Student seeking advice: What do you look for on a resume?
Hello! I've posted on this forum before, but to introduce myself again: I'm a student at the University of Alabama in media production. As I continue my education and further my work experience, I'm constantly seeking out internship opportunities and also thinking often about what lies ahead, as I'm only a couple of years away from hitting the door and seeking employment.
Last time I posted I was humbled by the helpful, thorough responses I received, and I certainly am very grateful for any wisdom or advice that can be shared on this matter!
As I seek out new opportunities to get experience, and build my resume, I wanted to ask this: for those of you who may hire production folk out of college, or who take on interns in college, what do you look for on a resume? What sort of experience, skills, or background sticks out to you in a college grad seeking employment? What about applications for internships?
Thank you so much for any help you can give on this matter. I look forward to your replies!
- David Sikes
Don't spell anything wrong on your resume!
Seriously, coming out of college, you generally will not have much to show for yourself, except perhaps some student work and what you say about yourself - so put your best foot forward - but don't exaggerate.
If you put "Photoshop" or "Final Cut" on your resume, make sure you know those inside out.
Opinions vary on this forum, as in the world at large. Some see college as a waste of money, others, like myself, who got their first job partially because of what they had learned in college, tend to think it is a good idea. So try to know something about the folks interviewing you - that's a good question to ask during an interview or phone interview actually.
So it is not so much what is on your resume, it is how your resume relates to YOU and gives a hint at what YOU can do for your potential employer.
PS - If you have a reel, make sure it is available online - such as here on the COW - and keep it brief and to the point. There is no excuse for not having your reel online nowadays. Years ago I met one of the honchos at ESPN - he told me if he is sent a reel he throws it in the garbage - he wants to hear from people what they can do for him.
Tie a few key points from the resume into a paragraph in your custom cover letter for each job you apply for. The cover letter is important, but keep it to a one sentence intro, and three very trim paragraphs that outline your best bits in the resume and refer to it as being enclosed, and a final two sentence paragraph that says why you're a good candidate and that asks for an appointment "to discuss your needs further." You pitch this not as a supplicant; asking to be given something, but rather, as an applicant, someone with skills and talent to offer them, to apply to their needs.
Absolutely do not make a single grammatical or spelling error, anywhere. I would reject any such application, even if the applicant was otherwise a video god, because to me it points to someone who is sloppy, not detail-oriented, (In a job where details DO matter) and didn't want the job bad enough to work all that hard to polish the application. That's a personal quirk of mine, but I think a lot of other folks subscribe to it as well. So is punctuality: especially in broadcast, if you can't be on time, you can't work. Be early if it helps, but never be a second late. Make every filing deadline with a margin to spare.
Since many of these letters and resumes now are run first thru an automated filter system, be sure you have used appropriate "keywords" including the brand names of the editing systems, software, and cameras you use. If the job ad stated Avid as a requirement, you'd better by god at least mention Avid somewhere in the resume and cover letter. That way the stupid automation will pass your resume on up to a human being to read, instead of automatically round-filing you.
When someone is young or lacks a long work history or has gaps in the work history, I suggest they organize the resume in what's called a "functional" form, versus a chronological one. A functional resume groups your best experience and talent in related sections. It creates a clear relationship of the skills, all pointing to the parts of your skill set that best fit the specific job opening you apply for. That means you re-do this resume for EVERY specific job you apply to, and the cover letter as well.
An example would be for a resume geared for an editing job, under a slug or heading of "Post-Production/Editing Skills", you'd list the top three or so edit jobs you did, regardless of their chronological order (don't even give the dates), stressing instead that one taught you audio sweetening techniques, for example, the second one let you stretch your compositing skills (keyword) using Adobe AfterEffects (keyword) to animate a complex medical technique, and the third one got you an award (name of award) for a public Service (PSA) campaign, for which you were responsible for functions, x,y, and z.
So your functional resume may have a general goals statement at the top, that relates to the specific job. Then down the left margin, covering about a third of the page vertically, I run my headings or slugs and across from them, tightly written descriptions as in the above example. I make good use of white space to define and highlight these.
There may be three to five of these headings, depends on the job you apply for. One could cover your pre-production skills, the next, your shooting/lighting skills or accomplishments. The next, your editing and compositing experience. Finally, if there's room, a section on how well you work with clients or for bosses, any special kudos or endorsements you have, any awards, any evidence you are a self-starting continual learner, that kind of good stuff. It could also cover the highlights of your recent schooling, if you studied under any teacher of professional note, etc.
Leave off hobbies and other interests unless they directly relate to work.
End with a summation statement that says these skills are why you feel you're best qualified, when you're ready to start, and that references are available upon request. Put a link to your reel on the bottom, as well as email and phone, and you had better check that it works.
ALWAYS follow-up every resume you send with a thank-you note that thanks them for their time and attention, reviews (briefly) one unique or best facet of your wonderful resume as a tickler to remind them which guy or gal you are, and says you'll call to follow-up. And then make that call when you said you would, without fail. Don't forget to actually ASK for the job, close the deal, as it were. Or at least ask for the interview to be set. Do not commit to naming a salary; if asked, "commensurate with market rates and my experience level, I know we can come to a fair arrangement about that" and "We can negotiate about that when you make the offer" works.
Willingness and ability to learn
Note to original poster:
See thread immediately above this one.
My advice...put that you will actually show up when you say you will!
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog
I ran the production intern program at two different stations I worked at, and I would have to agree with most everything posted above.
Let me add this.
Things I don't care about.
Hobbies, interests, 'goals', your politics. For an internship, I don't even care about your reel. In fact if your reel is too flashy, I might think you can't, or won't do mundane work, which a lot of production really is.
Things I care about.
Show up on time, ready to work. Leave the drama at home. Internships are about learning, be ready to learn. If you are working your way through school, especially in a non-industry job, put it on your resume'. IMHO those that had outside jobs, and put themselves through school always had a better work ethic, so those resume's went in the 'A' pile.
SST Digital Media
When I interviewed for my final internship - you know what they observed in my reel? A match frame edit with a field error. This was a head switch caused by a poorly functioning A-B roll edit controller at our school. I seem to recall working through the night to finish that 30 sec spot for a campus advertising customer for that exact reason.
Kids these days - if you only knew about the technical trivialities of linear editing. Those were the days!
Even that experience was valuable - when I got my first paid editing job it was in an ACE 25 edit bay cutting from MII to 1" - head switches all around!
Not exactly what you were asking but a short time after an interview send them a thank you letter.
**Hindsight is always 1080p**
First, sorry for my cynical comments, but perhaps they'll be somewhat helpful in understanding the perspectives of many of the people you'll deal with since there's a pretty high chance you'll come across others in our industry who take the same approach to this subject after having tried repeatedly to be more flexible ...
My short answer to "What do you look for on a resume?" is nothing ... I'm not hiring a piece of paper.
I've found all too often that resumes are now worthless in our business because a very simple rule I only saw broken on very rare occasion throughout the years I was coming up is clearly considered silly by most now ... the rule of never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, claim other people's work as your own ... whether in part or in whole.
Similarly, like Mike's suggestion that "If you put 'Photoshop' or 'Final Cut' on your resume, make sure you know those inside out.", I've found that most people now interpret that concept to mean that, if they've heard of something before, it's ok to put it on their resume since they can always Google it and figure it out when their bluff gets called (notice I said "when", not "if").
The result of those two issues is that the only things that matter to me anymore are:
1] the person's work (even if just projects from school)
2] concrete proof that "their work" is in fact "their work"
3] what, if anything, of their resume commentary is true
I consider the answer to that last question useful as an indicator of character, but the first two cover everything else, which is why resumes are a distant third consideration to me.
Best of luck in your endeavors!
Dave Johnson: the rule of never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, claim other people's work as your own ... whether in part or in whole.
Unfortunately, that will NEVER end. I think the majority of people we've hired over the years put stuff (lots of stuff) on their sample reel that they didn't actually do. I've seen camera operators put elaborate, high-end videos on their samples claiming the entire video as their own. I've seen freelancers who shot for two days of a 5-day shoot put the entire finished video on their sample reel as if it was their own.
I've seen editors put high-end composited graphic segments on their reels because they cut together the handful of elements that the compositing artist gave them and again...claim the entire piece as their own. Time and again we've hired people and a few weeks later sat down and asked ourselves...did they do ANYTHING that was actually on their reel...because the stuff they were creating wasn't anywhere close to the quality or creativity of the stuff on their demo.
So maybe the better advice to the OP here is...IF you want to keep a job, DON'T do that!
The flip side of that is we once got a reel from a college student that was fair at best. But he was a great kid, with a super work-ethic. He interned for us first, and he was so good we hired him. But if you had looked at his reel alone, you'd have never hired this guy. So reels have to be viewed with a level of cynicism in my book.
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Read our blog http://www.videomi.com/blog
I haven't replied to any comments yet, but I have been reading them, and I thank you all for the responses you've given.
Mr. Cohen and Mr. Susko, thank you both so much for such detailed, thought out responses. I know those take time to type, and I greatly appreciate the wisdom offered. Everything y'all said really stuck out, and I thank you both.
To all others who have replied, thank you for the responses given. I've heard stuff that y'all pointed out (sending thank you letters, expressing the fact that I WILL be there when I say I will, etc.) but it makes a huge difference hearing it from those of you in the industry than just hearing it from professors and advisors at school! It makes such wisdom very real and grounded, and I sincerely thank you all for your responses.
I admit that the variety of posts has given me some confusion of the importance of a reel, as it seems that different people hold reels to differing levels of importance; though I think the general consensus is that it is very important to have a well put-together, HONEST reel.
Much like the last forum I received such answers to, I'm copying/pasting the link to this one and sharing it with some of my fellow students. :)
Again, thank you!
Hooray for the Cow!
- David Sikes
In most cases college grads hired for production are not given projects with high levels of complexity right out of the gate. We like to train people in our company's particular way of working first. So a reel may show that you HAVE some experience, but not necessarily that you ARE experienced - remember I am talking about new hires out of college, not new hires with 5+ years of experience.
If I see a reel with some fancy effects, I may ask how you did that, or even have you show me.the reels of the three final contenders of our most recent hire varied from great to poor, but we knew we were hiring someone we would be moulding to our needs, so we judged attitude then aptitude.
[Chris Blair] "Unfortunately, that will NEVER end."
You made very good points, Chris. That one was part of my point ... from what I've seen, that's gotten much worse in recent years. So, especially straight out of school, perhaps emphasis shouldn't be put on resumes or reels, but on exhibiting things like ethics, reliability, drive and trustworthiness (i.e., in a business where people deal with hundreds of thousands or millions in equipment). Those attributes can't be gleaned from a resume or reel, but fluffed resumes and/or reels can prove all of those things severely lacking.
[Chris Blair] "got a reel from a college student that was fair at best. But he was a great kid, with a super work-ethic"
Again, I couldn't agree more and that's been my experience too. I wasn't saying I look for whizz-bang reels or resumes ... when I said all that matters is the work and proof that it's their work, I meant in terms of evaluating  the attributes mentioned above (i.e., by the integrity of the resume and reel, not necessarily quality) and  potential (i.e., the mechanics of shooting or editing can be taught, but it's hard to teach things like "a good eye", yet that can often be seen from even an otherwise unimpressive reel).
David Sikes "the variety of posts has given me some confusion of the importance of a reel"
I'm sure my post was one of those so I apologize and will try to clarify further. Especially straight from school, in my opinion, neither the resume nor reel is particularly important since there usually isn't much to draw from for either and everyone knows that. So, either can cause more harm than good if you focus too much on them and start fluffing, which is very common. In other words, there are people I've gotten resumes and/or reels from 10 years ago that I wouldn't hire to this day because the amount and/or degree of outright lies on either or both told me more than enough about their character. In my opinion, a person's character doesn't change as time goes on, but their skills and experience do.
And, of course, all of these issues vary to some degree depending on the position a person is going for ... neither a resume or reel is that important for a PA job, but personally, I wouldn't hire someone with a fluffed resume or reel even as a PA since the idea isn't for them to be a PA forever. I'd much prefer a PA who is ethical, reliable, driven, trustworthy, etc. so he/she will eventually be a Producer with those same attributes, rather than one with an impressive resume or reel and nothing to back any of it up.
I hope my two cents is helpful.
David Johnson - "Especially straight from school, in my opinion, neither the resume nor reel is particularly important since there usually isn't much to draw from for either and everyone knows that."
That is a hugely comforting statement. Don't misunderstand - my fellow students and I work hard to get involved with as many productions as we can fit into our schedule (when not doing math homework, of course;) ) But it really is very comforting to know that it is understood that we don't have much to put on a reel. Personally, as I work on my grading reel, it can feel pretty lame only having a handful of productions to pull footage from.. so it's very comforting to know that it's not expected to have lots and lots of productions to draw from. If anything, I bet that's where people begin to pad their reels.
It's even more comforting to know that integrity, work-ethic and honesty are held in high esteem. That's not to say that people should fake those things for the sake of getting jobs (they really should be reward enough on their own), but it's encouraging to know that those traits are appreciated at a higher level, as well.
The post above (I think I'm done) left a similar impression.
- David Sikes
Do not cater to what you think I would like to hear since you likely don't know my business plan.
Say what you do and realize that while you need a job, you also would like to be hired by the right person. An interview is truly a two way process.
The Truth.... Did I already mention that?
So when is the Scarlett coming out again 2009, 2010, 2011...
I can teach capability. What I can't fix is someone who thinks it's a good idea to kick off a modern resume with "objective".