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November 2017 | Georgie McGahey

The following points are the most frequently received items of feedback from employers, be that in the production office or at a production company.

Job hunting is universally difficult. In whatever profession, at whatever stage of your career, sending application forms and endlessly reworking your CV can be tiresome, especially if you find you’re not generating any traction. We have taken all the advice we receive from individuals and companies looking for entry level candidates and incorporated it in our CV advice section on our website. All the information is there for you to digest so we won't cover it in this post. What we will cover, however, are the most frequently received types of feedback from recruiters.

# 5. Inflated job titles.

“I found it quite amusing when some individuals had put down director and DOP as their title. If you were a director or DOP, why would you want to be a runner? I can only put this down to wishful thinking on their behalf, but it’s a waste of time as I just ignored their profiles.” 
G.H - Production company

This is something that crops up time and again. What recruiters are often confronted with are CVs that list credits as directors, producers, DoP’s etc, rather than runners, assistants or interns. If they are looking for a runner, they want to see runner listed under your production credits in the correct area of the business. As the quote correctly points out, if you are that high up the food chain, why are you applying for runner work? So check your profile and make sure it is consistent with your CV and the job roles you're applying for.

Think of it this way, look at the roles we advertise on the site; we make sure they are appropriate for you and your level of experience, which is up to stage three of your career plan. It’s not to say you won't be a director or producer some day, just don’t expect to be regarded as one by the man/woman who is looking at your CV and already has 10 year plus experience under their belt as a director or producer!

What should I call myself then?

You should give yourself the title of the role you are applying for. Be it ‘casting assistant’, ‘floor runner’, ‘personal assistant’, 'receptionist'. Whatever the job is, that is what you are. For example, why would you hire a development assistant as a receptionist for a post-production company? They know your heart isn’t going to be in it and recruiters want to hire members of staff who are going to bring their all to the role, not just until a better opportunity comes up. If you do want to work as a development assistant and that opportunity does come up, isn’t it better to go off and embrace this new opportunity with a great reference to pass on?

So, use the job spec as your guide and customise, customise, customise. Leave no stone unturned, that includes your job title.  

# 4. Don’t state the obvious, get specific.

“We can take it as read that applicants want to work in film. They are applying through a film website and the job is based in film. The successful CVs explained why they want to work in film SALES, be it to learn more about the business aspect to further their aim of being a producer, or because they want to work in Sales, Acquisitions or Distribution. Being passionate about film, while important, is not enough, you need experience through internships & work experience and a focus on why you would like to work in this specific area of the industry.” 
D.D - Film sales company

Two pages fill up quickly, so don’t waffle and waste the space on the page. As the quote above so clearly states, don’t waste that space by telling them how much you ‘have a passion for film’ or generally want to work as ‘a creative’. Just wanting to work in the film industry is rarely enough, recruiters want to see what physical steps you have taken in gaining the experience to do the job advertised. It’s like listing yourself as a director or screenwriter, when you have neither directed or written anything, making the label null and void. Passion is only ever relevant when it has propelled you to further your goals.

Time and again, candidates submit cover letters that really have no relevance to the role they are applying for, it’s just a barrage of how they would do anything to work in the industry. Anything, that is, except actually research and understand the industry it seems. This is especially true for the non-production, such as sales, distribution, acquisitions, finance which are all complex and fascinating areas of the film industry. So if you do apply for these roles, be it intern or full time employee, get researching and make sure you can offer concrete examples of why you want to do this job.  

Again we come back to work experience and internships and how they significantly bolster your CV and knowledge of the professional working world. Despite work experience being a fairly contentious issue for some out there, there is simply no denying that most companies and HoD’s want someone with some practical experience behind them. How does one achieve this? Via work experience, internships or collaborations on short films.

Why should I work for free to get accreditations?

If you read our post, The Value of Work Experience, we cover the pros and cons of working for free. Ultimately, work experience is best taken while you are still studying. You may think that your BA is going to get you where you want to go but we simply cannot stress enough, you really need to make the most of your holiday time by getting some work experience under your belt.

How does this help your CV? It provides employers with an accurate representation of your dedication, initiative in finding the placement in the first place; it gives you that all important industry reference and most of all, a great understanding of the business. There is no denying that work experience and internships are highly prized on the CV for junior roles.

# 3. Spelling and grammar.

“A few candidates were not selected because their CVs had spelling mistakes or confused grammar, which shows a lack of attention to detail and organisational skills. Always double-check your spelling and get someone else to check it on your behalf. First impressions count!”
R.R - Production coordinator

If english is not your first language, or you’re just not that great at spelling, ask another person to go through your application with you. Grammarly is a particularly good app that is free, but it might not offer the ‘sense checking’ often needed. Be sure to get your point across effectively with correct spelling is essential in CV and application writing. Double check for those misplaced letters. You and your, their and there are all spelt correctly, so your spell check will not flag it up, which highlights your lack of attention to detail. You may not be able to see it, but the recruiter will.

Why are recruiters grammatical pedants?

As the lady says, spelling and grammatical errors equal a lack of attention to detail and no one wants to hire that person. What if it’s an office based role and you send out a mail shot riddled with spelling mistakes? What if you have been tasked with the camera or sound report sheets and your handwriting is illegible?

It’s OK if you can’t spell, just make sure you have a system in place to deal with this, whether that’s double or triple checking your work or asking someone else to. If you have gone blind to your own work then make sure you have Grammarly added to your browser, it works with most email or social media apps.

# 2. Research the industry.

“Get your head down and learn as much as you can. Watch movies, listen to podcasts and read, read, read! There are lots of people out there who are giving great advice and opinions online, so educate yourself as much as you can.”
J.N - Development

It starts and ends with research. The most successful candidates, the ones who jump from internship to internship, feature to feature, are the ones who have taken the time to conduct their research and actually implement it. They are the ones who have furthered their knowledge of the industry, understood the job on offer and managed to convey all this in their interview. They are the ones that go to the cinema, read the trade papers, scripts, spend time at kit rental houses or fill up their weekends with short films. They go to festivals and ask questions from the industry panels, go to screenings and generally immerse themselves in their chosen area of the business. This is what it takes to start landing those primary roles, especially within the non production areas of the industry.

Why do recruiters want to see a thirst for knowledge?

Understanding how the film industry works as a business and how a film set or department is run, is key to your progression. Knowledge is indeed power and will provide you with some self assurance in the first few awkward years. As you all know, it’s a very competitive industry to make a living. You have to demonstrate you know what you want and will take matters into your own hands to get it. Successful candidates have a certain quality in common, it’s a career focus and being able to back it up with evidence of activity that pulls them from the crowd, or the CV pile.

So when you see the job add, make sure you know what that job entails and if it's appropriate for you. Fortunately, we have a website containing many thousands of words, dedicated to providing you with a good grounding in the industry. It’s free, so use it.

# 1. Keep it relevant by customising your applications.

“Can't emphasise enough the need to tailor your cv's to each job (or at least one part of the cv). It is hard work but every recruiter is inundated with CVs that all look and sound the same and the extra effort does shine through. A voice emerging from a CV is the first step in sticking out of the pile.”
G.K - Film and Video Production Company

This is the most frequent piece of advice we receive from recruiters, which is why we feel duty bound to share it with you. What recruiters are requesting is a customised CV to the role and their area of the business, which is why we stress this particular point across all our advice and information. If you are unsure how to go about this, check out our CV clinic on the website.

Employers are looking for staff who are going to put 100% into their applications. Anyone can write about being dedicated and driven, it’s those who have made sure their profile, CV and cover are all geared to the role on offer that will stand the best chance of success. It’s the applicants who have gone that extra mile to research the area of industry and add legitimacy to their claims of diligence. They are the ones that pay attention to the job spec, and if the role is listed at a ‘boutique company specialising in off line editing’ they have given information that demonstrates they understand the role of a company specialising in off line editing.

Why do recruiters want you to customise?

It’s simple. They want to know that you want to do the job, not just any job, but the one they have listed. They want to know you are invested, that you’re smart enough to do some research, you have the foresight to take matters into your own hands and get proactive. Those who do not customise and send out the same generic CVs and cover letter are labeled lazy! Now, laziness is something that is far from tolerated in the film industry. You can have an exceptional CV, great personality, but if you are lazy in action or thought you won’t see out the month. Is that want you want to tell recruiters? That you are lazy? So have a good think about your application strategy and heed these five points, they could make all the difference.

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