Why Didn’t I Get That Gig?

Posted on: Feb 22, 2023

Unhappy woman of middle age searching for her next job on her laptop in a white shirt.Photo Credit: Dima Berlin / iStock

By Michael Roberts

Freelancing has many benefits that traditional employment doesn’t offer, such as the freedom to make your own schedule. The downsides include having all the time in the world to get to the doctor, but not having health insurance. One of the lesser-discussed negatives of being self-employed is dealing with rejection. Lots and lots of rejection.

Long-term workers may change companies once every few years, but we freelancers have to job search multiple times a year (or month). With all the applications you need to send out, come more and more opportunities for you to be passed over for other candidates.

If you’re constantly being rejected and you don’t know why, here are five tips to help you land that next gig:

Is your experience aligned with the job?

With the tight timelines in the film and TV industry, productions often don’t have the time to train you. When looking at applicants for a job, they want to find a candidate that has experience directly reflecting the type of show or movie they are trying to produce. If your experience doesn’t exactly align with the job listing, don’t worry—you can still apply, but make sure to explain in your cover letter how your experience will serve the project.

On the other hand, avoid applying to jobs that are completely different from your experience. Doing so can be a waste of your time and energy that could be better spent on honing your resume or portfolio. Applying to gigs outside of your skill set can also hurt your confidence when you inevitably don’t get the job.

Is your experience too specialized or too varied?

Having a specialization (numerous credits in the same genre or format) will certainly get you jobs, but those gigs can all look the same. Even with years of experience and dozens of credits in one format, when you apply to a posting that is out of your purview, you will likely be denied. Conversely, having variation on your resume looks good, but if you only have one credit in each genre, you may also get passed over for opportunities. To build a balanced resume, always consider when accepting a gig how it will look along with your other credits.

Is your cover letter the right length?

Having a balanced list of credits is only half the battle. Getting your foot in the door requires a compelling cover letter. Your introductory email should highlight the experience that makes you the right candidate for the gig, but remember, the hiring manager is reading dozens of these. If you’re writing a novel in your opening message, they may not even take the time to read it. On the other hand, a cover letter should not read like a quick text message to your BFF.

Make sure to include a warm and exciting introduction that includes:

  • key information about yourself
  • your relevant experience
  • why you fit what the poster has stated they’re looking for

Don’t include experience that’s not directly relevant to the position. Even if you have many credits that align with the gig, it’s best to mention only a couple of projects you have recently worked on. Don’t worry, they will see all your past experience when they go on to read your resume.

Is your resume easy to read?

Applying for work in film and television is different from most other industries. We don’t need to explain what our job functions were on each project. The main information needed on our resumes is our credits and what production companies we have worked with. This tells the hiring manager everything they need to know.

It’s unlikely they care what college you went to or what you majored in. They definitely don’t need to know your GPA. They want to see multiple industry credits that relate to the project at hand, so make sure your resume clearly and efficiently shows off those credits.

We’re often afraid of having too little experience, but listing too many credits can make it hard for the hirer to find the relevant ones. A good trick is to have multiple resumes that highlight different types of gigs you’ve worked. Maybe you have one for TV jobs and one for film jobs.  Maybe you make one for comedy and one for drama. Anything goes, as long as the person reading can quickly see that you have the experience needed to do the job. The same philosophy can be applied to your portfolio or website.

Are you responding to job postings quick enough?

When someone posts a job on a site like Staff Me Up, they get inundated with applications immediately. The competition in our field is intense, and the response to job posts is overwhelming. When the hiring manager receives dozens of applications, they are most likely not reading every one of them—they’re going through until they have found a handful of candidates that seem like a good fit for the job. That’s why it’s imperative for you to be opening those job alerts and applying right away. Checking for jobs once or twice a day will not get you to the top of the pile. Make sure you have an updated resume (or two), plus a standard cover letter that can be adapted to the job and ready to be sent at any time.

In the end, even if you were the most qualified applicant, you might not have gotten the gig because you didn’t clearly and quickly communicate why you’re the right candidate. Follow these tips and be prepared to send off that next application as soon as the job alert hits your inbox. Good luck!

Michael Roberts is a docu-reality editor. He recently worked on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and served as the supervising editor of HGTV’s “Battle on the Beach.”

Looking for your next entertainment industry job? Staff Me Up has thousands of behind-the-scenes production jobs that you can apply for today.

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