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Stage Managers: Preparing your Resume for International Work

Resume for International Work
By Anna Robb

A while ago, a stage manager approached me and asked me for advice on getting international work. I asked him to send me his resume, which came as exactly I expected. It was presented in the format all stage managers are trained to present their resumes in the USA. But here’s the problem; this format means little to nothing for foreign employers unless they are well connected to the performing arts industry in the States. So how do you prepare your resume for international work?

As Head of Stage Management for 8 years on a show in Macau, China, I saw a lot of resumes. Hundreds, even. And when a stage manager resigned and gave the expected three months notice, I had to move fast because visas in Macau take three months to get. However long it took me to get a new stage manager, this was the period of time I would be short staffed, which strained my team.

I always had a stack of good resumes I kept in preparation but I would constantly be looking for others to add to the pile. I disliked resumes that were difficult to read, formatted badly, named obtusely, or over sold on their skill set.

If a resume didn’t give me what I wanted in the first two minutes, it would end up on the scrap pile. Over this time, I developed my “expectations” so to speak of what I wanted to see in a resume and how I wanted to receive it. If stage managers who applied to the show fit this criteria, this would demonstrate to me that they were aware of the environment they were applying to and for. They then found themselves in the ballpark of being able to make it to our team in China.

Back to the stage manager who reached out to me. I sent him the list below, which is a summary of my expected “criteria” and I asked him to reformat his resume.

Now I am by no means an authority on what people want to see in terms of skill sets when hiring internationally, but there are a few things you can do to your resume that will surely please international recruiters…

1. Save and send your resume as a PDF file.  Sending a Word or Pages file is “amateur”.

2. Save As “YOUR NAME.MONTH.YEAR”  Do not save the document under the file name “Resume”.  Someone may file it away haphazardly and you will never be found again. Ex: Joe Smith.CV.March 2019.pdf

3. If you are sending a cover letter, save the file using the same format as your CV: Joe Smith.Cover Letter.March 2019.pdf  (Do not send a cover letter in the body of the application email – annoying).

4. Add your country code to your phone number. You are sending your resume overseas, don’t make the future employer search for the country code to call you. For example: +852 0000 0000 (and yes, we all know the USA is +1 and we wouldn’t have to look that up but still……)

5. Be creative with your resume format.  Most organizations do not expect to see standard business formatting like in the past, especially entertainment companies. Take the opportunity to highlight your personality and style. And as a stage manager, it is a huge opportunity to demonstrate your capability in communicating information clearly and succinctly (which is super important when applying to work in a foreign country to stage manage and communicate to a cast from 35 countries).

6. Proof it. Double check it. Get a friend to check it. Do not send a resume with spelling and grammatical errors and mistakes.

7. Make yourself accessible. Provide multiple ways for an employer to communicate with you: Skype, WhatsApp, WeChat, Email address, Phone number, Voxer. If you don’t have these apps on your phone, get them. If companies contact you to ask for a time to chat, go to World Meeting Planner. Look up the employer’s time zone and your time zone and set aside dates and times that work for you, listing both time zones. By doing this, it makes it easier for the employer at the other end to schedule their time. This means, before the meeting has even happened you have won “brownie” points for making their life easier.

8. Add specific details. Rather than simply listing your past employment, expand on some of the last projects/shows/gigs that you have worked on and include your duties and responsibilities. Keep it short and precise. Overseas employers may not be familiar with the projects/shows/gigs you are referencing so make sure they understand what your role was within them.

9. Colour or no Colour? Many of my colleagues and I have debated about colour on a resume. As someone who has scanned through hundreds of resumes, I like colour, I remember colour. Don’t be afraid to use it but keep it simple and subtle. And make sure that if you use colours, that they are contrasting and bold enough to still look good on a black & white print out.

10. Watch your page length. Many employers prefer to see a resume that is 1-2 pages only.

11. Links/Video: If you have footage of the shows you have done online, provide links. Any interviews you have done also. People love to watch rather than read and it makes your resume a little more engaging.

12. A photo of you: still debatable. The jury is still out on this one. I don’t mind a photo when I receive it as when you look over a hundred resumes it is another distinguishing feature that helps you be remembered. I think this is purely an individual preference. You may not want to be judged by a profile photo by future employers but regardless, you can be sure that you will be searched on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google so keep your online presence clean and respectable.

13. Most importantly, be honest. Please be honest. Don’t over-sell what you have done. The industry is so small and chances are that an employer (even an international one) can make a few calls and get in touch with someone you have worked with to verify your work and experience.

There you have it! Time for resume version 2.0 if you are looking to pick up work overseas.

I’m also happy to report that the stage manager who asked for my advice, did amend his resume (very nicely in fact) and has recently scored a stage management gig in Dubai, relocated there, and can now call himself an international stage manager. I hope you can do the same!

PS. Speaking of spelling on resumes, I was totally torn in writing this article for an international crowd with the spelling of resume/resumé/résumé. Even dictionary’s can’t seem to agree and say all are acceptable, with each version varying as most popular depending on the country… Suffice to say, it’s a no win for me and I am sure to have offended a reader by going with the version without any accents. If I have, do accept my sincerest apologies.

Resume for International Work

Also by Anna Robb:

Environmentally Friendly Travel: Tips For Those On The Move

Evaluating Stage Managers: 5 Tips For Giving Performance Reviews

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