So you’ve got a big interview coming up? You don’t want to go in cold. You may think you know everything there is to know about the job just from the posting, but from the hiring manager’s perspective, the differences between people who have taken time to prepare and those who shrugged it off is stark. An interviewer will always be impressed by someone who prepared, primarily because not preparing when the task at hand is really important to you (i.e. getting a job) shows that you're unlikely to prepare for tasks at work that might be less meaningful to you down the line, once you're settled into the job. Here are our three most valuable interview preparation tips:
1. Figure out the logistics. In pre-COVID days, this meant selecting an outfit, considering traffic, and making sure you showed up on time (i.e. ten minutes early) for an interview. But now, most interviews are happening virtually (at least initially). So yes, you still need to choose a professional top that will look good on camera, and it's a good idea to dress well head-to-toe in case of a Zoom fail or simply to feel confident. You also need to find a quiet spot with good lighting and a minimalist background and test your connection on the interview software before the interview. Sure, we all know technological challenges happen, but don’t let this be the thing that causes you to get flustered during an interview.
2. Prepare your interview answers. The “tell me about yourself” question is definitely going to get thrown at you in some form or another, so make sure you’ve come up with an elevator pitch that explains who you are and why you’re applying for this particular job. While there are other common interview questions, you never really know what else your interviewer will ask, or how they'll phrase it. A good way to mitigate surprises is to spend some time thinking about your answers, instead of the questions. We recommend making a list of your proudest achievements and the most notable projects you’ve completed. Under each, flag what the biggest challenges were, what you enjoyed most about them, what skills you used that helped the projects become successful, and what kind of impact they had on the company. Most likely, the things you list will have required a range of skills, and likely some of them will be your biggest strengths. But you also may have learned how to deal with a difficult situation, handle a mistake, collaborate with different personalities, and any other number of things that you may get asked during an interview. Review your list and talk to yourself about it so you get comfortable verbalizing your accomplishments -- you can read the list to a mirror or do a visualization exercise where you picture yourself mentoring someone down the line or being interviewed for a retrospective on your amazing career. The key is to answer these questions confidently and with specific examples, describing anecdotes in detail instead of just saying “oh yes, I’m very organized because I managed a phone sheet” or “I’m a good communicator because I communicated with many people every day.” Plus, a bonus to making this list is that you can revisit it any time you need a confidence booster!
3. Research the company. We’ve said this many times before, but employers want to hire employees who are passionate about the company. This is why it’s imperative that you research the company’s history and projects ahead of time. You may be asked about them in an interview, but even if you aren’t, you can show interest in the role by formulating very specific questions for the end of your interview that someone who wasn’t as invested wouldn’t know to ask. You should also research the people you will be meeting with, which is especially important at smaller companies that may have less of an online presence. If there's a natural opportunity, you can tee up a personal connection you may have to the interviewer. Don't get too personal though -- they're still a stranger! Think: you went to the same undergrad, grew up in the same hometown, worked with the same colleague back in the day. Keep mind, all this research is as much for you to make a good impression on them as it is for them to make a good impression on you. If you come across something questionable in your research, it's important that you find a way to ask about it before accepting an offer; job interviews are a two-way street to make sure the job is a real fit.
Beyond that, get a good night’s sleep, and be yourself! By following these tips, you’re already way ahead of the game!
Interview Coaching Session
A virtual mock interview.
Professionals of all levels with an upcoming job interview or who want to fine tune their interview skills may benefit from an interview coaching session.
You'll send us a job posting that interests you and some background about what you're hoping to gain from this interview -- is it your first job interview (in the industry or ever?), or are you consistently losing out on jobs during the interview phase? You'll then schedule a time to meet with one of us for a mock interview (on Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts), and we'll provide constructive feedback. We've designed the mock interview to mirror a "real" one and expect you to show up prepared and attired the way you would for an actual interview. This service also includes an interview preparation packet that we will share electronically in advance of our meeting.
We offer daytime, morning, evening, and weekend time slots to accommodate your schedule. You may reschedule or cancel your interview for a full refund up to 24 hours in advance of your appointment.
You may reschedule your coaching session or cancel for a full refund up to 24 hours in advance of your appointment. Cancellations and reschedules with less than 24 hours notice are nonrefundable. Please be on time; if you arrive more than 20 minutes late for your session, with or without notice, we will cancel the session, and you can reschedule by purchasing a new coaching session.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Figuring out your salary is the most awkward part of the job application process, and arguably, it's the most important. After all, the main purpose of a job is to earn money -- even if it also comes with the bonus of fulfilling your creative dreams. When it comes to salary negotiations, you don’t want to lose out on a job because you aimed too high with ridiculous 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 (though collective bargaining and social campaigns like #PayUpHollywood are slowly raising the bar on these rates). 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, nor does it mean you should settle for a job that's massively underpaying you.
Unless a company has uniform starting salaries (for assistants, these will often be public information, as many companies promoted their wage increases in the trades in response to social activism), you should negotiate. And certainly, as you move up in your career, you're likely to come across a version of the question, “What are your salary requirements?” in a job interview. But how exactly do you negotiate your salary, particularly in an industry that knows it's competitive?
First of all, do your research before you apply! Glassdoor is a great resource for figuring out average salaries for your title in your area, and Colorado has a new law where employers must publish salaries in job postings, so you can always search for similar jobs in Colorado and do some cost of living calculations to adjust for your area. Figure out what number will be comfortable for you and what's reasonable for the job. This way, if an employer throws out a number that's egregiously below market rate, you'll know to run in the other direction, since underpaying employees isn't usually a sign of a healthy workplace. And if you find that the jobs you're applying for typically pay below your cost of living, you might consider pivoting your job search or adjusting your expectations.
Once you're in the salary conversation, do your best to avoid throwing out a number first. Try to force the interviewer or hiring manager 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, DO NOT give up and tell them your current salary. In California, it’s actually illegal for them to ask, which gives you a big advantage. Start off with a question about benefits – what’s the vacation policy, 401K, insurance coverage, stock options, bonuses, etc. This will allow you to assess how much you need to make as base salary to maintain (or really, to improve – the goal here is to move up in the world!) your current lifestyle. Then, you can offer a range. The range should start at the lowest number you’re willing to take based on how good the benefits are and go up $10-$25k from there, or whatever’s reasonable based on your research. 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. The beauty of giving a range is that it helps you avoid 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!
We can't stress this enough: Make sure the number at the bottom of your range is enough money that you'll feel good about accepting the offer. If you want at least $70K but can theoretically, if absolutely necessary, trim your budget and make some sacrifices for $60K, don't start your range with $60K! Ask for the $70K you want, and if they respond with "Well, we only budgeted $60K for this role," then you can entertain the "theoretical, if absolutely necessary" lower number. In fact, if your number is a little too high, they might just say, "That's more than we had budgeted" and you can ask what the budget they had in mind is. A good employer will respect that this is an important dialogue, and anyone who treats you rudely during this negotiation will likely take advantage of you in other ways. Remember: It's not a shameful secret that people work to make money, or at least, it shouldn't be.
Sometimes, you'll be asked for your salary requirements in a job application, making it tough to negotiate. 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 because the field is required, 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).
And of course, there are times when HR will offer a lowball number, regardless of how you handle the salary question. If this happens to you, counter with your demands, backing them up by reinforcing your qualifications and citing your 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. If you really want the job, see if you can get additional non-monetary benefits -- COVID has made many companies increasingly generous around flex schedules, remote work, and vacation time. It's also okay to turn down the job offer if you can't find a compensation package that works for you -- 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
There’s a lot that goes into a LinkedIn profile, and what belongs in yours will depend on what you’re trying to use it for. But the one thing that is undeniable about LinkedIn profiles is that they require a lot of writing, and like a resume, they have to tell a story! Here are some general guidelines for figuring out what goes into the key sections of your LinkedIn profile:
1. Pinpoint your story. The way you craft your LinkedIn profile is entirely dependent on what you want to use it for, so it’s important to set a target for yourself before you start writing. Who are you hoping might look at your profile, and what do you want them to take away from it after they visit? Many people use LinkedIn as a job search tool (and it might be the best job search tool there is). If this is the case for you, you’ll want to think of your LinkedIn profile as a supplement to your resume – give context for the things that are on there, include additional information that wouldn’t fit, and share personal anecdotes about your proudest accomplishments or main areas of interest. However, if you're using LinkedIn as a sales tool that will bring in new business, you'll want to highlight the main selling points of your business and call out previous success stories. You can even explore becoming a LinkedIn creator, where your profile is more about creating content as a thought leader than for networking. But maybe you're simply using LinkedIn to maintain your network -- LinkedIn is good for that too. Whatever your desired story is, make sure your profile consistently tracks back to it at every touchpoint.
2. Give a good first impression. On a LinkedIn profile, the first impression you give is typically your photo. A picture's worth a thousand words, so don't discount this element as a part of your story! Make sure you select a photo where you look professional, yet approachable. We recommend choosing a photo where you are smiling, dressed professionally (this can differ depending on what your profession is), and your face is clearly visible (i.e. a headshot – doesn’t need to be professionally photographed). People make snap judgments based on your photo, so if you’ve got raised eyebrows and a sarcastic expression going on, some people might think you're quirky, but others might find it off-putting. The goal is to come across as friendly and pleasant – someone people will want to work with! It's not as necessary to have a cover photo, but if you do, make sure it aligns with your story. If you're using LinkedIn to promote your brand, showcasing your logo makes sense. If you're searching for a job, you might be better off without a cover photo, unless there's a pleasant, unobtrusive image that tells employers something about your candidacy.
3. Craft an accurate headline. Choose a headline that aligns with the story you are trying to tell. Often, that will be your title and company name – there’s a good chance that it might be the thing that describes you best professionally. But if you are trying to make a career transition or your title doesn’t really capture the type of work you do, you could pick something more generic (i.e. scripted TV development executive) or something that showcases your goals (events manager seeking transition to entertainment). If you're using LinkedIn to represent your company or grow your personal brand, you can use your headline to indicate a little bit about your differentiators. Keep in mind that your headline will likely change as your navigate different times in your career. Once you get that new role, you have to remember to update your headline from Job Seeker!
4. Write conversationally. One of the greatest things about LinkedIn is that it’s designed to showcase your voice. This is something that doesn’t come across in a resume, since that document is all about using specific keywords to show responsibilities and achievements in a limited amount of space. Think of LinkedIn as a place for someone to get to know more about the real you. If you’re funny, be funny; if that’s not your style, go for what is, but try to sound as if you are speaking to another human in regular conversation. We see a lot of LinkedIn profiles that are copy-pasted from resumes, that don’t give a whole lot of information about the person’s main interests and goals, and/or read like cheesy advertising copy. When writing your summary or entries in the experience section, think about how you'd spell out your job to a friend. Just try to sound like a normal person and you’ll be on the right track.
5. Get personal. As we said, people visiting your profile are trying to get to know more about you, so use the platform to give them what they want! LinkedIn is a great place to get across what motivates you, the career choices you’ve made that have led you to where you are, what your greatest work passions are, and what your goals are. Much of this information can go in the summary, but it can also go in the entries under your various work and volunteer experiences. Feel free to share anecdotes about your favorite projects or some of the more exciting moments on the job – especially the ones that come across in your resume. For example, if you once managed a team of helicopter and drone operators to capture an aerial stunt over the Grand Canyon in the middle of the night and spent 5 months working on it, that’s going to be hard to capture in a resume bullet point (you’d be limited to something like “managed complex production logistics”), but LinkedIn gives you the space to put this kind of information out there – it backs up the claims on your resume and will pique a potential contact’s interest. LinkedIn is also ideal for showing your passion for whatever kind of service your company is offering. Potential clients like to know that they are hiring a vendor whose heart is in the work, so if you can get across what motivates you, it will be a nice boost to your profile.
Just like a resume, writing a good LinkedIn profile really all ties back to your personal story; it’s just a different form of storytelling! And it’s also a continually evolving personal branding tool. Do your best to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and authentic, and it will serve you well in whatever you are using it for!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Most experts will tell you that including measurable achievements is the key to a great resume. And it’s true...but not all measurable achievements make sense for entertainment jobs, and including a ton of metrics can be counterproductive, as it could come off as phony.
Entertainment is a very specialized field, compared to other lines of business. For instance, a job in B2B software sales isn’t terribly different from a job in medical supply sales, and most hiring managers for those roles would be primarily assessing how good of a salesperson the candidate is -- that’s why it would be beneficial to include metrics that show how much you sold or how many new clients you retained.
But in entertainment, the KPIs are different. The biggest “measure” of your achievement is what projects you worked on. If you’re in development, how many projects did you successfully sell or shepherd through from idea to greenlight? Are any of them blockbusters, award winners, or ratings juggernauts? If you’re in production, did you work on top-rated projects? Do you have a niche that you’re really well-versed in, or experience across a variety of genres? If you’re in talent representation, do you have a roster of impressive clients or major deals you’ve closed? Some roles in marketing or corporate strategy may benefit from including growth numbers, but your success is generally going to be measured based on what you worked on and with whom.
That’s not to say that if you don’t have an impressive list of credits, you’re unhireable. In those instances, focus on creating context for your work. Maybe you worked on a bunch of indie features no one has heard of -- but did they make it into film festivals? Did you have to book hard-to-secure locations, wear a lot of hats during all phases of the creative process, and negotiate with vendors to reduce costs? If you work at a small company that’s just getting its feet wet in development, contextualize the scope of your slate, even if you haven’t sold anything. Consider including achievements like streamlining workflows, trimming overhead, launching an internship program...there are plenty of valuable achievements that go along with building a start-up!
Think about it as if you were a hiring manager. Would you rather see a resume that says, “Managed production logistics on set of major blockbuster that yielded $2.8B in global revenue, an increase of 26% from previous film in franchise” or one that says, “Managed production logistics for AVENGERS: END GAME; hired crew, secured locations, and allocated department budgets?” Remember, we work in Hollywood; most of us don’t like math. So put away your calculator, think about what you bring to the table, and write it in plain English!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan