A few months ago I met a young woman who was struggling to find a job in film or TV. “I can’t understand why I can’t find a job”, she told me.”Can you have a look at my resume”? The first thing I noticed was her e-mail address, oopsiepoopsiecutsie@__________.com. The next thing I saw was a description of her personal qualities:”I am an energetic people person, who genuinely likes to help people”.
“Do you want my honest appraisal”, I asked her? When she replied she did, I told her: “no offense, but your resume makes you sound like a 13 year old Mother Theresa”.
Make no mistake: your resume is a sales tool that is essential for landing a job in film, TV or media. However, most of the hundreds of resumes I have read or received contain the same kind of mixed message I call the Mother Theresa syndrome: a desire to be liked and appreciated for great qualities while downplaying technical skills and experience.
Here are the top 5 mistakes that will cost you the job, or at the very least make sure that your resume will end up in the waste paper basket.
Highlighting personal qualities instead of the qualifications required for the job (The Mother Theresa syndrome). When I receive a resume, I am sure to find the phrases, “I am a people person” a “real go getter” or my favorite, “I am an energetic and dynamic person who gets along well with people”. Here is the problem: the employer is hiring you to solve a creative or technical problem – they are not interested in having a kumbaya moment with you. When you brag about your personal qualities instead of highlighting your skills, your resume is a candidate for rejection. So, instead of telling them what a great person you are, tell them why you are a great candidate for the job!
Lying or exaggerating about your experience. This is an automatic job killer. You must be absolutely truthful when you submit a resume. This means you do not exaggerate your experience or claim you have worked on projects when you haven’t. The same goes for enhancing your job role on a project. If you were a production assistant, say so: don’t claim you worked in the camera department. Your mother was right - If you lie, you will be found out. Lying or exaggerating your experience is a career killer.
Using a template off the internet. I am amazed at how every resume I read looks the same. The reason for this is simple: writing a resume is hard work, so why not use a template to make it easier? The answer is also simple – because your resume will be identical to everyone else’s! But there is another reason why this is a mistake. All of the templates available on the internet result in a text dense, hard to read resume that is poorly formatted. This is important because a screener only has a few seconds to scan each of the hundreds of resumes they receive for every job. Instead of using a template, use a format that is easy to scan, easy to read and presents the facts that make you ideal for the job.
Using an objective statement to start your resume. Most of the advice on writing resumes comes from the business world. As a result, much of the advice on how to write a resume for the entertainment industry is based on bad advice. Here is what we mean by an objective statement: “I am seeking an entry level position so I can develop my skills with the ultimate goal of becoming a director on feature films”. And, who can resist adding what a great team player and problem solver they are. Here is the problem: no matter how well written, it comes across as egotistical. Does a person who is hiring you to fill a technical position on a set care about your career ambitions or perceived qualities? They do not! Instead of using an objective statement, use the space to show the employer why you should be hired for the position.
Including the statement, “references available upon request”. The film/TV/media world is a fast paced industry. The screener will not have time to contact you for information about your references. But, including references is not the correct strategy either. Who in their right mind would provide references who will not give them a good recommendation? Everyone knows this including the person reading your resume. Instead, there is a way to avoid the issue altogether, while providing you with a real advantage over the other job seekers.
So what happened to the young woman who used the primary school era e-mail address and described her qualities in almost angelic terms? I worked with her to construct a professional resume one that highlighted her experience and skills. Guess what? She is now working in the industry.
Finally, as my supervisor told me one day on set, “...you want to be remembered because of your skills, what you contribute to the project. If you want to be appreciated because you are a nice person –adopt a pet”. The same advice can be applied to your resume. Highlight your skills and let you friends appreciate you for your great qualities!
To learn how to write a winning resume, one that will get you a job, go to our workshops page. We can show you how to create a resume that avoids these common mistakes while providing you with a powerful tool for finding a paying job.