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A Word to the Wise on Resumes & Cover Letters

Jay Duckworth • The Callboard • March 7, 2018

We get so many resumes here at the Public Theater it’s sometimes hard to go through all of them. So, there are some things I look for and some things that are just standard practices. With a lot of you graduating out there or applying for internships or maybe just old codgers like me looking to revisit and update your resume so you can remember where you worked and how cool it was, here are some good rules and tips from us, (myself and Sara Swanberg, the prop shop manager for The Public Theater), the people who have to actually read your resumes and make hiring decisions.

  • Send your resume as a PDF
  • For the love of God, have at least two people proofread your resume!
  • Don’t bend the truth. I brought a person in for an interview just because he said he propped the original production of a show that I was the prop master on. I hung up the framed show poster in my office before the interview. I have never seen a human, sitting still, sweat as much as this kid when he saw my name on the poster.
  • Research the company that you want to work at. Sara ALWAYS asks, ‘So, why do you want to work here?’ Know what the theater takes pride in. Know their history and productions they have done. People take considerable pride in where they work. If you don’t know why you want to work at this theater, in my mind, the interview is over.
  • Keep it to one page; two pages impresses no one. It only shows that you don’t know how to prioritize.
  • Label your resume file appropriately. We’re getting 100 or 200 resumes and we save them in a file to go over. It says a lot about you if the file is named: PT2018G.pdf; updatedresume.pdf; sendthisone.pdf, for example. Your file name should be: Firstname_Lastname_Resume.pdf.
  • Brand yourself. You can revise your brand as you develop. Please make it interesting; for me this is your first paper prop that I will see. If you can’t make something visually appealing for yourself, how are you going to relate that to the stage?
  • Name drop. It lets us know you can run with the big dogs; that will always impress. Just do it wisely and don’t sound like a twonk.
  • Lastly, social media is a double-edged sword. When a resume gets to the point of serious consideration, I will Google the person. I look to see if their website comes up and then I look for pictures and see if I want this person as a part of our team. (One poor kid’s name was Steven Bannon. Luckily there was a 40-year age gap between this young artisan and the political advisor). Then I check networking sites, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. On Facebook, I look for connections that I may have with this person. Let’s say they know Bland Wade down at the North Carolina School of the Arts, or Jane Childs from Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas. A quick text to one of them can fill me in on a lot of background information. Twitter is a good place to check on how they may work with others, are they a complainer, do they bad mouth the company they work for, or the people they work with. Like it or not, Instagram shows me the things that you take the most pride in, or the person you want to be perceived as.

What are some things you see on resumes that you like or that have shocked you? Share them with us here at Stage Directions, so Sara and I don’t have to feel our pain alone!

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