September 2017 | MFJTV

If you have designs on becoming a director, how do you get started?

Writing your first CV for TV can be a daunting experience when you don’t have any industry credits behind you. That is why it is very important to highlight every bit of work experience you have done - and make sure you know which of your skills could translate into an editorial environment and make an impact. Have you written features for a college/uni newspaper? Have you made a magazine radio show? Organised a big event? Interviewed people and edited the footage? Wrangled a really good location to shoot a short film for free? Any instances where you’ve used editorial judgement, organisation, analytical skills and negotiated access to something hard to acquire - all these things will catch an employer’s eye and make them want to read more about you.

 Before you even put cursor to Word doc, spend a few days (or a week) researching the raft of production companies in the UK that make factual content. Create a document ‘Hit List’, where you alphabetically order the companies you would like to work for - and in a table format list the programmes they make, who to contact, their email and phone number. Have another column for the date you sent your CV, and a few columns for notes about if they responded and actions to take going forward. You will use this document throughout your career so keep it organised and remember to update it. Be prepared to send out between 50 - 100 CVs before you get a single response. When you’re sending such a high volume of CVs, the Hit List becomes essential so you can keep your brain in gear and don’t end up repeat sending!

Tips for writing a Cover Letter 

The cover letter can be embedded within an email, or attached as a separate document along with your CV. Most people keep it in the body of an email - but it should still be highly professional, and not too casually addressed. Your cover letter can make or break first contact with a company. A compelling, succinct, to-the-point cover letter will entice the employer to open your CV. A terrible cover letter will result in the CV going unseen, most likely dumped in the trash folder along with the email cover letter. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Lead with the most important info first: the job you’re seeking, and why you’d be an asset to the company and the production in question.

  • Two paragraphs is enough.

  • Keep it short, punchy - a pinch of humour can work.

  • Double, triple check spelling and grammar - especially the recipient's name.

  • Know the style and branding of the company and write in tone with these elements.

  • Mention one or two of their programmes and say why you like them.

  • Suggest one or two show ideas that fit within their style to show that you’re proactive.

  • Amend the cover letter each time you send it, if you don’t, it’ll come across as lazy and not in touch with the company’s branding and identity.     

Tips for writing your first TV industry CV 

A good CV should be simple, clear, concise and well-written. One page for new entrants, no more than two pages for established TV people. Presentation and content are key, you want to convey your personality and key skills without getting lost in frivolous design trickery or gimmicks. If you don’t have much TV or production experience, then you could still include non-production work experience (could be theatre, radio, journalism) - as long as you gained skills that are transferable. Here are some key tips to remember: 

  • Black ink on white paper, 11pt size lettering in a simple font such as Arial.

  • Contact details (and driving licence details) at the top in bold, use a simple email address with your name eg. firstname.secondname@...

  • Be concise. Editorial is all about condensing down info to the bare bones, so don’t use 100 words when you could use 30.

  • Be bold and confident with your language - avoid CV buzzwords.  

  • Be honest. Lies and overinflated skills will set you off on the wrong foot, so keep things true and highlight your strengths.

  • Make sure there’s plenty of white space in the margins so the reader can write notes on the page and clearly see the content - space makes for a quicker read too.

  • Print the CV out to proofread it, mistakes are easier to spot in hard copy.

  • Be a stickler for excellent spelling and grammar - as a member of the editorial team, you’ll be expected to do a lot of writing, so a mistake-free CV will prove that you have the right skills.   


What to include (with 1 at the top of the page, and 7 at the bottom) 

  1. Name and Job Title. In bold, or capitalised.

  2. Contact details. Mobile, email, and if you have a driving licence.

  3. Key Skills. Languages, computer packages, cameras or transferable skills - bullet point format.

  4. Work Experience. Going from the most recent first, including accurate dates.

  5. Education. Don’t include all your GCSE’s, last academic achievement - be that A-levels or degree - will do.

  6. Interests. If you are including this keep brief, and where possible relevant - eg. travel, presenting or short filmmaking.

  7. References. Professional people you know well and will speak positively about you - make sure you’ve got their permission first before putting their name down!

Important Editorial skills to highlight in CVs and Cover Letters:

  • Fact finding and checking

  • Phone research/interviews

  • Journalism (print, radio, news, web, community TV)

  • Camera operation (stills and/or video)

  • Sound recording experience

  • General office duties (printing, filing, distributing post, front of house phone)

  • Arranging travel, accommodation and transport

  • Languages

  • Transcribing/logging

  • Microsoft Office software (inc. Word, PP, Excel) on Mac and PC

  • Training courses/workshops attended

  • Social media management / website content management

  • Fee or location negotiation

  • Customer service (eg. working with difficult/challenging people)

  • Telecommunications (being a good speaker and listener)

  • Technical experience - eg. data management

  • Project/event organising

  • Stamina for long hours, shifts and chaotic schedules

  • Experience of working in large teams

  • Creative idea generation (eg. coming up with concepts, story ideas, games, apps)

 CV and Cover Letter No-Nos:

  • Don’t send group batch emails - only authenticity and individualism will get you noticed.

  • Don’t label your CV with a stupid title, the doc should always include your name, job title, and date.

  • Don’t call yourself a producer or director. You may have a producer or director credit on a short film or two - but the hierarchy and status in TV is worlds apart, so always label your CV with the entry level appropriate title of runner.

  • Don’t use images or graphics - let your words do the talking.

  • Gimmicks (like printing your CV on a bottle of wine and hand delivering it to the company) are risky and expensive, best to avoid them.

  • Don’t be too familiar - avoid ‘Hi’, ‘Hiya’, ‘cheers’, ‘thanks a lot’.

  • Don’t forget to put your contact details on your cover letter too - and a web/LinkedIn link if you have them.

  • Don’t give up if the responses aren’t flooding in. Keep going, and follow up with phone calls, or try to get a meeting.

  • Don’t go to the production company unannounced to hand deliver a CV. You could try to talk the receptionist into filing it or putting it in the hands of a talent manager - but the senior editorial staff won’t have time to meet you unless you have an appointment.


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