If you're a college student seeking an internship, or a recent grad (congratulations!) seeking your first post-college job, you're probably overwhelmed by all the competing resume advice out there. One of the reasons we founded Hollywood Resumes was because we had so few resources at our disposal when we first broke into the industry. College career centers aren't always equipped to guide students on the specifics of the entertainment industry, and most resume writing advice is tailored to professionals further along in their careers. But we've got you covered -- here are the top 5 things you should know about your entry-level resume:
1. Education belongs at the top, 99% of the time. Your resume tells your story, and like all good stories, it establishes context through character and setting. If you're looking for an internship, your story is that you are a current student looking to grow your career. The fact that you're in school and the things you're accomplishing there (coursework, leadership activities) are the most important anchors to your candidacy, and any jobs you've held are made all the more impressive with the context that you were simultaneously completing coursework. This holds true for recent grads as well, and it's important for employers to know that this is your first foray into the full-time workforce. There are some times when recent grads might include education at the bottom of their resumes, like if you've worked full-time while completing your degree, or if you're on your second career, but these are rare.
2. Context is critical! When you're in college, it's easy to get swallowed by the bubble of campus life and forget that the outside world has no idea what goes on at your university. Most hiring managers won't recognize the names of your programs or awards (even if they are prestigious!), and unless a club name is super obvious (think: UCLA Screenwriting Society), they won't know what it is. Your tenure with a campus improv troupe is very relevant if you're pursuing a career in comedy, but listing that you were president of Duck Duck Moose on your resume is pretty silly without the context that it's an improv troupe. Make sure you explain anything that an outsider wouldn't know, either with a bullet point establishing context or an added clause, like "Recipient of Jane Doe Award for outstanding campus leadership" instead of just "Jane Doe Award."
3. Your experience doesn't all have to be paid or professional! It's perfectly normal not to have much professional experience while you're a student. And your experience is valuable, even if it wasn't paid or professional. Leadership activities, volunteering, internships, and practicum courses can all be relevant, and may be included in the experience section of your resume. Don't fall into the trap of separating your experience into "relevant experience" and "other experience" -- any experience on your resume should be relevant. If you were involved in a club that isn't really relevant -- like intramural fencing -- you can list it as an activity in the education section. But if you were captain of your intramural fencing team and don't have too much other experience, feel free to list it as a job and highlight all the logistical and leadership elements of that role.
4. Consider what skills entry-level Hollywood roles require. This is a little different for internships and assistant jobs. Internship hiring managers are looking for people who are eager, leaders, good at research, organized, and willing to learn. It's a good idea to lean into impressive achievements from your work, past internships, extracurricular activities, and coursework. On the other hand, hiring managers who are looking for an assistant want someone who can answer phones and handle scheduling, is humble enough to do administrative work, and is resourceful. If your resume showcases only major achievements but doesn't indicate any administrative abilities, it likely won't connect with the hiring team. Unlike most fields that want to hire the best of the best out of school and train them to grow, Hollywood is all about whether you are capable of doing the very basic administrative tasks. You probably can, but make sure that's clear to the hiring team. It can be hard to let go of some of your bigger achievements, especially if your peers applying in other fields are showboating on their resumes, but it's worth it, and you can always save those achievements for interview anecdotes!
5. Student films are great, but not professional. Similar to the above, you don't want to oversell your student films. It's wonderful if you had the opportunity to produce and direct films as part of your coursework! But a resume filled with the title "Producer/Director" is going to confuse hiring managers. They'll either think your resume got lost in the wrong pile, or that you don't have the humility to work your way up the ladder. If your student projects won festival awards, list that as an achievement, or if you can pull skills for PA roles from your time on set, list them as jobs with the clear indication that they were student projects. However, if you're not applying for roles on set, and your projects didn't break out of the school circuit, you may want to minimize them on your resume. You should also consider whether the project is your best work. If the first film you did as a freshman is on your resume and searchable on Vimeo, you can bet the hiring manager can find it and assume that your touting the project is an indication of your skills and taste. The whole point of student films is to practice and refine your skills, so there's no shame if your project isn't perfect -- but it's also not necessarily relevant beyond your overall coursework.
Finally, remember that you can get and do deserve your dream job! And with a great resume, you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd. Good luck!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan