Is your CV in check?
Aware of the fact that the casting assistant may receive 500 applications for the same job opportunity and only have a few moments to sort out through a few key prerequisites when sorting CV’s into ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ pile? The way your CV is composed may as well determine which pile you end up on long before the actual audition. It is therefore in your interest to make it easier rather than more difficult to spot the relevant information. Here are a few pointers.
Make your CV only ONE page long
This is essential. Extra pages might get lost or simply discourage the person looking from searching for the relevant info. Most young singers think the extra long CV will mask the fact they have little to no experience. Trust me – it won’t.
Learn how to edit information
Keep in mind a golden rule: less IS more. Listing every recital you have done or every conductor/director you have worked with is not gonna help you. If you haven’t worked/performed with someone really famous or someone who is relevant to the company you are applying for – you can peacefully leave it out.
Do your research!
Knowing what kind of company the job position is for matters. Desired prerequisites vary and you might need to tweak what to highlight depending on that. Most companies have websites: if you don’t know the basic information on the production you’re applying for, that information is only a few clicks away: so don’t be lazy.
Auditioning panels see hundreds, even thousands of resumes. In them, they should find all the relevant information on your performing experience and education but they will inevitably find clues to who you are as a person. Typos can be seen as indicators of how thorough you are (in preparing a role). Resume exaggerations and lies (music world is very small, people do tend to know each other and information on the internet is readily available) will be seen as deliberate untruthfulness which is a very bad for character assessment.
In creating a successful CV I suggest the following outline:
Contact information header
It should include basic information in order of importance:
- Voice type
- Contact information
Note to the wise: First name and Family name are enough. If you have an especially long legal name there is no need to put it on your resume.
It’s a MUST. It needs to be a good quality head-shot, not a selfie or a shot your friend snapped at the party. In this day and age, how you look is part of your unique selling point. Use it to your advantage. However, do keep in mind it also needs to be realistic and up to date. The panel needs to remember you from the audition and your picture helps with that process. Do not use a photo from a production you have done – save those for your website.
Sometimes companies want to see your basic voice type – ex. soprano – and make their own decisions. Others (houses working within the “German system” will want to know specific “Fach”. It also depends on what you are auditioning for (a specific role or a place in the ensemble). This falls under the “do your research” bar.
Either way, make sure the credits on your CV match up with your voice type and repertoire. Don’t confuse the panel.
Address, phone number, email, website agent’s info (if you have one and want to share it). Make sure all is correct and up to date!
A good header should be followed by a list of relevant experience! Young singers tend to state their education first, often starting with their basic (music) education. This is a big mistake. Remember: time and information is of the essence! Every CV should feature a chronological list of complete roles performed to date, with the future and most recent engagements dates at the top. With each role include the opera title, composer (in the case of contemporary or lesser-known works), the organization where the role was performed and the year of the performance, followed by scenes and covers and (if relevant to the audition) concert and oratorio work and chorus work. As you and your CV grows you will learn how to edit (out) old and less relevant experience.
Competition Prizes / Awards
List relevant competitions, awards (and scholarships if appropriate). The local amateur song competition you won in high school is lovely but has no place on your CV. Participated but haven’t won any prizes? There is no need to put this section on your CV.
Education and training:
As mentioned before your resume should highlight your training experience, including both academic and professional training which is relevant to a singing career. Include your conservatoire, and/or relevant education credits. If you have participated in any professional training programs, please include that information and be specific: which program(s), at what level(s) and in what year(s). Be selective. Keep this section short and concise. A degree in languages might be relevant – one in physics impressive but, sadly, irrelevant. Listing teachers, conductors, directors, and coaches? Only list professionals who would be willing to speak favorably about you. In other words, don’t list every masterclass teacher you have ever worked with.
Relevant personal information:
This is a section that in a short and concise way gives place to all the other potentially useful skills that are relevant to you as a singer and potential employee. They include:
- Playing an instrument
- Dance / drama training / acrobatic skills
As previously mentioned, these skills come as an extra but think long and hard before putting them on your CV. State only things that you are actually really good at ‘cause it might come back to “bite you in the arse”.
- List languages that you can speak at least on B2 level.
- Can you really sight-read? If thrown into a deep end of an poly/partially a -tonal piece, would you make it? If not, play into your strengths and omit sight-reading as a part of your personal skills arsenal.
- Your dance/drama lessons when you were 5 or a role in a school-play do not count as a personal skill.
Your CV will need to be attached to a carefully crafted Cover Letter which is tailored for that particular auditioning opportunity. You can have a good skeleton cover letter in your arsenal to use as a base but make sure you tailor each and everyone for a specific audition.
Unlike the CV which is a presentation of facts, your cover letter should be a personal introduction.
This is the perfect place to address any gaps in your resume or changes in your fach should you have any.
The cover letter should:
- clearly indicate which audition opportunity you are interested in.
You want to make sure that your application is being measured against comparable talent, clearly state that you are interested in the upcoming chorus / training program / education ensemble / mainstage audition – as applicable.
- Include some indication that you have done your research into why this company and/or opportunity is right for you
- Highlight your experience with a role they are casting or an opera they are planning for the future if possible
- If you know one, do mention a known professional who has worked with the company. (Again, only do so if the person mentioned would give you a good recommendation). It is a common courtesy to ask permission to use the person’s name!
- Indicate what materials your package includes (resume, photo, application, recording, etc.). –
- Only send the materials that are requested.
- If you have other materials (reviews, recordings, etc.), indicate in the letter that you can make them available upon request.
Last but not least, the devil is in the details:
- Be accurate! Check for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Know your composers and proper spelling of the titles in the right language. Not sure ? A quick Google check will tell you.
- Have someone (from the business) proof-read it.
- Save it as a PDF. Don’t assume you are using the same word processor as the viewer; files can become corrupt as they are converted and your beautifully formatted CV scrambled
- Save the CV as your name e.g. ‘Jane Do Soprano CV’. Don’t save it as ‘jane 206del’
- Address the cover letter to the correct person/institution. Perhaps the most important thing which singers in their haste forget is: double check when using the same cover letter.
- Keep your materials up to date: keep a copy of your current resume on your computer, and add and delete any relevant experiences as they occur.
- Make sure it is ONE PAGE long and no phantom blank pages have elongated it.
- If responding to an audition announcement, follow the directions in the listing.
- Lastly, always take a copy of your CV with you to the audition. That means printed on quality paper A4/Letter format. Mistakes do happen and the panel might be missing it.
Got any suggestion? Let me know in the comments below. Toi Toi Toi!!!