyond what’s asked for, you may not be applying for the right jobs. Be a little more selective with your search, and try to focus on those jobs that match your qualifications.
Are you excited about the jobs you’re applying for?
Aside from being qualified for a job, it’s also important that you’re excited about a prospective position. It’s easy to spot a generic cover letter from someone who isn’t particularly passionate about the role. So don’t waste your time with applications you’re not excited about. A good test to figure out which opportunities are right: Try writing your cover letters from scratch -- you’ll find that they’ll flow much more easily for the jobs that really are a fit. Then, focus on those opportunities. You’ll have more luck if you’re going for quality over quantity.
How are you actually applying for these jobs?
If you’re both qualified and excited about the jobs you’re applying for but aren’t hearing anything back, you may be going about the job application process wrong. In Hollywood, most people are hired through referrals or promoted internally, so if you’re only using the online application to submit your resume, that’s probably your problem. Try to find a direct contact that can get your resume into the right hands. If you don’t know someone at the company or in the department you’re applying for, you can use LinkedIn to try to find a connection. Ideally, you’ll find someone who knows someone who can pass along your resume, but if this isn’t possible, a cold email can work too. Make sure you’re taking extra steps to get your resume to the hiring manager -- it will help prove how much you want the job.
Do you have a strong resume and cover letter?
If you’re doing everything above right, your problem is probably your resume or cover letter. A disorganized resume or cover letter with typos and poor writing is obviously not going to get you an interview, but that’s not the only thing that can make for a bad resume and cover letter. Do your resume and cover letter tell a story? And is that story one that shows you’re right for the job? You MUST tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting. You should always try to create a new cover letter for every job application, and sometimes, you should create a new resume as well (or at least make some tweaks) -- especially if you’re applying for executive level jobs. Take note of the nuances in the job posting, and make sure your resume and cover letter reflect the core skills of the role. A strong resume and cover letter match the job posting and demonstrate why it makes sense for the company to hire the candidate.
We recognize that all of this may sound like a lot of work -- and it is. But if you can be a little more targeted in your search and thorough with your process, you won’t have to send out nearly as many applications to secure an interview, and you'll be less stressed out in the process!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Most of the time, college career counselors and other resume writers don’t specialize in entertainment and/or haven’t worked in the industry. While they might have a useful resume format for you to work off and some tips for creating strong bullet points, there are a few things they might not know to tell you. Three examples you should be aware of as you create your resume:
1. Only include relevant information.
When crafting your resume, your goal should be to minimize the number of words on the page. Think carefully about what hiring managers actually want and need to see. First of all, no one cares about your GPA, and you should only include scholarships and awards that are widely known as prestigious or are specifically related to the industry. Remember that priorities within academia -- meaning the things that have been your top priorities for most of your life -- are not the same as those in the working world. Instead, experience is what counts; if you have industry internships, these should be the central focus of your resume because the skills you learned there will be the most relevant information for a hiring manager. If you have enough internship experience to fill up the page, leave all the other stuff off. Otherwise, include any non-industry professional experiences (internships and otherwise) or campus leadership experiences that have transferable skills, and list them in chronological order. You might even include some of your coursework in the education section to show additional knowledge of the industry. Bottom line, remember to be selective as you decide what experience and information to include on your resume. No one expects you to have a robust resume when you're first starting out, so less is more: Relevant = important, unrelated = unnecessary.
2. Don’t overdo it.
When applying for entry-level jobs, you want to demonstrate that you know your place and aren’t expecting to run the company. No one wants to hire people who are too big for their britches, so you have to find a way to show off your most impressive skills and experiences without sounding presumptuous. Listing student film projects on your resume can lead to this trap if you're not careful. If the entire experience section of your resume is organized by film titles and roles like executive producer, director, and writer without context, it will look like you’ve produced a bunch of content no one has ever heard of, and you’re going to sound like a quack. Instead, make it clear that these were all student films. Student film projects provide valuable experience but aren’t necessarily representative of working in the industry, so if you call attention to the fact that you worked on these films within the school setting (you may even want to list them in the education section if you have enough internships in the experience section), you’ll come across as a candidate with reasonable expectations for your first job. Which leads us to our next point . . .
3. Administrative skills matter.
Your first job in the entertainment industry will likely be some sort of assistant position -- executive assistant, writers’ assistant, production assistant, etc. And all of these roles require administrative skills that are far below what you’re capable of. Yes, it’s weird that you have to start your career off as a glorified secretary, but that’s just the way it is. And because of this, you need to remember to include administrative skills on your resume -- rolling calls, managing schedules, booking travel, reconciling expenses, maintaining office organization -- the job posting will list specifically what’s needed, so use it as a guide for what keywords to include on your resume. It can be tempting to brag about how you were the chairperson of your campus's business association, leading meetings, drafting proposals, and managing club members, but it's actually more important to list the administrative and organizational skills you gleaned from that experience. It's counterintuitive, but your resume is about proving you can do the job at hand, not about listing every achievement in your life.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
We’re often asked how to list part-time jobs on a resume. Job seekers express fear that by not acknowledging the part-time nature of their job, they’ll be lying on their resume, but that if they do acknowledge it, they’ll undermine their experience. So what’s the best solution?
It actually depends on the specifics of the job. If you work full-time but have a part-time side hustle, you may not need to list it at all. Assess whether the side hustle is relevant to your overall story and if it adds needed skills that will make you a better candidate for the job. If not, no need to list it. Your resume isn’t a biography, it’s more of a highlight reel. If the side hustle is relevant, you definitely should list it. If it’s clear from the nature of the job that it’s part-time -- like freelancing or script reading -- then you don’t need to qualify it. A hiring manager will see your primary job during the same period and make the assumption that the other position is part-time.
If you work two or more part-time jobs at the same time and plan to list both, it may be beneficial for you to include "(part-time)" next to your title. We see this a lot with personal assistants who manage two different clients, and it’s certainly worth clarifying to a future employer that you aren’t spreading yourself thin, but rather have been hired in a part-time capacity. However, just as is the case with a side hustle, if it's obvious that both of your jobs are part time -- like simultaneous internships -- a hiring manager will safely assume that each is part-time without you calling it out.
Lastly, if you are currently working only one part-time job, there’s no reason to draw attention to it on your resume. You may choose to acknowledge it in your cover letter as you explain why you’re looking to transition to full-time, add a second part-time position, or find a new part-time job, but there’s no rule that says you need to list part-time on yourresume. If you have the skills and are capable of doing the job you’re applying for, that’s all that matters.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again -- the key to writing a good resume is to describe your skills in the same way the job posting describes the necessary qualifications for the role. But sometimes, it’s important to go above and beyond mere skill-matching and provide tangible results in your resume that show you really are the best at what you do. Especially as you grow in your career, or if you’re applying for jobs that are a little more tech, sales, and/or strategy-based, you'll probably need to show definitive results.
The best approach is to integrate results into your bullet points in a way that contributes to the flow of your resume story. We often see resumes that outline a candidate’s skills and then follow up with a few "results" bullets. To us, this is messy and hard to follow. Take a little bit of time to think about how you can describe what you do and how well you do it in one brief sentence. For example, "managed a development and production pipeline of 50+ projects and delivered six pilots per year" has a nice flow to it and allows you to get the point across in the fewest number of bullets possible.
The other trick with a results-oriented resume is not to overdo it. Not every bullet point needs a number. In fact, the more numbers you throw out, the more a hiring manager’s BS radar will go off -- plus it’ll make your resume more difficult to read. Pick your most impressive numbers and stick with those. If you raised a ton of money or saved a ton of money for the company, you'd definitely want to share those numbers. Think about what quantifiable information will be most meaningful to hiring managers, and be sure that they will have enough frame of reference to understand it. It's especially easy to overdo it in entry-level Hollywood resumes. “Answered calls and scheduled meetings that saved executives 5+ hours a day” sounds a little ridiculous. “Rolled calls and scheduled meetings” is a more reasonable way to outline your experience -- if you feel you need to quantify to show volume, that's okay in moderation, but you'll want to be careful about how you present results in more task-oriented jobs like these.
Numbers can be helpful when they sound impressive, but there are also ways to show results without spitting out numbers every time. For instance, “Negotiated with vendors to procure production equipment and established track record of coming in under budget” is a great result without a number that also demonstrates your skills. “Managed development slate; greenlit highest-rated new series in network history” is another result that's more effective without a number and showcases what you spent your time doing.
Most importantly, make sure you’re able to speak intelligently about any result you mention. If you say “doubled the company’s social media following,” but the hiring manager learns during the interview that it only went from 10 followers to 20, that’s not really an impressive result, and it makes you sound a little fishy, like you padded your experience. And regardless of how truthfully you presented numbers in your resume, numbers often change, and they're tough to remember precisely -- don't let this trip you up in an interview.
When you sit down to write a results-oriented resume, think about the biggest highlights you’d share if you were describing your experience in an interview or asking for a promotion. Do your best to keep some of the same action verbs from the posting and add your own results spin on them. Expect that it will take you longer to craft a new resume for each job, but that’s okay -- in the end, it will be worth it.