The Résumé Mistake You Should Never Make

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If you’re like a lot of actors, the special skills section on your resume can seem a little...silly. I mean, what the heck are you supposed to list there? I’ve looked at a lot of actor resumes and many fill this section out in one of two ways: some barely include anything at all, while others go all out or even exaggerate what they can do.

It can get even more ambiguous when you attempt to submit to online resume databases a lot of agents use. Suddenly, you’re faced with a ginormous list of skills to choose from: accents, languages, sports, dances, stage combat, driving, and on and on. This list might start to make you feel bad because you don’t know how to walk on stilts, juggle, and play the ukelele while doing a stand-up routine in perfect French. Maybe you feel compelled to place a check mark next to things that aren’t exactly your forte! “Wait a minute,” you think, “I took one swing dancing class back in ’08 and I’m certain I could remember some of the steps if I had to.”

So what’s an actor to do? Take a stilts/juggling/ukelele class in your free time? That would be great if those are things you’re really interested in. But for now, do yourself a huge favor and don’t check those boxes until you’re really good at stilts/juggling/ukelele.

Let me share a faux pas that happened to yours truly.

READ: Think Like a Casting Director When it Comes to Your Actor Résumé

I got a phone call from my manager one night last summer about an audition for a new series. He needed to know my availability and how well I play tennis. Tennis? I’ve never taken a lesson or played an actual game. I mean, I’ve fooled around volleying balls back and forth a few times. But they needed someone who could serve and was a competitor. That is NOT me.

It turns out the producers had done a search in the casting database for actors that fit the breakdown and who had tennis checked in their special skills section. Apparently, once upon a time, I checked tennis so they requested a first refusal and last minute audition based on that information. Yikes! This did not make me look good. I had no choice but to come clean and, of course, forfeit the audition.

My manager told me that unless it was something I did well, better to leave it unchecked. Hitting the ball and looking cute in tennis whites doesn’t warrant a special skill.

Lesson learned! I scoured the rest of my online account to make sure everything was up to speed and thankfully didn’t find any more exaggerated skills. But it goes to show that you never know what you’re going to get called in for and why. So it’s best to make sure your skills section accurately reflects what you do WELL instead of what you could look cute doing.

Have you ever been called in based on a special skill? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Actor and web designer Amy Russ helps actors showcase their cast-ability, personality, and professionalism with simple, effective, and affordable websites. Find out the crucial “5 First Steps” to creating a website that stands out in her free video training.

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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

Amy Russ
Actor and web designer Amy Russ helps actors showcase their cast-ability, personality, and professionalism with simple, effective, and affordable websites. She is also an actor who has been working in TV, film, and theater for years.
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