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For The Job Seeker Part 1: The Resume

By Michael Cassera

Part 1: The Resume

I recently gave a talk at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas to junior and senior theatre students. Among the questions, I was asked how to craft an effective resume.  Interestingly this has always been a reliably frequent topic of conversation. Versions of the same question come up when I sit for Q & A’s in the theatre, when I visit college classrooms, and in other professional and educational settings.

Despite the clear value of this topic, the information seems somehow hidden. Ineffective resumes come across my desk more often than not, so when I serve as a panellist or a guest lecturer, I’m pleased to field resume-related questions from both emerging technicians and other theatre folks.

In my department, the most common position is followspot operator/technician. Oftentimes, people undervalue the importance and impact of followspot operation. I have seen this attitude in the resumes that have come across my desk and in the interviews I have conducted. Followspot operators have a direct impact on the quality of the show. Here’s the thing – you might not notice a good operator but you definitely will a bad one. A candidate who tells me that the job is “just a followspot” won’t be a candidate for long.

How do you increase your chances of getting the interview and, ultimately, the job? Your resume is your first shot at getting somebody’s attention. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting the right information in front of the hiring manager. Applicants often submit designer resumes while applying for a followspot position. A list of shows and the directors you worked under doesn’t tell me much about your qualifications to be a followspot.  If you don’t communicate whether you have the right skills to be a followspot operator how can you move forward to an interview and audition? Make sure your resume is appropriate for the position.

Consider including the venues you’ve worked, the length of time you worked them, and a concise list of your jobs and responsibilities.

A list of shows is not necessary and takes up valuable page space on your resume. If you are applying for a followspot position, emphasize your followspot work, but be sure to have your other relevant experiences listed, as well. Most theatres look for followspot operators who are also well-rounded technicians.

For example, when I interview a candidate, I’ll want to look over the kind of gear they’ve worked with. So, you’ve run a followspot – what manufacturer? Observation has shown me that experienced followspot operators have opinions on different manufacturers’ lights. Applicants who don’t know what they’ve operated in the past tend to not have much experience. You’ve also worked on moving lights – what kind? What level of work was done? Did you hang them on a truss and patch cables? Have you changed lamps and aligned them? Have you torn them apart and changed bulkheads? This is the type of information I need to assess your knowledge, ability, and fit. Include it on the resume. Just remember to be concise.

I also look at computer and organizational skills because we maintain a lot of documentation. Knowing that you had the responsibility to maintain cable inventory at your previous job, for example, will be seen as an asset. Don’t spend too much time on this kind of information, though. One sentence will do. Save more details for the interview.

Perhaps this should go without saying, but don’t underestimate the importance of proofreading.

Remember, we tend to look for detail-oriented people, candidates who won’t let typos, misspellings, and the like get between them and their successes.

Finally, be careful with creative layouts when it comes to your resume. Make sure the information is easily accessible to your reader.

Next time we’ll take a look at the interview and audition aspects of the hiring process. For now, spend some time crafting and revising your resume. More often than not, getting that interview relies on it.

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