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The Good the Bad and the Ugly of Resumes

June 2021 | Georgie McGahey

Want to know what employers are looking for - then read our advice from the industry to new members of the industry ...

The Good the Bad and the Ugly of Resumes Image

Part of our job is to help you understand what the industry is looking for from their junior recruits. We do that through our resources, our 1-2-1 sessions with our Pro members, and our Facebook group where you can come and chat it through. What comes as a shock to most people when they start to look for work in the industry is the resume - not the showreel - is your calling card and ultimate marketing tool. This is why it needs to be epic to succeed. 

We see A LOT of resumes and we speak to A LOT of people in the industry; from production managers to client services to office managers, all looking to fill those junior roles. What we hear time and again is:

  1. The resumes were geared towards the wrong area of the industry, for example, camera work when applying for a position in post-production.
  2. Their resumes were too long and just listed their student productions.
  3. Overinflated job titles; this is such a major no-no.

So what does a good resume look like?

If you look at our resume advice we have laid out comprehensively the key criteria you need to hit. Yes, indeed; short, sharp, and punchy are the three watchwords for your first industry resume. When you can add a bit more meat to the bones of your resume you can start to add some creative license.

We’ve cut to the chase and asked the industry what they want from their interns’ and junior staff:

What makes the resume shortlist?

  • A well-written cover letter is crucial. It needs to provide evidence as opposed to just statements of experience.

  • Good presentation. I respond not just to a neat resume, but a resume with some flair as this is an aesthetic industry.

  • A concise resume that is no more than a page and a half.

  • I want to see relevant experience with relevant companies/people within the industry.

  • They should be thinking about what I need, rather than putting their career/life first.

  • Their resume and how they present themselves on paper should be professional in every way.

  • A good cover letter that shows they are actually interested in the job and the company and not just chucking the resume to all and sundry.

  • A personal email beforehand saying ‘I am applying’, it shows interest in the role.

  • A resume that shows what they have achieved, not just a list of job responsibilities.

So don’t forget about your non-industry experience and how it translates to the film industry. If you have solid skills that transfer to the job on offer, you're bringing an asset with you. Career changers should bear this in mind when creating your film industry resume, think about what you have to offer them that translates. Architects have always happily found a home in the art department, going straight in as art directors. If you have been working in the financial sector you might find your home in film sales or finance. Business is a universal language, only the industry changes. 

If your resume has dazzled them, you’ll be invited for an interview or asked to go in for a few hours for a trial. The film industry is people-driven, so how you navigate yourself around the workplace is key to gaining that first job. So what are they looking for during an interview?

  • They understand the area of the industry they are interested in and have a passion for the business that will motivate them.

  • They should demonstrate their knowledge of production companies and certain individuals they admire.

  • Someone who is personable and passionate. I want to know they want to do the job and want to work for us.

  • Evidence of being a self-starter.

  • Someone I like. I need to be able to get on with them.

  • Evidence they have researched the company and job, clear expressions of interest in what we do (the number of times I have asked people “What do you know about Working Title” and the answer is “not much really” – look online it is not hard.

  • Someone with questions to ask - then listens to the answers.

  • Enthusiasm can’t be underestimated.

  • Detailed preparation – around 1 in 5 would come in with a list of written questions, or notes to refer to. Don’t be afraid of making notes and referring to them. An interview is a stressful process, you shouldn’t be expected to remember everything immediately – referring to notes is evidence you have prepared properly.

Remember interviews aren't just about the company getting a feel for you, it’s also about you getting a feel for them.

Interviews can be stressful, but ultimately, it’s just talking to people. You need to show them your unflappable side. So be prepared, think about what they might ask you, and go through our interview checklist, which you can find here.

The last question we asked was “What would they tell their 20-year-old selves when they were just starting out in the film industry?”

  • Listen to people and if they ask or tell you to do something show that you have heard – mistakes aren’t a problem but not learning from them is.

  • Be yourself – some production PA’s are all jazz hands and ‘aren’t I crazy’. That can be annoying, care about what you do and do it well no matter what it is. People above you just want to know you are a nice person and you can do your job well. If you do crappy jobs well you will soon be given a good job to do.

  • Don’t wait around for what might be a perfect position - get involved and find who you want to work with.

  • Don’t be afraid to work for a company for a couple of years at the start while you work out what exactly you want to do.

  • Do all the internships you possibly can. Even if you want to work in development don't turn down other opportunities to gain experience in other areas, commercial, marketing etc. Get your foot in the door and make your contacts because you can mention to someone the area you eventually want to work in, and they may have a contact for you.

  • Don't wait for people to get back to you, be more persistent with the people you want to work for. 

So read our full resume advice, listen to the words of the industry, and avoid the pitfalls. 

Get in touch with us if you would like to share your experience of the film industry.

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