Through the Creative Careers portal, Berkeley Rep is able to provide virtual access to career resources for early career theatre professionals and prospective Berkeley Rep fellows.
How to get a job
These tips on résumés, interview protocol, and negotiation and contracts were gathered from Berkeley Rep’s staff. They are intended to be useful things to consider while going through the hiring process. However, they are meant to be general guidelines and do not reflect the thoughts and opinions of every hiring manager and interviewer.
Be your own best advocate
- This is an opportunity to highlight your accomplishments in written form.
- Take the time to get it right.
- Identify two or three key things you want the reader to take away from your résumé.
- Use your cover letter and résumé to demonstrate your enthusiasm, curiosity, dependability, generosity, creativity, and skill.
- Explain why your experience is relevant. Your cover letter should explain how your skills translate to the position requirements, particularly if your previous experience and skills don’t seem obviously applicable. If there are long gaps of time between positions, explain what you were doing during those periods.
Be clear and concise
- Follow the directions as described in the posting. Employers often list clues highlighting their priorities in the posting.
- Your résumé and cover letter are tools to answer the question, “Why should we hire you?”
- Speak to the requirements of the position.
- Use simple language and uncomplicated sentence structure.
- Be positive, upbeat, and use action verbs.
- Keep your tense straight—positions you are presently doing can be phrased in the present tense or the past, but all previous positions should be listed in the past tense.
- GPA and relevant course information should only be included for your first position out of college.
Include the important information
- Think in terms of highlighting accomplishments rather than listing a litany of daily responsibilities. Quantify when possible.
- Remember to provide context and scope to allow the reader to have a clear understanding of your experience and responsibilities in each position.
- Provide more detail in more recent positions and less detail in older positions.
- Include up-to-date contact information, including professional social media handles. Use an email address which includes your name. Be prepared to answer the phone number listed and have a professional sounding voicemail message. List references and their contact information. Double check that the contact information is up to date.
Formatting helps the important information stand out
- Your name and contact info should be very easy to find.
- Positions should be organized chronologically with most recent positions at the top or grouped into categories based on different position types.
- The most relevant information to the application should be closest to the top. After you have had a few positions, your education should go at the bottom of the résumé.
- Bold critical information, such as position titles, to make the résumé easy to skim. A résumé is difficult to read quickly if all of the text is the same weight and size.
- Don’t use unusual fonts or lots of color. Unusual fonts can be hard to read and color bars use up a lot of ink if the potential employer chooses to print the résumé.
Consider how you are presenting your résumé
- Send your résumé to your potential employer as a PDF and not as a Word document or a Google Doc.
- Include your name in the title of the document.
- Attach all required files (e.g., cover letter, résumé, references) in one document.
- Include the cover letter in the body of the email in addition to attaching it.
- Address the email to the hiring manager, the organization, or the manager of the department you are applying to. It is best if you can find out their name, though this is not always possible.
- If you have a significant connection to someone who works at the organization or who recommended you, include that in the email.
Put yourself in the position of the employer—they will be asking
- Is the applicant applying for the position offered?
- Does the applicant know what this position entails?
- Does the applicant have experience that would qualify them for this position?
- Send a résumé without a cover letter.
- Submit applications with grammatical errors or typos.
- Lie or exaggerate.
- Go beyond two pages.
- Use standardized résumé templates.
- Use personal pronouns.
- List (unless requested): high school, height, weight, age, date of birth, marital status, social security number, health, religious or political affiliation, or photo.
- Make unsolicited phone calls or emails to check on the hiring process.
- Use a gender-specific (i.e., “Gentlemen”) salutation when answering an ad.
- Use clichés (e.g., referencing “enclosed résumé”)
Trust the spell checker.
Types of photos that are helpful to include in a portfolio
- Close-ups that show detail (not just performance stills).
- Process photos that demonstrate how the piece was fabricated (particularly for props, sets, and costumes).
- Designs and/or sketches of realized pieces.
- Photos that show breadth of experience.
- Paperwork and drafting examples are key inclusions if they’re a major part of your job, or will be a part of the job or position you’re applying for.
Ways to organize your portfolio
- By skill. If you are applying for props, you could organize by upholstering, painting, carpentry, etc. For costumes, you could organize by period construction, patterning projects, draping projects, costume crafts, costume renderings, etc. This would help you discuss in an interview which skills you have and how they have been developed and which skills you would like to acquire.
- By show. You could organize your portfolio by show and place all of the different skills and pieces under that show folder or tab. This would help you discuss design aesthetic and choices demanded by the specificities of each show.
Things to consider
- What you include in the portfolio and how you organize the photos tell the interviewer a lot about you, but there is no one right way to create a portfolio.
- If you will not be present to explain the photos, the order in which you organize the photos becomes increasingly important. Additionally, the photos must be able to speak for themselves, and your design or contribution should be self-evident.
- For fellowship applications, you may not have considered taking photos through all of your college productions and therefore may not have close-ups and process pictures. That is fine, but you should be prepared to talk about what it is you did on that show. This is something to keep in mind as you move forward with your career.
How to submit your portfolio
- Create a webpage using a service like Squarespace or Wix.
- Share through a file-share service such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Send as a zipped folder.
- Send printed photos.
- If doing a paper portfolio, photo quality is especially important. Photos should be printed nicely and cut straight.
- In paper lighting portfolios, mounting photos—using foamcore or matboard—is also common and a nice touch.
- For all of these options make sure you are sending the highest resolution photos possible.
- Labels on photos—either handwritten, on paper, or Photoshopped in—are important. If digital, make sure files have actual names and not “3423542.jpg.”
General questions that may be asked in an interview
- What do you know about this organization?
- Why are you interested in working for this organization?
- What interests you about this position?
- Why are you a good match for this position?
- Describe your past work history. What did you enjoy about these positions? What was challenging? What did you learn? Why did you leave?
- What work accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?
- What strengths do you bring to this position?
- What do you anticipate being a challenge for you?
- What do you look for in a supervisor? In your colleagues? In the work environment?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- Describe your preferred working environment.
- Talk about a challenging situation from a past job. How did you resolve it?
- What’s your favorite kind of theatre?
- What role does theatre play in contemporary America?
- Who are some of your favorite writers?
- Was there a seminal theatrical experience that shifted something for you?
- Are there any writers that you don’t like and why?
- How long have you been in this field?
- What got you into theatre in the first place?
- What’s your favorite thing to construct?
- What’s your best quality as a set builder?
- Which of your skills needs the most development?
- How do you feel about working really hard on a project and then having the project getting cut?
- Are you flexible as far as getting moved from project to project?
- Do you like to work alone or with other people on projects?
- How will you use this job to accomplish your career goals?
- How did you get into administration?
- Please talk to us about your organization skills, ability to multi-task, and the ability to meet deadlines.
- This position requires you to maintain excellent relations and open communications with other departments. How do you see yourself performing that function?
- We’re a team, and you will sometimes be asked to work events or perform tasks outside of your normal job description. Talk about your events background.
During the interview, the interviewers may be considering the following
- What does this specific candidate bring to the organization and this position?
- Does this person have the skills and experience necessary to be a strong candidate for this position?
- Has this candidate “done their homework?” How have they prepped for this interview, and what does that tell me about how they will approach their responsibilities at this organization?
- Do they have an appropriate understanding of this field?
- Can this candidate successfully express themselves?
- How will this candidate work with the current team?
- Is this candidate interested in this particular job, or are they looking to use it as a stepping stone to a different job?
- Be prepared. Do your homework. Bring printed materials and portfolio examples.
- Be prompt.
- Dress nicely. Business casual is usually good for a nonprofit theatre. Try to match the environment of your interviewer. If you are interviewing for a production position, bring clothes you can work in in case they ask you to build something on the spot.
- Find a quiet space if the meeting is not in person. If you are doing a Skype interview, schedule it for a time when you can be in a quiet, well-lit space. Be aware of the visuals you are communicating.
- Have questions prepared. This demonstrates your interest in the position and company. Don’t just ask “What does it pay?” especially in the first interview. Good questions might be “Can you walk me through a typical day in the position?” “What other staff do I interact with?” “What have been the career paths of those who have held this position in the past?” “Are there opportunities for growth within the organization?”
- Be professional. An interview is not like talking to a friend. You can be friendly, but always be professional. Don’t chew gum during an interview. If it’s a phone interview, don’t take another call.
- Thank them. Always follow up with a thank-you card or email thanking the interviewer for their time.
Do your research and be prepared before you negotiate
- Know what your minimum salary is. Look at the bills you need to pay and your cost of living to figure out your minimum requirements.
- Know the organization. Research the organization beforehand to learn their standard salary ranges and if you would enjoy working there.
- GuideStar is a free service to look up all nonprofits’ tax forms (“990s”). These forms can provide some general financial information including the top five salaries of the organization, ratio between earned and contributed revenue, and spending priorities.
- Search the organization online to learn about former staff members’ experiences.
- Use your network and investigate others’ titles and salaries at that organization.
- Know the market.
- Know the market value of your services. Ask peers and mentors what a good salary range is for a certain job title, location, and organizational budget size.
- Know the market in your location. Different cities have different costs of living and therefore can command different salary ranges. Do your research to know what a competitive salary is in your region.
- Do your research early. While the conversation about salary is not usually brought up until an offer is made, some interviewers will ask your salary range during the first interview, so you should be prepared.
- Consider other benefits. If salary is not something that can be increased, brainstorm other items to negotiate, such as additional retirement account contributions, additional vacation days, or title changes.
Look at the big picture
- Take a night to sleep on it. You don’t need to take the job right away. Taking a night to sleep on it and responding first thing in the morning will help you consider if the job is right for you.
- Possible things to consider:
- Are you excited about the job?
- Is it enough money to live on? Is it a salary you are happy or satisfied with?
- Do the benefits cover your needs and the needs of any of your dependents?
- What is the commute?
- Is the job located somewhere you want to live?
- Who will you be working with?
- Do your potential manager and colleagues seem honest, respectful, and good to work with?
- What are your hours?
- What are the expectations?
- What is the vacation policy? What is the sick leave policy?
- What is the history of this position at this organization?
- Has there been a high turnover rate at this organization? For this position? Why?
- Will this position take you to the next step in your career?
- Where have people who have had this job gone afterward?
- How long do you see yourself there?
- What is your potential growth within the institution?
- Is there a five-year plan in place if you take this job?
- How might this decision affect your friends and family and your social life?
Think about your negotiation terms and tone
- Be appreciative and gracious. If you are offered a position, thank your interviewer for taking the time to interview you before diving into negotiation talks and/or asking to take any time to consider your decision.
- Be polite, clear, concise, and firm.
- When negotiating, use language such as: “I’ll be honest with you, that offer is a little lower than I was hoping for/expecting based on (cost of living, market value, salary history). Is there any way that you can do any better than that?/Is the offer negotiable?”
- After you have made your ask, it is important to stop talking and wait for the interviewer to respond.
Get it in writing
- If you have decided to take a position, check to see if all of the following (if applicable to your experience level) are in your contract before you sign.
- Any compensation you agree to and any timelines agreed upon. If the employer offers in the interview to do a six-month review with the potential for a raise, it should be written into the contract.
- Vacation and sick leave terms.
- Basic working hours.
- Job title and job description.
- Health insurance (for full-time employment).
- Confirmation of office (where you will work).
- Notice provision (how you or your employer can terminate the employment).
- Car reimbursement (if applicable).
- Phone reimbursement (if applicable).
- Arbitration clause (what will happen if there is a legal disagreement, excluding a criminal situation).
- Avoid any non-complete clause or any clause that binds future employment.
- Try to eliminate phrases such as “additional duties as determined by…”
Asking for a raise
- Timing is everything. The best times to ask for a raise are after a major event in which you performed well and at the end of the fiscal year before your manager sets and approves the coming year’s budget. Waiting until after the budget has been created and approved will make it harder for your manager to grant you a raise.
- Cost of living raises. Most institutions give a three percent cost of living raise each year commensurate to inflation.
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- LORT is the largest professional theatre association of its kind in the United States, with 72 member theatres. LORT serves as a way for member regional theatres to bargain collectively with entities such as Actors’ Equity Association, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and United Scenic Artists, among other major labor unions in the entertainment industry.
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