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How to write a CV to get that job in Television

The very first step in finding that job in television is getting your CV in shape and who better to offer advice on how to do that than experienced recruitment expert, Elsa Sharp. Elsa knows her subject so well she’s written the book on it – ‘How To Get a Job in Television’ which you can buy via her site: www.elsasharp.com.

Elsa Sharp

So – over to Elsa:

“I’ve seen hundreds of CVs – in my capacity of as a series producer, talent manager and also as a TV Career Coach. Far too many are difficult to read, badly written and poorly laid out – even at senior level. 

The truth is what’s ON your CV will get you the job – the skills and experience and of course those all important TV credits. To get a job in TV you need to have a degree* and some work experience credits – even when you are starting out as a runner. 

But even if you have these –  if your covering letter is over written and too long and your CV is badly laid out – the chances are neither will be read and could even end up in the bin.

It’s now even more essential to market yourself, your skills and experience as effectively as possible so your CV will be read, stand out and get you an interview.

I am constantly amazed at how so many people fail to present their CV properly – by over writing, cluttering the layout and sometimes omitting key information.  

I am asked to find producers with a specific skill set and when I am looking through piles of CVs I want to be able to see skills and experience listed clearly and concisely. Do list all the credits you have, write what you did on a programme so I can build a picture and see who matches the criteria I need.

A CV is a powerful tool for self promotion, it should be well written and on no more than two pages – no matter how experienced you are. 

With a bit of careful editing – it can be done.

Here are a few simple and universal tips on how to create an effective CV. 

LAYOUT

  • The font should be no less than 11 point – anything less is illegible.
  • Design your CV in simple black and white but if you do want to use colour – no more than one!
  • Choose a simple font like Calibri that is easy to read
  • Don’t use a photo of yourself – it’s only appropriate if you are looking for work onscreen.
  • Some talent managers feel photos are inappropriate, but I do think it is permissible to show stills from your work. TV is a  visual medium so it is acceptable to have some kind of design and some pictures on your CV
  • Leave reasonable sized margins and use bold for headings
  • Your CV should be chronological with all your credits listed in reverse order

STRUCTURE

I personally prefer chronological CVs that are laid out in this order:

  1. 1.     HEADING – Your name, job grade (producer/researcher etc), mobile number, email address and link to show reel if you have one
  2. 2.     Don’t write a mission statement or a paragraph of personal information
  1. 3.     Your first heading should be your KEY SKILLS – this is a bullet point list that should include the following:
  • the genres and grade, & broadcasters you’ve worked for
  • Your prime skills (technical skills such as shooting – include cameras you can use)
  • Editing  systems you’ve used
  • Any awards
  • Any Development experience
  • Any languages spoken
  • Any specialist knowledge or experience, for example history, arts, science
  • Any experience of foreign filming,  VISAs and special licences
  • Plus any other useful skills like recording sound, PowerPoint, computer packages, driving licences


  1. 4.     List your PROGRAMME CREDITS in reverse chronological order, for example:

Dates from – to                   Job Title – Name of show duration Prod Co/Broadcaster

Brief description of show, tasks completed described

Jobs undertaken, people managed, sell your experience!

Any press reviews/good ratings/ Name of Executive Producer

  1. 5.     TRAINING & EDUCATION

List industry courses such as health and safety, camera, law courses and your educational qualifications – your GCSE’s, A Levels and degree, masters etc

  1. 6.     List at least two REFEREES – from your most recent credits – make sure you know what they are going to say about you! Include mobile and email addresses – with their consent!

 

WRITING

Every word on your CV should be there for a reason – choose your words carefully and use positive language that clearly shows your experience for example – such as experienced, tenacious, extensive, flexible…

  • Be concise – write in short sentences and avoid paragraphs.
  • Target your CVprioritise what’s important to you in terms of your skills and experience
  • List and give clear examples of achievements and actions which can always be backed up.
  • Have good attention to detail! Nothing screams out more than a spelling error or poor grammar
  • Be confident and sell yourself but be honest about your role and contribution, it doesn’t take long to find out who actually did what, integrity is everything.
  • Never lie. People in telly have a strange habit of knowing one another and you’ll soon be found out.
  • And finally, label your CV clearly so when it’s saved by the recipient it will have your details.  Don’t call it CV or My CV – but save it with your name, grade and date for example,  Elsa Sharp – Talent Manager – September 2011

Elsa Sharp is the author of How to Get A Job in Television and Talent Manager at Dragonfly TV.

For more advice go to www.elsasharp.com.  

* (Of course there are those who get by without a degree. Check out this story: http://wanttoworkintelevision/tv-producer-succeeds-without-a-degree. However it seems the consensus is still that a degree – in any subject – is an advantage.)

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7 comments

  • John says:

    Saying “To get a job in TV you need to have a degree” and “it seems the consensus is still that a degree – in any subject – is an advantage” is total rubbish!!

    I was very sure about going after that first runner job at 18, rather than going to uni… this then led to lots of researcher credits on primetime shows and I’m hoping to start an AP role in the new year – to say that someone coming out of uni with a degree with no experience is an advantage over my experience is nonsense!

    • Thanks for your comment, John. I hear you! There is an on-going debate around here on the value of a degree when trying to get into television. Your experience certainly places a vote firmly in the get experience over a degree corner!

  • camille says:

    I think it depends the degree you did.
    I don’t exactly know the whole system in Uk but in France I did two degre, the first one is really focused about practice and go deeply into the camera settings, how to use it, how to do a proper picture and basics about lights and I think this kind of degree is an advantage, comparing to some maybe more academic one.

    • Good point, Camille. Learning the practical sie of using relevant equipment and how to get the best out of it must be useful if that is the area you want to get into. In fact there is an article coming up soon from someone who felt their media training really helped them. (And I will be replying to your email very soon!)

  • john says:

    I can concurr. In fact it’s the first I’ve ever come across where a professional has said a degree is important. My Masters degree in post production for TV and Film and my BSc in audio engineering before that has got me nowhere in terms of getting a job in sound for TV or film. I’m no nearer and still unemployed 3 years on. Runner position is the way to go.

  • David Wheeler says:

    HI” ALL,
    JUST WOULD LIKE TO SAY” WORK HARD, BE TRUE TO YOURSELF, NEVER LOOK BACK! ALWAYS LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD, NEVER STOP DREAMING.
    DAVE:)

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