Advice For The Young and Restless

By Robyn Guilliams     

GG Arts Law and GG International are in the process of hiring a new administrative assistant.  As I’ve been reviewing applications, I’m sad to say that I am shocked – shocked! – at the very poor quality of some of the cover letters and resumes we’ve received.

So, as a public service to all of you “young’uns” out there who are searching for a job in the performing arts field, or for those of you who already work in the arts and would like to move up the ladder as quickly as possible, I’d like to offer a bit of advice – some pitfalls to avoid – when submitting a cover letter and resume to a potential employer:

  • Spelling errors:  This is the most prevalent problem, and the one that is most easily remedied.  Do not rely on spell-check, people!  Proof-read your letter and resume, and then proof them again.  I realize we all make the occasional spelling mistake (my own emails are proof of this), but the documents you submit as your job application are the only criteria by which you are judged for a job, at least initially.  If you won’t take the time to proof-read your letter and resume, this tells me everything I need to know about what kind of employee you will be.  When I see these types of errors, the letter and resume immediately go into the recycling bin.
  • Writing Style:  The ability to write well is required for many jobs in our industry.  (And even if not, it’s a great skill to have!)  A number of the cover letters we’ve received, while not being grammatically incorrect, are very awkwardly written.  I highly recommend “The Elements of Style”, by William Strunk and E.B. White, to anyone wishing to improve his or her writing skills.  This book is a great resource for young professionals who want to learn to communicate more effectively through writing.
  • Irrelevant Job Experience:  Tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying.  There is no reason to include work experience that is completely irrelevant.   For instance, don’t include in your “employment history” your job as a bag-boy at Piggly Wiggly when you were 14 years old.  I don’t care.  Don’t tell me about working as a ball-girl for your college softball team.  Seriously.  Nothing about that work experience is going to make me say, “This is the person we’ve been looking for!”
  • Try to keep your resume to one page.  Unless your professional career began at age eight, you probably don’t have enough relevant content to justify a longer resume.  Keep in mind – there’s no need to write a long narrative describing the responsibilities of each of your jobs.  Bullet points will do.  And, please, please, don’t use an 8-point font in an effort to cram everything on to one page.  I’m old, and I can’t read anything written in an 8-point font unless I hold the page an inch from my face.  I don’t like doing this.  It’s annoying, and it makes me feel old.
  • Don’t include the details of your entire professional life in your cover letter.  This is why you attach a resume.  Pick a few items from your resume that are directly relevant to the job for which you are applying, and include a detail or two about each experience.  Your cover letter should be no more than three paragraphs, and should be concise.  As I’m reviewing 150 letters and resumes, and I come across your two-page, ten-paragraph cover letter, I’ll want to stick a fork in my eye.  I already don’t like you.  (This really isn’t the reaction you’re looking for from your potential employer, is it??)
  • Avoid hyperbole in your cover letter.  Don’t tell me about your “extensive” experience in whatever.  If you are in your early twenties, it’s highly unlikely that you have extensive experience in anything.  (See above regarding the one-page resume.)  Along the same lines, don’t tell me about your “professionalism”, “strong work ethic” or “integrity”.  I see these descriptions so often that they’re virtually meaningless.  And don’t describe yourself as “an ideal fit” or “exceptionally qualified” (particularly when you are not at all qualified).  Your resume will speak for itself in this regard.
  • Don’t describe yourself as “detail-oriented” in your cover letter.  (This goes over especially badly when your letter is riddled with typos.)  When applying for a job, everyone describes themselves as detail-oriented.  Who the heck is going to say “I’m not so great with details”?  I can get an idea of your attention to detail from how carefully you’ve crafted your resume and cover letter, the types of jobs you’ve held in the past, and your responsibilities in those jobs.
  • In your cover letter, there’s no need to write about how “passionate” you are about the arts, how much you love going to the theater, or that Beethoven’s Eroica is your favorite musical work.  This is not your OkCupid profile.  Everyone goes into our field because we feel strongly about the arts, and we wouldn’t be happy working in any other field.  Your education, work history and other relevant experiences will show that you are committed to a career in the arts!

We’re excited about the prospect of bringing on someone new, although we’re sad that our current assistant, Ann, is leaving.  Take care, Ann – we’ll miss you!


For additional information and resources on this and other GG_logo_for-facebooklegal, project management, and business issues for the performing arts, visit

To ask your own question, write to

All questions on any topic related to legal, management, and business issues will be welcome. However, please post only general questions or hypotheticals. GG Arts Law reserves the right to alter, edit or, amend questions to focus on specific issues or to avoid names, circumstances, or any information that could be used to identify or embarrass a specific individual or organization. All questions will be posted anonymously and/or posthumously.




The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with your specific circumstances, facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a nasty email, filing a lawsuit, or doing anything rash!



Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.