It’s summer stock season ya’ll! Around this time of year, tons of interviews are taking place to secure positions for summer theatre festivals across the country. If you’re in the world of theatre, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who may not know, summer stock is basically boot camp for theatre. Typically, companies will produce anywhere from one show to thirty shows, all in one summer.
Doing a summer stock is certainly not something you should feel absolutely obligated to do, but I do think there’s a benefit in working summer stock if you want more experience in some sort of tech production in the entertainment industry.
Application + Hiring Process
I’ve been on both sides of this process, and let me tell you – it’s exhausting. I’m just going to share some tips and things I’ve picked up along the way.
+ I don’t have a preference for people putting their cover letters in the body of the e-mail or in a separate document, as long as that document is a PDF.
+ If you are creating a document for your cover letter, name it with the same convention as your resume, preferably something like “First Name_Last Name_CoverLetter.pdf”. Whatever convention you choose, it’s so important to put your name in the document title so it doesn’t get lost.
+ Use consistent branding with your resume. Create a header and use it for both documents (and any work related documents like invoices or quotes).
+ Don’t just summarize your resume, let me know why you’re applying for the position, if you know anyone who referred you to the position, and what might separate you from other candidates.
Stay tuned for a completely separate post about resumes! I’ve got a lot of opinions.
+ Always PDF and name your document with your name in the same convention as your cover letter.
+ Keep it to one page, this is not your CV.
+ Have a website URL to your portfolio. That’s going to be where I go almost immediately after skimming through your resume. Buy a domain and get rid of that .wixsite.com/portfolio or .wordpress.com or whatever it may be. Stay tuned for a post about tips regarding portfolio websites!
+ Double check that your references will actually write you positive reference, and that they know they may be contacted.
Some things I look for on a resume when I’m interviewing candidates for the paint shop:
+ Where did you go to school?
+ What year are you in currently if you are still in school?
+ Where else have you worked?
+ Do you have professional experience or only academic?
+ What titles have you held?
+ Do you have any gaps in your work timeline?
+ What are the names of your references and where do they work?
+ What are your scenic art skills? (drop work, pneumatic sprayers, faux finishing, trompe l’oeil, etc).
+ And of course, I’m always looking for a resume that’s aesthetically pleasing.
Putting Times New Roman or Calibri on a resume is like wearing sweatpants to an interview.
So, hopefully your employer has contacted you for an interview. If you haven’t heard back after you have sent out an application, I would send a follow up e-mail after about a week, depending on the time of year.
Here are some suggestions for interviews:
+ Be in a quiet area where you feel comfortable and can be focused on the interview.
+ Balance being personable and direct.
+ Answer the phone with “Hi, this is ______”. It just sounds professional and if you have a hard name to pronounce, it saves the employer from trying and feeling awkward about it.
+ If it’s a Skype interview, do a test call and see if you can hear and if you like your lighting situation. Make sure the employer can actually see your face! Sometimes earphones help so there isn’t a weird echo.
+ Have a question prepared about the company or position, but if your employer answers it before you had a chance to ask, it’s okay! Don’t make up another question to ask just because you feel like you have to. It just feels forced and weird.
+ Don’t complain about your job or people you work with. This may seem obvious, but boy – people love to do this!
+ Be ready to answer questions about projects you have on your portfolio (the process, how many people worked on it, what you did specifically, etc).
+ Admit when you don’t know a skill. If they ask you if you’re worked with a tool or technique before and you truly haven’t and won’t be able to learn it before the job, then don’t say you know it! I like it when people can get over their egos and admit their own weaknesses.
+ If you feel the interview ending, ask about the employer’s timeline or when you can expect to hear back from them.
+ Don’t ask about salary right away. Hopefully the employer is transparent about this and it’s already on the job posting, but asking about this first thing makes it seem like that’s the only thing you care about.
+ Ask for information you need to make a decision! Is housing provided? Is there a travel reimbursement available? Would it be shared housing? Is the housing walking distance to work or would I need a personal vehicle? How many days out of the week would I be expected to work? Is the shop onsite?
Here are some questions I normally ask in interviews:
+ Can you tell me about a problem you came across at work (whether it’s a project or personnel related)? How did you overcome that problem?
+ How do you deal with stress while at work?
+ Do you thrive in an environment where you are in charge of the project, working alongside others on a project, or working independently on a project?
+ Can you tell me about your skill set related to painting drops? (starching, painting vertically or horizontally, cartooning, etc.)
+ Can you tell me about a project you’ve worked on that involved texturing with scenic dope of some sort?
+ What’s your favorite thing to do in the paint shop?
+ What’s a skill related to scenic art that you haven’t come across yet in your career and want to learn?
+ What are you looking for in a summer stock?
+ What were your job responsibilities when you worked for ____ as a _____?
+ What was the most exciting project you’ve worked on? How much time did you have to work on that project? Did you lead a crew for that? How many people were on that crew?
+ Follow up with a thank you e-mail if you truly feel like you want the job after the interview. If not, don’t bother. As an employer, it’s really easy to tell when people are genuine in their thank you e-mails.
+ Follow up with your employer if you haven’t heard back. It might feel like you’re nagging them, but I really like hearing from people in that way! It shows you’re proactive.
+ So, let’s say you got a job offer. Congratulations! Don’t sit on this for more than a week. If you know that you’re not going to accept, tell your employer immediately so that they have time to find another person for that position. On the other side, if you know you’re going to accept, do it immediately so that your employer can move on in their own process. If you need more time to make a decision, be honest with your employer. Tell them you’re waiting to hear back from another company or you need more time and you’ll get back to them in x amount of days. Basically, don’t leave your employer hanging. It makes you look unprofessional.
+ Let’s say you didn’t get the job and got a rejection letter. When I get these, I normally e-mail back (unless it’s a super large company) and thank the employer for their time and consideration. Don’t take rejections personally – it’s not worth it. Keep applying elsewhere and be thankful to have more experience with the application and interview process!
I certainly don’t know everything there is to this process, I just wish I had read a post similar to this about 10 years ago when I first began the job hunting adventure. It’s worth nothing that other people may disagree with me completely so take everything with a grain of salt. Let me know if this was helpful, I’d love to hear your thoughts!