How to Create a Winning Resume in the Performing Arts

Resume and question marksIs Your Resume in Shape?

A polished resume is your first chance to highlight key elements that make you stand out from the crowd. Link your name and credits with a clear headshot of your face (and body for dancers) and you’ve set the stage to outshine the competition. First impressions are powerful. They are also under your control, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned professional. Make the most of this opportunity by focusing on factors that show how you are perfect for the job.

Unlike a business resume where chronology is critical, you can use your discretion to identify the year when you performed in a specific show or received formal training (although dates are usually better if there are no large time gaps). List a representative sample of your most impressive accomplishments in specific sections on one page (see below), and tailor them to the particular job. In cases where you have extensive experience in other disciplines (e.g., dancing, singing, choreography), you may need a separate resume for each area. If not, these can be part of your section on “Special Skills.”

Select good-quality paper in a light color, such as white, cream, ivory, gray or blue, and set 1-1/2″ margins top, left and right, and 2″ at the bottom so as not to shrink the type size from 12-points. Use an easy-to-read font like Times New Roman and black ink. Avoid unnecessary clutter with two lines of white space between sections and only add a line about a production versus a paragraph (e.g., role, piece, theater/company, city). Attach an 8-by-10 inch professional headshot on the back with rubber cement. Dancers need to include an extra body shot that emphasizes their best feature, such as a high jump or beautiful ‘line’ and flexibility. If a professional photographer is too expensive, find a student who will give you a discount in exchange for augmenting his or her portfolio.

Type your name in capital letters and center it on top with full contact information, including mobile phone and email. Include your union, agent or online resume if you have them. Drop down two lines and add relevant physical characteristics for your discipline (i.e. gender, age, height, weight, hair color, eye color, vocal range). Then, divide the rest of your resume, beginning with the most recent events, into different sections separated by two spaces. Although the order may vary a bit, here are some basic guidelines: Performing Experience; Current Course of Study; Formal Training; Special Skills; Awards (with any glowing quotes from reviews); References (give 2-3 or say simply “Available upon request”).

While directors will ultimately hire you based on how well you perform, never underestimate the impact of a winning resume. You can increase your chances of being hired by uploading your resume on the internet, with a gallery of photos. Check out Back Stage’s professional online resume system for dancers, actors, musicians, singers, comedians, and variety performers.

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