Author Topic: Resumes and Cover Letters......The Nitty Gritty Part of Stage Managing  (Read 22474 times)

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petertiger

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I am getting the ball rolling for next summer in terms of beginning to assemble my resume and my cover letter. I noticed the style that a few who have posted links to your resume have used, and followed that. I am looking for some advice in terms of my cover letter (some of you on here are in positions to hire me, so it would be good to know what you all look for). Also, any advice in terms of summerstock opportunities would be awesome. I am just starting my sophomore year at LSU and am looking to build up my resume and make connections throughout the country.

Thanks,
Pete

On_Headset

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Your cover letter should be tailored to the type of job you're applying for. Avoid sending a single cover letter (or a slightly-modified cover letter) to every potential employer: rewrite it, rethink it and redo it for every application.

Some rules of thumb for all cases:
1) Shorter is better. Under no circumstances should an entry-level cover letter exceed a single page, and in most cases it should not exceed three paragraphs.
2) Be plain in format. Use plain fonts (Time New Roman, Georgia, etc.), all materials (other than portfolio stuff) should be black ink on white paper, and do not use clipart of any kind on your resume or cover letter. You want to be remembered as "The Guy Who Wrote The Really Really Good Cover Letter", not as "The Guy Who Put Screen Beans--Seriously, Screen Beans, Can You Even Imagine?--In His Resume".
3) Submit your package in a plain envelope or (if you're sending a lot of documents or portfolio materials) an accordion file. No staples, no report covers, no document covers, none of that: just a plain envelope. Binder clips and paperclips are acceptable if you want to keep materials together or in a sequence.
4) Avoid using "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To Whom It May Concern". If you don't know who will be reading your letter, call and ask. If multiple people will be reading your letter, then either address it to the most senior person, or to "Dear Committee".
5) Use a tone appropriate for the letter's recipient, but err on the side of being overly-formal. (You're much more likely to offend a formal employer with a casual letter than you are to offend a casual employer with a formal letter.)
6) Have someone else read over your letter, ideally someone who works or has previously worked for the person or company you're applying for. The internet can be a useful resource for readers, but the closer the reader is to your job, the more likely their feedback will be useful.
7) If you are applying by e-mail, make sure and send your files in the specified formats. If no formats are specified, assume that .PDF and .DOC files will be accepted. (And when sending .DOC files, you might want to save them as XP/Office 2000 files rather than as Vista/Windows 7 files, just to be sure they can be opened on the other end.)
8) If you are not applying by e-mail, and you can do so, deliver your package in person. It lets them see your face, it sends a message about your enthusiasm and interest, and you can be absolutely sure that your package makes it onto the right person's desk, while more paperwork is lost in the mail or garbled on the internet than you'd care to know about.

Oh, and one other thing: save your cover letters and resumes. They take up almost no space on your hard drive, and if you've already put some thought into your resume and cover letter for each job, they're going to be an incredible help if you land an interview, since you already know what they're looking for and how your skills and experience align with it. One of the best ways to spend that 5-10 minutes sitting while waiting to be interviewed is to review the cover letter and resume you submitted for the job so you know how much they know about you, what you haven't yet mentioned, and so on.
« Last Edit: Sep 07, 2010, 05:53 pm by On_Headset »

dallas10086

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To add to that, follow directions.

I recently did a phone interview at a children's theatre and the human resources director let me know that, even though only 25 people applied for the job, only 16 were being interviewed...because the others didn't follow the directions outlined on the website. They either forgot a cover letter, the employment application or the three letters of recommendation; if they're not competent enough to give a complete application, she said she'd doubt they could be an organized, detail oriented stage manager.

On_Headset

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I still remember taking a "career management in the arts" course in college, and the professor exasperatedly told us "Do you have any idea how few people just follow directions? They don't ask for much: write a cover letter, make it make sense, and don't call the director 'dude'. I know directors who practically burst into tears when they get a coherent letter. And it's not that hard!"

It can be very tempting to write a gimmicky or "fun" cover letter, but a buddy of mine who became an English teacher has an excellent little spiel about that: "It's true that the best writing defies conventions, but there's a difference between defying conventions and merely being ignorant of them." If you're still setting out, go for conservative: people will take you more seriously, you'll be treated as more of a grown-up, and people will have higher expectations of you if you're actually hired. (Which is almost always a good thing.)

MatthewShiner

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I agree with most of the posts, but have a couple of notes . . .

Quote
8) If you are not applying by e-mail, and you can do so, deliver your package in person. It lets them see your face, it sends a message about your enthusiasm and interest, and you can be absolutely sure that your package makes it onto the right person's desk, while more paperwork is lost in the mail or garbled on the internet than you'd care to know about.

You know - - - I disagree with this, if they ask you to submit by mail, please do so by mail (this is part of following the instructions thing) - I think showing up in person could be read as a little "stalkerish" and desperate.  On the flip side, if you are just dropping off a cold resume to a theatre, and not answer an add which specifically said via us mail, then I could see dropping it off in person.

You should customize you cover letter and address point by point the requirements the list in the ad, especially dates.  Often time if I had several open positions, having the dates of availability helped me staff - even if it was for a different position then the one someone applied to. 

If you can figure out ANY personal connection to the person you are apply to ("I recently worked with Mr. Blah-blah who designed for you and said I should apply . . . "), use it.  It's key.  In this industry that personal connection will put you heads and and shoulders above a cold resume being just sent in.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

KMC

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I'm a bit stunned that nobody has mentioned proofreading/grammar.  At my former job I was in a position that required me to evaluate talent; I read more cover letters than I ever wanted to read.  If I ever received a cover letter for a Stage Management position along the lines of "I would very much like too work at you're company" it was immediately deposited into the trash.  There was some more flexibility for the technical type positions, however if your goal is to be a manager representing a company you must demonstrate that you possess competent writing and language skills.
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

EFMcMullen

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I second all of what has been said especially the one page cover letter and following directions.  I toss aside plenty of applicants due to the fact that they can't read the job posting.

I would also add 3 things:
1) Understand the job position and level you are applying for.  In this very tough job market, there are many more applicants than jobs available. It is understandable that you want to stand out, but be careful that you don't up sell yourself out of a job.  If you have been out on a national tour explain why you are applying for an internship.  But also in reverse, if you have been in an internship explain why you are ready for a position. 

2) Be honest in your resume.  The theater would is small enough that those of us hiring can fairly easily verify most things on a resume.  And it is likely to come out in the interview anyway. The fact that you are trying to disguise what kind of work you've done makes it makes me question your abilities even though you may be the perfect applicant.

3) And my personal pet peeve: don't try to sell to me my theater.  I already know the kind of work we do and unless you have a personal connection to my theater don't try to tell me how wonderful we are.

SMrose

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Your cover letter should tell the employer about you. Some examples are: What is your stage management style?  How do you manage crews and casts? What size venues have you worked in?
What do you feel the potential employer needs to know about you that's not on the resume but relates to the job? A cover letter should not repeat what you have in your resume but expand upon it.
I agree that the cover letter shouldn't be more than a page long.

amagelssen

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Keep the tone of a formal business letter no matter how small the theater company. It's much more difficult to offend someone by too formal a letter while it's very easy to offend someone with a too informal letter.  I hire stage managers for a small storefront theater where the stage manager is frequently the one who sets standards of professionalism and having an informal cover letter makes me question whether you would be able to set a professional tone in rehearsal and communications to production team members. If you want to sell yourself as a professional, competent stage manager the first place you do that is in your cover letter. Cover letters that are too cutesy tend to make me think you might possibly be nuts.

Maggie K

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I was given some great advice about cover letters early on in my career that I have always followed.  Your cover letter should not simply reiterate your resume but expand on it.  If someone wants a list of what shows you have worked and where, they can simply look at your resume.  If they ask for a cover letter it means they want additional information.  I like to mention something from a show that I've recently done that I think may be relevant to the position I'm applying for (ie. cast size, type of tour, person I worked with, a particular challenge, etc).  Don't go overboard with details.  Save that for the interview.  It also sometimes serves as a good conversation starter in an interview.
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone. -Maggie Smith

JoeSM

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3) And my personal pet peeve: don't try to sell to me my theater.  I already know the kind of work we do and unless you have a personal connection to my theater don't try to tell me how wonderful we are.

Along these same lines, back in March at the USITT conference I got some advice that has been useful to the way I phrase my cover letters.  You should always be telling the company or potential employer what your skills can do for them.   

Mac Calder

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If you are applying for a specific position - I cannot stress how important it is to read the position description. Most employers now list "required" and "desired" skills - your cover letter is the perfect place to check all of those off for the employer - some are implied with past experience, but others should be specifically mentioned. First Aid, Health and Safety training, managerial training etc. If you don't have a "required" skill, make sure you deal with that issue as well - either with your willingness to obtain the skill or additional skills which may make the point moot.

Try not to make your cover letter read like a high school essay - there are no prizes for length - in fact a letter that is too long may just find its way into the no pile without being read. 2/3rds of a page of regular sized text is about as long as you want to go in my experience - and you want to keep it concise and to the point.

My basic format is as follows:

Dear <Insert Name Here>

I am writing to apply for the position of .... as advertised in .... on the ... of ..... <Insert short professional bio here>

<Answer the position description (<2 paragraphs)>

<What I bring to the table that I think sets me apart (1 Paragraph)>

<What I hope to gain from the position, blow a little bit of smoke up their rear ends etc (short paragraph) but don't tell them what they already know>

Thank you for taking the time to read my application and I hope to hear from you soon.

Regards

...


SMeustace

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Does anyone have a cover letter and resume they can send me I can use as a guide?

I do have a resume which I update after each show, but I would love what I could improve on.
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PSMKay

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Have you checked the resume browser? Cover letters are very personal and probably too trade secrety to share here, especially given how text published here tends to be copied and pasted wholesale into the homework of students worldwide. :P

KMC

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Does anyone have a cover letter and resume they can send me I can use as a guide?

I do have a resume which I update after each show, but I would love what I could improve on.

Cover letters are very personal and [should be] specific for each job to which you're applying.  The cover letter is the document in which you showcase your personality, strengths, goals, etc.. - a lot of the subjective things about you that you can't put onto a resume.  While a CV/Resume is a form document that is much easier to pick and choose styles you like, a cover letter should be specifically your style. 
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt