Last month, we shared a some tips for strengthening your production resume from Robyn Coburn. While having a solid resume is crucial to landing a job, it's only half of the package that you send out to potential employers. The other, and arguably more important half is the cover letter. If you want employers to even glance at your awesome resume, your cover letter has to shine. What are some of the cover letter mistakes that get applications tossed out? And more importantly, how can you avoid these mistakes?
It's not particularly difficult to format a cover letter. If you don't know how, a quick trip to the google machine will fix you right up. However, the hardest part of the cover letter is figuring out what content will impress producers enough to look at your resume and call your references. These tips cover both content and formatting, and they come courtesy of ProductionHUB (which, coincidentally, is an excellent place to find jobs in media production). Here are a couple of Coburn's cover letter content mistakes to avoid.
“I want to be able to use my education, qualifications and skills in a creative position with the potential to advance.” No kidding, dude, don’t we all.
You must remember that a cover letter is a sales letter. You have to describe the features (your past experience) and benefits (your resultant skills) to the buyer (the producer). This is especially important for new production workers who need to translate their non-show biz work experience into relevant skills. For example you should explain how you were successful at your last job in computerized billing because you are able to focus on details, learn quickly and prioritize.
This is one mistake that almost everyone makes on their cover letters, whether they're applying for production jobs or not. Using clichés is difficult to avoid, however, because to a certain extent, those are the things that producers are legitimately looking for. They want people who are "driven" and "organized" and "hard-working." The important thing is to provide brief examples that show these qualities (both in your cover letter and your resume), instead of just writing that you have them.
Telling the producer in your cover letter all about how you hope to be an Oscar-winning director one day or run the network will not help you get hired as a Production Assistant or Post Production Runner today.
Instead, show how you can help the producers meet their goal, which is to hire someone that will do a good, uncomplicated job at whatever multiplicity of tasks they are assigned. In the same vein, don’t write expansively about all the different positions you have held on your student films. It will only confuse the reader about what position you are seeking. Remember what the marketers tell us: a confused buyer always says no. Just because you edited your own thesis short does not make you qualified to be an Assistant Editor on even a ten million dollar low budget pic. But you could be a great Post Production Runner!
This is another mistake that will land your application in the garbage can. It's important to remember that just about everyone in the film industry is ambitious and is looking to move up. If you talk too much about your ambitions, you run the risk of not only sounding like you're full of hot air, but also sounding like you have contempt for the lower-level position that you're applying for. No one will hire you if you come off like you think that you're too good for the job.
These pitfalls are the two biggest in terms of the content of your cover letter. However, proper formatting (or lack thereof) can be just as important as the content. To see some of the other mistakes that filmmakers consistently make when writing and formatting their cover letters, head over to ProductionHUB and read the rest of Coburn's article.
Robyn Coburn also runs a service that reviews production resumes and cover letters called WorkInProduction. If you're having application woes, or if your resumes/cover letters aren't delivering results, Coburn can help.
What do you guys think? Do you have any tips of your own for crafting the perfect production cover letter? Let us know down in the comments!