As a hiring manager, I’ve looked at hundreds of resumes and filled numerous positions throughout my career. The competition is especially fierce when it comes to entry level positions and your resume will make or break you in these situations. With hundreds of people applying, what most audio directors won't tell you is that we're actively looking for reasons to exclude candidates and file their resumes into the recycling bin. There simply isn't enough time to interview every single applicant so we have to be strict.
So how do you keep your resume from getting filed into the NO pile?
Before I get into specifics, I should state one simple fact that a lot of people seem to forget: The goal of your resume should be to generate enough interest to get yourself an interview. Nothing more, nothing less.
A resume shouldn't be a complete history of everything you've done since you worked part-time at Office Depot. The best resumes are ones that grab my attention and don’t distract with unnecessary fluff. Highlight your key achievements, keep things lean, and avoid any reason for a hiring manager to file your resume away.
Now without further ado, here are the five simple steps to improving your resume:
1. State your achievements
A lot of resumes end up being boring lists of what a candidate did at a particular job. Well, you can do better than this. I can already infer from a job title what you were involved with. Rote job descriptions end up becoming noise very quickly and what you don't want is to blend into the background with the rest of the other candidates. That's a quick trip into the NO pile. Use the space instead to tell me what makes you unique from everyone else. You can talk more about your day-to-day duties during the interview. Remember: your resume is just a tool to generate interest and make me want to ask more questions about you.
So rather than rote job descriptions, you should always focus on your achievements. An achievement can be anything from the time you helped the team make their ship date on "Halo 12" by working for six weeks straight to the cool VBScript you wrote that saved yourself twelve hours of implementation time. Keep in mind that audio directors are trying to pare the candidate pool down to a manageable number of interviews, generally 25-30 tops for an entry level position. If you don’t have anything on your resume to help it pop, then chances are that it will get lost in the shuffle.
2. Quantify your ACCOMPLISHMENTS
This is another common oversight: stating your accomplishments but then failing to back them up with quantifiable data. It’s incredibly simple but it makes all the difference in the world.
For example, instead of simply stating "Assisted with implementing VO into the game" a much better way of saying this would be to be say "Assisted with implementing 10,000 lines of VO into the game over a three-month period". This tells me several things: 1) that you are able to manage large amounts of data and 2) are capable of working under short deadlines.
These small details add up in making an impression on the person looking at your resume. Not only does this let the hiring manager know the exact extent of what you did, but numbers also help to draw the eye and give your resume some extra pop.
3. Share your interests
Here’s another little secret: there are usually too many applicants for us to remember everyone by name. When discussing candidates internally we’ll often refer to someone simply as the person who did such-and-such (i.e. "the person who worked on God of War"). Therefore, anything you can do to stand out (for the right reasons, of course) will be to your benefit. The best way is doing so through your achievements as I mentioned earlier. However, another simple hack to being memorable is to include an Interests section at the bottom of your resume. Use this to tell me what makes you unique from every other candidate.
For example, I once had an applicant who put on his resume that he enjoyed restoring vintage arcade machines. Despite being one of 250+ potential hires, this sliver of information helped me to remember him as we gradually whittled down the applicant pool. I began to refer to him as “that guy who restores arcade machines”. The candidate already had strong qualifications but made even himself more memorable with this tidbit of info. While a person's interests have no direct bearing on a hiring decision, it helped to humanize his resume and gave me an inkling of what it would be like to work with him. In the end, after a grueling series of interviews, he got the job.
Although this goes against established resume writing practices, in the creative fields you have some leeway for personal expression and can use this to your benefit. Just remember that a little goes a long way. This can easily backfire and turn off a hiring manager if you come off as unprofessional.
Also a note on "creative" resumes featuring colors, images, sounds, etc: I haven't come across many of these personally but the general consensus is that anything that gets in the way of presenting your information is distracting. Keep in mind that most audio directors are very busy people and will probably spend no more than a minute looking at a resume. If you choose to go down this path, presenting your information in a clear and concise manner should be of the utmost importance.
4. Watch for typos
This should be common sense but you would be amazed at the number of typos that I see on people's resumes. In an industry where attention to detail is critical, please don't be that guy or girl. Remember we’re trying to get an idea of what it’s like to work with you. Chances are that if your resume is sloppy then your work will be sloppy as well. While some hiring managers may not be as picky as others, any blunders that stick out are just another reason to have your resume filed away in the NO pile. This applies not just to spelling errors but typeface and formatting mistakes as well. Check that your tabs and fonts are consistent and that your visual presentation is clean.
5. Keep your resume fluff-free
An experienced hiring manager can spot a padded resume from a mile away. If you have something on your resume that has no bearing on your professional attributes then you should ask yourself if it really needs to be there. Irrelevant info on a resume simply gets in the way of the key information that I'm looking for and not to mention becomes tiresome. You don't want to include anything that could be a potential turnoff to a hiring manager. Therefore I always advocate in keeping your resume simple and lean.
Good examples of unnecessary items are:
- “References available upon request” - If I need references, I’ll ask for them. No need to state that on your resume.
- References - Same as above. The only possible exception is if you’ve worked with some well-known names that give yourself some clout. Even then I would only list them if it doesn't clutter up your resume.
- Objective statement - If you’re applying for a specific position then it’s already clear what your objective is.
- Unrelated job experience - Unless you can convince me that working at GameStop has helped you with creative problem solving, it’s usually best to leave this off.
If you take only one thing away from this article, it should be that your resume is just a tool to generate interest and land yourself an interview. Highlight your key achievements, keep things lean, and avoid any reason for a hiring manager to file your resume in the NO pile. Be memorable. Make yourself unique. If you don’t get the gig, remember that a lot of factors go into a hiring decision. Ask for feedback if possible. Even though audio directors are very busy people, most are happy to help if they have the time.
Also, you may have noticed that I've avoided the elephant in the room but I'm saving demo reels as a future discussion. That really needs its own article.
I hope this helps someone and good luck.