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WOODY – RANT: The Other Side of the Desk

This post is for those who are out there looking for work and are not having any luck.   I read a lot of resumes and have interviewed, hired and overseen many employees.  A lot of this advice is, what I consider to be, simple, common sense.  It’s simply my experience and point of view so take from it what you will.  However, I often see the same things over and over again.

Here’s a rundown of a few things that consistently come up.  You can make your own determination about them to see how you might react if you were sitting at the other side of the desk.

The Approach:

There is a reason that in high school writing classes we are taught to correspond formally.  It’s because in business you must act professionally.  Typically a letter will have the recipients name and address, a date, the senders name and address and a salutation such as Dear X,  -

Email and texting has completely changed the way many people communicate with one another.  Nothing wrong in and of itself of course, but it has carried over into the workplace. Causal notes or emails will not get much traction.  Here is an example -

“hey – cool studio. looking for some work.  I do it all. resume attached.  later”


“Qualified engineer.  Loads of experience.  The real deal.  Call today.”


“Just graduated with a degree in sound.  Foley, ADR, sound design specialist.  Give me a shout.”


“See attached resume.”

Something that any potential employee must understand is that every communication from phone calls to query letters to resumes must inspire confidence that you are going to be a great asset to the team.  What a potential employer sees in your dealings with them is what they will project as to your dealings with their clients.

The Interview:

It must be the allure of the uber-cool entertainment business that implies casualness.  We see it portrayed that way in the media, stars walking around in ripped jeans and tee shirts, crews with backwards ball caps and shorts.  But they are already in it.  They are not applying for work.

I’ve conducted many interviews over the years with unshaven, unwashed, ungroomed potential employees who can’t figure out why they weren’t hired.  Typically I will ask them at the end of the interview if they dressed and acted like this for their last “fill in the blank – Starbucks, Macy’s, Sizzler, Van’s Shoes” job.  They get an odd look on their face and it seems for that split second that they may have had a revelation.

Here’s the thing from this side of the mixing desk – I own this company.  I work hard for this company.  I work hard to get my clients.  I work hard to keep my clients.  I want to continue to be busy and successful.  People don’t come to me to mix their shows because I have Pro Tools.  People come to me because I do good work, have a great staff and I am extremely service oriented.  This is what makes us stand out.  Show me that you understand not only Pro Tools and post but that you also understand clients and service and you may just get a second interview.

Treat the interview with the same respect you would any other job.  Dress well, look good, and make a strong impression.  Be professional, be courteous and most of all be honest about your experience and your goals.  If you are new to the work but show aptitude and the right attitude you may have a leg up on someone who is more experienced but is lackadaisical in their appearance and their demeanor.

The resume:

OK, here’s a pet peeve of mine; a resume filled with skills but no actual experience.  I see countless resumes that indicate “Foley artist, ADR recordist, sound designer, dialog editor“ any and all of the above and yet no actual experience.  Maybe a short film or a couple of school projects but no real work experience.  The lack of experience is not the issue, the idea that you are representing yourself as a Foley artist or a dialog editor after one three minute short is the problem.

I receive dozens of resumes a month.  Many are from seasoned professionals who work freelance and are looking for a new post house to get on a roster.  Many are from students and new engineers.  The differences in resumes are striking.  Not just from the credits of course but in the attitude and in the approach.

Typically experienced engineers list their skill sets and the relevant work.  New engineers, new grads will typically fill their skill sets with every sub-genre of work they’ve taken a class in.

Now I can only speak for myself on this, of course but I would prefer to see the real work of a beginner.  If I see that you worked summers at a restaurant, or a local business and I see some consistency in that work I will draw some conclusions about you.  That says more to me than a class that was taken in Foley.  Since I work with world-class Foley artists with major Hollywood features and I get resumes from the same individuals seeking employment it just rubs me a bit the wrong way when I see recent grad also telling me that they are a Foley artist.

The resume is not only a reflection of your work experience; remember it is also your introduction to a guy like me.  If it’s filled with hyperbole, I may just draw ideas about you from that.  It will color my impression of you.  If you are just beginning I am smart enough to know that your resume won’t have pages of work experience and you won’t be judged by those standards.  However, whatever impression the resume gives me is the first window I have into you.

By the way, I am not saying to leave school projects off the page.  It is legitimate and shows me what you’ve done.  It’s just that often these are made to look like work that it is not.  Be honest, straight-forward, put the real deal out there and you will get your shot.  Trust me I get credit lists from highly experienced crew whose resumes are filled with shows I’ve never heard of.  That’s the sad fact about the work we do, there are many shows that live in obscurity and don’t have the recognition factor you’d expect from someone with years of experience.

The wind-up:

So what is one to do?  Here’s the post in a nutshell: take the interview seriously, dress well, look good, act confident and be truthful.  Show the employer that you are there to work, work hard and do what it takes to move your career forward.

Don’t pad or inflate the resume.  Put all of the relevant experience there and if you worked as a restaurant manager for three summers in college – write it down!  It will show that you are responsible, trustworthy and motivated.  By the way some schools have resume templates.  The only reason I know this is because I get resumes that all look alike and have the exact same information on them.  Only the names are changed.  This again is not a great indication of why you are better than the other guy or gal.  Make your resume your own, you are not your classmates.

This one I hate but I have to say it -  be persistent and follow up.  Ask if it is alright to stay in touch, send resumes every six months or if the employer may have advice in getting ahead.  You’d be surprised how much that can help.  Here’s a crazy example of what happened to my summer interns – I met with a number of potential interns.  I chose one who said they were leaving town and would contact me when they returned.  After a couple of weird and incomplete emails and unanswered calls they never did arrive for the internship.  I lost three weeks waiting for that person after having turned down other qualified candidates.  I then met with more interns to replace that one and again chose, what I felt was the best one.  I called to tell them that they got the internship but never returned my call!  I did not and would not call repeatedly to have them come in.  I feel that if I needed to draw them in to a job they were being offered then their internship could also be problematic.

By the way, it may not seem like it now but I can tell you – Hollywood is a small town.  The person you blow-off or disregard today can be the same person with the choice gig you crave only a couple of years later.  Be polite and don’t burn bridges if at all possible.  Your future career can really depend on it.

Keep your head down, be respectful, don’t have all the answers, have all the questions.  Be willing to come in early and work late.  Show initiative if you get the job, work hard and learn.

Good luck out there!

One Comment

  1.   Amy Snively wrote:

    This is great stuff, Woody! Thanks for telling it like it is.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

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