How to Write a CV
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So, you want to work in the media? TV, commercial, film production etc. That’s great!
Wait, what’s that? Your Mum doesn’t head up commissioning at the BBC? And your Dad isn’t Steve at the APA? Awkward …
Well I hope you’ve got a killer CV then buddy – or at least, that’s how it can feel sometimes trying to get your foot in the door or of one of the most competitive industries there is.
Your CV is the first impression most potential employers or talent managers will get of you. It is important, therefore, to know some tricks of the trade when it comes to putting together a match-fit CV that will get you one step closer to your dream job.
First things first: at the top of your CV should be your name and the role you are applying for (Runner/PA/Researcher/Camera Assistant/Production Secretary), and then tailor the rest of your CV to that role.
Contact info: just a mobile number and e-mail address will do. You don’t have to list your home address, just where you are primarily based (e.g., London). If you can crash on a friend’s sofa in your old uni town or have an aunt somewhere relevant to the industry (Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff etc.) then list those as secondary bases. This shows you are flexible and can work around the country, potentially (/hopefully) at short notice.
About you: Here just include a short sentence or two about yourself. You may be an experienced runner or just starting out. Maybe mention some key skills or experiences you have – mostly worked in factual, can cope well under pressure, have worked as a PA in different countries – and mention you’re career next steps. You could be ready to step up to be a production assistant or researcher or even just mention a long-term goal to become a producer or to work in advertising more generally. You don’t have to be too specific, it just shows those reading your CV that you are on the right path, you have the drive and ambition, and that you are the right fit for this position.
Key skills: In this section just bullet point some key skills that you have. Definitely have driver’s licence at the top, then include a second language (and level achieved), if you can do first aid then mention that, if you know about kit or can set up a camera and some lights then write that bad boy in this section, PhotoShop/FinalCut/Adobe packages/Data wrangling/any production-related paperwork/working with talent are added bonuses, as well as the standard time keeping, hard-working, team player blahblah skills that everyone possesses. Your skills make you stand out, that’s why it’s worth mentioning them right at the start of your CV.
Credits: first bit of industry jargon – a credit is basically any production you have worked on and the capacity you worked in, not if your name got credited at the end of a show. This could be day runner at the X Factor auditions or data wrangler on the Choir or wardrobe assistant on Game of Thrones. Include standard info about the dates you worked, the production company, and the key roles you carried out. Keep it brief and keep it easy to read.
If you haven’t worked on anything yet have no fear. Think about the jobs you have done and how they can relevant to industry. If you’ve worked in customer service that shows you can deal with the public and think on your feet, if you’ve worked as a temp you can show you adapt well to new situations and new teams easily, if you worked at Starbucks (or even Pret, because media types love a good Pret) you can probably make a mean cuppa and that always goes down well! However, once you get some media experience under your belt then this stuff can be cut.
Be careful about listing too much unpaid work experience, because if you’ve done a lot of work for free you might show you’re keen but ultimately if you’re good you’d be getting paid. You need to big up your personal brand as well. Likewise, employers aren’t that interested in the films you made in your spare time. It goes to character, but if it’s your only experience then you might struggle to get on the ladder.
You can always have an ‘additional experience’ section where you talk about the other stuff you’ve done.
Education is last up (remember it’s who you know, not what you know!) You don’t need an extensive education history, just where you went to university and what you studied.
Final thoughts: this is pretty much standard CV advice across the industry. Don’t believe me? Then check out these sites …
As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that it’s my CV and experience that has gotten me work in the past, much more than through connections or recommendations.
A few words of caution though.
2 pages max is the best rule of thumb (the entire CV should be printable on a single sheet of paper). You might have achieved a lot and worked on loads of stuff, but it is the first two sections (about yourself and key skills) that have the most impact.
Keep consistent - if you’re applying for a camera assistant job but you really want to be a production manager the two things seem pretty incongruous and suggest you’re just applying for anything rather than a specific role that will take you to your next career step. Likewise, don’t say you are a producer/director when you’ve only made one film in your spare time with your mates – it shows you don’t really understand the industry. You want your CV to be easily categorised, so PM’s or talent managers can find yours when they need to hire a runner today to start tomorrow. If sell yourself as a storyboard artist/editor/runner/stylist/creative your CV is probably staying in someone’s inbox rather than somewhere useful (like the top of someone’s ‘to hire’ pile).
Be realistic about the roles you are applying for and how to get them. The best way to do that on a CV is to be direct and kill your darlings. Yes, you might be proud of that horror film opening you made for GCSE Media Studies, but soz pal it’s probably not going to get you an interview for that sweet runner job if you oversell yourself and that’s your only experience.
Make sure you tailor your experience to the role you are applying for and market your skills/experience to maximum effect. Then you can have a specific runner CV, PA CV, researcher CV and so on. Anything that’s not relevant to that role you can get rid of.
Finally, No photos. This isn’t Tinder, this is real life. You might have the perfect selfie – but include it on your CV most employers will laugh at you and will probably swipe left!
Oh, and be subtle when you’re astro-turfing every production company and potential employer in town. E-mail them individually rather than generic e-mails and blank CC’s. We like to feel special and we know when you’re just playing the field.
So … now you are ready to go forth and craft a slayin’ media CV. Next week Joe will hit you up with some top cover letter-writing tips.