"Industry Spotlight" is our newsletter series where we interview professionals from across the entertainment industry about their current jobs and career trajectories. Our hope is that you will learn more about the positions you're already interested in, discover new roles you may not have considered, and utilize the wisdom of those who've paved the way before you to forge your own path for success.
In January, we interviewed a Talent Acquisitions Manager at a global media firm who previously worked at a communications-focused staffing and recruitment agency about resume and LinkedIn best practices. Here, he shares insight into the interview process.
HOLLYWOOD RESUMES: How should a candidate prepare for a phone screen?
RECRUITER: The phone screen is an important step in the interview process. Yes, the future conversations with the hiring manager and interviewers will go more in depth and be more specific to the actual role, but the phone screen is your ticket in. Doing some preparation will set you apart -- research the company, the key players, and the business unit or division you are hoping to join. Be professional and courteous during the conversation. Have questions prepared. Explain why you are looking for a new job and why you are interested in this specific one. And be prepared to talk about salary expectations.
HR: How can you tell if you're doing well in the interview process?
RECRUITER: My general advice is not to stress over it. People seem to stress over how long it has been since the last interview, when should they follow up, if it's worth following up, etc. The thing is that there are many factors going on behind the scenes that are out of the recruiter's control. Maybe they haven't heard back from the hiring team yet, so they don't have an update to share with you. Maybe there's been a budget change. Maybe the role is going on hold.
Unfortunately, recruiters are usually managing many open requisitions at once and are getting pressure from many different hiring managers, so while it would be great if we could provide timely updates and check ins with every candidate in play, it's just not realistic most of the time. And that's where you come in. Be a collaborative partner with the recruiter. Ask them when you can expect to hear from them. For me personally, I love when candidates follow up with me to check in (as long as it's not every day or too frequently!). When I have an email from a candidate sitting in my inbox, it's a great reminder that I owe them a response. As long as you are professional, follow up is welcome. The bottom line is, don't worry too much or stress over things that are out of your control. Be professional, follow up as appropriate, and if ultimately this role is not the right fit, there's something else better waiting for you. While lack of communication from the recruiter is not necessarily a positive sign, it usually isn't a reflection of you. And remember, you're in control of your career -- do you want to work at a company where they don't respect your time and leave you hanging for so long? Probably not. So don't worry too much about it, and focus your time on landing that role of your dreams.
HR: What's the best way to get in touch with a recruiter and manage that relationship?
RECRUITER: If there's a job you are interested in, always apply. Even if you have a connection to the recruiter or hiring team and plan on reaching out directly, or even if you plan on reaching out cold, always apply if it's a role you are interested in, just like everyone else is. Follow up after that is completely fine. Some recruiters may not respond, but some will. And some appreciate it. It may help your chances, it may not. But if you want to do it, by all means, do it. That said, give it some time and be courteous. Send an email as opposed to blowing up the recruiter's phone (particularly if they don't know you yet). Give it about a week before following up again. If you are currently in an interview process, more frequent follow up can be appropriate if you haven't heard anything.
Another great way to get the attention of the recruiter is to keep them posted on your job search and the status of other positions you are interviewing for. That's a great excuse to check in with them, provide some helpful information, and hopefully get an update for yourself. It's also a great way to know how they feel about you -- if they care that there is competition for the role, it probably means they are interested in you as a candidate. If ultimately you don't get the role, you know have a professional relationship with the recruiter, and then check-ins every so often (maybe once a month or a once a quarter) are completely acceptable, or when you see new openings at the company that interest you. But remember, always apply and don't expect special treatment just because you know the recruiter.
HR: How should a candidate handle compensation discussions?
RECRUITER: People can get very uncomfortable when it comes to salary. There is concern that whoever says the first number will not "win" the negotiation. Here's the bottom line: Know the market, and know your worth. If you come to the conversation prepared, having done your research on salaries for similar positions and similar levels of experience, that will go a long way. The recruiter will also respect you for it. However, if you play hardball right upfront, try to avoid the salary conversation, or your expectations are clearly way out of line, that will turn a recruiter off. That tells us it will be difficult to work with you throughout the process, especially should it get to the offer stage. If you're uncomfortable stating a number or range, there's nothing wrong with asking the recruiter what the salary is for the role. Some will share, some will not. If they do not and want to hear from you what your expectations are, that's where your preparation comes in, so you can quote them a number that you will be happy with. The good recruiters will then have an honest conversation with you about whether that will be doable for this role and your level of experience, and if it's not, they will work with you to come up with another number you'd be comfortable with.
It's also okay to ask about benefits and other perks that might help offset a lower salary! You're likely looking for a career move, and the most important thing is doing work you are interested in. Yes, salary is important, but you want to take the full picture into account. Maybe the salary is on the low side, but will this role help advance your career? Will it get you the skills you need to climb the ladder that you want to climb? All of these are important things to consider. At the end of the day, it's your decision as to whether the salary will work for you, and there's nothing wrong with telling a recruiter the salary is too low for you to consider the position.
However, I don't recommend telling the recruiter the salary works for you if you know it ultimately will not. If you go through the process and then it falls apart at the offer stage, you'll have wasted everyone's time, including your own. You will also burn a bridge having lied to them. While some people may think they can prove themselves during the interview and then make the case for more money at the offer stage, the truth is that many companies have clear budgets and salary bands, and making exceptions would cause salary inequality on the teams, which companies want to avoid. Sometimes their hands are indeed tied, and it's always best to have a transparent salary conversation upfront.
Do note, however, that these days you should never be required to share your current salary. It's illegal to ask that in many states, but even if it's not illegal in a particular state, it's a practice companies should be moving away from, as it's a hindrance to equal pay. If a company or recruiter demands to know your current salary, you probably want to run far away; they should be paying you based on the role's requirements and your experience, not what you're making now.
Bottom line: Just like everything else, doing research and being prepared is key, and approaching this from a place of empowerment as opposed to fear or uneasiness will set you up for success and happiness in the role.
Today’s Hollywood job market is tricky. Many people are struggling to find work – even extremely experienced and qualified candidates can stay on job hunt for months. It’s easy to get discouraged when this happens and start questioning your capabilities and worth. Maybe you’ve started applying for jobs that are below your current title. Or you’re starting to consider a job that would require a pay cut. If this sounds like you, it’s probably time to take an assessment of your job application process and then spend a bit of time doing some personal reflection.
If you’re having trouble finding a job, take a closer look at your job application materials and make sure you're presenting yourself in the best possible light. Are you afraid that putting down the full scope of your responsibilities or highlighting the scale of your achievements will sound like bragging? Trust us, it won’t. Plus, there are plenty of people who don’t think twice about bragging -- you don't want to undersell yourself comparatively. Give yourself credit for all the great work you’ve done and make sure it’s not getting buried with a bunch of irrelevant stuff -- you don't need to include every single thing you've ever done, but rather the most transferable skills for the jobs you're pursuing.
Even more importantly, don’t dumb your resume down for lower-level jobs! If you’re taking off achievements to make yourself look more appealing for jobs below your pay grade, you’re applying for the wrong jobs. You wouldn’t be happy in those jobs even if you got them. Instead, aim high. Apply for jobs at your level and above your level – you never know when someone will take a chance on you. But you’ll never have that chance if you don’t reach for the stars.
And if you’re considering a pay cut, think really hard about what effect this will have on your lifestyle. We believe there are very few instances when a pay cut makes sense. Are you considering it because you’re frustrated, or is this actually a job you’re extremely passionate about? Chances are, if it’s the right fit, the employer will try to match your current salary. Ask for what you believe you’re worth. And don’t let that number in your head drop because you’ve been looking for a job for a long time.
Even if you’re doing everything right, it might not be that easy to find a job. But that’s a reflection of today’s job market – it has nothing to do with the value you bring to the table. Remember this. Think back on all you’ve accomplished in your career, and remind yourself regularly of the things you’re proud of. Write them down if you need to. Self-affirmation is important during a difficult job search, especially because it will convince you to keep trying for the jobs you really want. And you deserve that job – don’t forget it!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Often, when you’re applying for jobs, you can get desperate. If you’ve been looking for a while -- whether you’re unemployed or just plain bored -- you might start considering sacrificing some elements of your dream career just to find something now. You may even be considering a job that would require you to take a pay cut. But is that really a good idea? Before you say yes, you need to CAREFULLY consider the following:
Figuring out your salary is the most awkward part of the job application process, and arguably, it's the most important. You don’t want to lose out on a job because you aimed too high with ridiculous salary demands, but a low salary sets you up for lower earnings for years down the line. Remember, most raises are calculated on a percentage basis, and 10% of nothing is, well, nothing.
In entertainment, there’s very little you can do about your salary in your first entry-level position -- assistants are typically offered a certain rate, especially at agencies, and that’s that. But just because you don’t have much power to negotiate when you start your career doesn’t mean you should hold on to that bad habit forever! Before long, you’ll start getting a version of the question, “What are your salary requirements?” By the time you've gotten an offer for your second job, you should be ready to negotiate. So, how should you answer the question?
One big tip: Do your best to avoid throwing out a number first. Try to force them to show their cards, so you know what you have to work with. If HR asks about your salary requirements, pivot with, “Well, I’m actually curious, what is the salary range you anticipated for this position?” If you get an answer that’s way higher than you expected/wanted, that’s great! It gives you room to bring up other types of negotiations -- maybe for flex time or more benefits.
If the hiring manager doesn’t let you get away with the pivot technique, offer a range. The range should start at the lowest number you’re willing to take and go up $10-$15k from there, or whatever’s reasonable based on your research (hint: Glassdoor is a great resource for figuring out average salaries in your industry). They might only offer your minimum, but there's always a chance you'll get lucky with an offer that's in the middle or top of your range. What you’re trying to avoid here is giving a number that's lower than what they had in mind -- if you say you were thinking $60k, and they were going to offer $75k, they will probably accept your low standard, costing you a ton of money!
It's also hard to pivot when you're asked to enter your salary requirements in an online application. However, in some cases you can leave this section blank -- if the rest of your application is great, HR will ask when you get a screening call. If you must write something, write a range or a number in the middle of your range with “(negotiable)” or “(flexible)” next to it. Even better, skip the online application entirely, use LinkedIn to find a person in the hiring department, and email them directly (you'll have far more success in your applications if you can get your resume into the hands of an actual human).
Now sometimes, regardless of how you handle the salary question, HR will offer a lowball number, and you should counter with your demands, backing them up by reinforcing your qualifications and citing some research. If the company can't meet at least your current salary, you have to decide if you're willing to take a pay cut. And if you do, we hope you have a really good reason -- after all, you're not running a charity. In this case, it’s worth asking for non-monetary benefits that may make up for the salary gap. But a better option might be to wait for something that pays appropriately -- don't shortchange yourself.
The biggest thing to remember is to go in unafraid. If a company doesn’t hire you because you’re too expensive, you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway. Decide what you're worth beforehand, and stick to your guns -- you'll thank yourself in the long run.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan