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Who’s Your Competition?

A lot of people have been out of work for a long time. (If this is news to you, congratulations on waking up from your coma! There’s probably a lot of things for you to catch up on.) For the rest of you, that means you’re in a competitive job market, even as more and more jobs are opening up once again.

Last week, I was speaking with an employer who has posted jobs on the TAPA jobboard several times. I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is, this company keeps using the TAPA jobboard to find new assistants and coordinators because when they do, over 90% of the applicants are actually qualified. Apparently, their batting average is way lower on other job sites.

The bad news is, over 90% of the candidates are qualified.

When “Good” Isn’t Good Enough

How do you stand out from 90% of the applicants? You could hope that you’re in the top 10% or even 5%, but at that point, you’re hair splitting. The employer doesn’t even really know who’s in the top 10%. When you’re at that level, the resumes are going to be nearly indistinguishable.

So, you’ll have to find other ways to stand out from the crowd.

Personality

In the entertainment industry, whether on set or in an office, you’re going to be working with the same people for ten, twelve, even sixteen hours a day, day after day, week after week. You’ll see your co-workers more than your family.

Filtering for skills and experience isn’t enough. Your future employer wants to know if they can stand being around you for all the time. Your personality matters a whole heck of a lot. Does that mean you have to be the wacky fun guy?

Not necessarily. That dude may fit into the office culture, but he may not. Be yourself, and hope that’s who they’re looking for.

But be the best version of yourself. Be as positive as you can be. Don’t complain about previous shows you worked on. Be friendly. Ask questions during the interview and really listen to the answers.

Likeable doesn’t have to mean “fun” or “funny.” Pleasant works, too.

Diversity

Hollywood knows they have a diversity problem, and is genuinely trying to improve in this area.

No, seriously.

Twenty years ago, a lot of talented people of color and women were never really given a chance to rise in the ranks. As a result of past discrimination, most of the people at the top today–executives, producers, showrunners, directors, even department heads–are old white dudes.

So, if you’re staffing up a TV show, and you want to hire experienced, talented people and work with a diverse crew, what’s going to happen? The higher-ups will be dominated by old white dudes, but the lower ranks (PA’s, assistants, non-department head crew) will lean towards more women and POC’s.

Since you’re reading this website, I’m guessing you’re probably in the latter group. If you’re a woman, black, Latino, immigrant, whatever, it’s to your advantage to make sure your potential employer knows this.1 Of course, it’s gouache to start your cover letter like, “As an indigenous woman of color, I know what it takes to answer phones and keep your tracking board up-to-date.”

There are other, subtler ways. The name on your resume might be enough to indicate your background, for example. Then again, it might not.

What kind of name is “Will Smith,” anyway?

Including a photo on the resume itself is a bad idea for all sorts of reasons, but you can you still include your photo in lots of unobtrusive places. The profile picture in your gmail account, for example, should be a photo of you, not your favorite cartoon animal. If you have social media accounts that are publicly visible, make sure to include some nice shots of yourself, especially if you can get pictures of yourself working on set.

Apply Early, Not Often

While the employer mentioned above reads every resume that comes in, a lot of people don’t. They see 100 unread messages in the dummy account they had set up to collect resumes, and they’ll likely only skim a few. Once they find ten or twenty qualified candidates to interview, they’ll stop reading.

Getting your resume noticed is as much about timing as anything else. Being the first application will certainly get you noticed.

You should always have a resume and a generic cover letter saved in your email drafts, so you can apply the moment you hear about a job, even if it means sending them from your phone.

The Inevitable Plug

Now, of course, is when I plug the TAPA Patreon. If you back us at the $10 level, you’ll get all of the job notifications early, which of course means you’ll be able to apply to the jobs early.

I can’t really help with your personality or gender, though.



Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)
  1. Sorry, white dudes. You chose to be born at the the only time in American history when it’s not to your job-seeking advantage to be a white dude.
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