Resume Tips, Techniques and Templates

Resumes

Download our Resume Template DOC and I will reply with some feedback, totally for free! Take it or leave it. No conditions or expectations for follow-up whatsoever.

Think of that! You are just about five or six clicks away from gaining insights into how you can improve your formatting, style, look and branding and how you can improve the overall messaging and positioning of who you are and where you would like to go.

I absolutely love connecting with singers in this way. Resumes can reveal a lot about people and are often the source of great stress. Therefore they represent a large opportunity for setting a new course. Let Velvet Singer take out some of the stress.

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Resume Template

Download these Velvet Singer resume template files and you can see first-hand a very simple, clear and straight-forward way of presenting yourself.

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Notice that I named the files the name and fach of the performer, “James Testdata Baritone.” You should always do the same when you email your resume. Think of the computer that it will wind up on — if your file is called “Opera Resume” or something generic like that, it may get be harder for your recipient to keep organized.

One Page, One Page, One Page

Your resume can only be one page long. Yo-Yo Ma’s resume is only one page long, Jack Bauer’s resume is only one page long, Ghandi’s resume was only one page long.

If you want to list repertoire that you know, a bio or other supporting material, those can become separate documents. Use the exact same header: giant name, large fach, photo and contact information.

Name The File Your Name

Name your files with the name and fach of the performer. This is your brand, your handle, your marquee. Coke wouldn’t email out an add campaign that was labeled “Ad Campaign” — it would say “Coca-Cola,” right?

Email PDFs not Word DOCs

Portable Document Format is the only way to email attachments. PDFs render essentially the same on any computer. If you email a Word DOC, then your resume may come out completely garbled. Ask anyone who listens to auditions — a good percentage of resumes they are looking at are junked up by computer printing / formatting. Margins are off, words wrap wrong, gaps are no longer.

For more information on how to Print to PDF, read my blog post here.

Middle Names: Only If You Really Need It

Do some thinking about whether your brand name should include your middle name. Shorter is better 90% of the time.

Rule of Thumb: If you do not list your middle name or initial in a concert program, then consider leaving it off of your resume.

If you have a very generic name (Jim Johnson) or a name that is similar to someone famous (Bard Simpson) then I can see the logic to consistently branding with your middle name. It needs to be unique. But if your first and last names are very unique (Naphtali O’Reilly) then we don’t need the extra clarification.

Last point: your name on your resume does not need to be exactly what is on your driver’s license. A resume is essentially an advertising piece, not a government form.

Name Size: As Big As Your Ego Can Stand

Seriously, bigger. It is your brand. Look at a Coke ad driving down the highway. COKE! Most people that hear you are driving down a proverbial highway of stress and deadlines and schedules. Make it easy on them.

Your name should take up about two thirds of the width of the page, and your fach should be likewise. I used Times New Roman size 54 in my mockup for James Testdata.

White Space = Your Friend

If you want something to look good, add more white space. Don’t be shy if you feel you have too few things to list on your resume. That probably just means that your resume can end up looking really slick. Space things out, add white space. It will look professional and well put together and that tells the panel what they really need to know about you: are you going to work hard, be a good colleague and present things well. Experience (in most cases) is secondary.

Vertical Alignment: Mas Importante

Our eye should see two nice lines down the left and right margins of your resume. Typically I see that right margin clean line broken by dates:

Wrong
2011
2011
2010
2009-10
2010
2009
2009

Right
2011
2011
2010
2009-2010
2010
2009
2009

Instead, right-justify the list of years to preserve the vertical alignment. Do you see how that is more pleasing to the eye?

Also, try wherever possible to reconcile columns of text throughout the document. If your Opera section is four columns wide, try to make your Concert section four columns and snap them to the same width. This is the artistry. Good luck.

Clear Tables: Better Than Tabs or Columns

In an effort to preserve vertical alignment, use tables in MS Word, rather than using Tabs or Columns.

The information in your resume is dynamic, not static. In other words, design a resume that is ready to change and shift around easily. If you have used tabs and spaces, then you may have a lot of work to do when you get each new gig and have to adjust spacing.

That is why Tables rule. You can drag the column width as you like and snap the widths to line up with things above or below. Really smooth.

See the resume template to get started with tables:

Insert a table and change the black lines to clear:

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Photo: Yes, and Zoomed In

To Photo or not to Photo, that is the question. Answer: yes. Greyscale (ie. black and white) and cropped really right. Don’t have a bunch of dark or colorful background as this will kill your ink (and that of anyone else printing out your resume).

This gives you an opportunity to present a different “look” and gives your panelists one more opportunity to place your face with your name.

Colored Text and Lines: Sparingly If At All

If you are an expert designer, have fun with colors and extra lines all you would like. For those of us mortals, I would steer clear or be sure to pass them by a friend or two for review. Colors print differently from different computers and they can distract from your message: namely, that you are solid, reliable and well put-together.

They can also be a very nice personalized touch when done well. Just know that you are trying to execute a skill that has a higher degree of difficulty.

Email Blue Underlined Hyperlinks: So Annoying

MS Word auto-formats your email address and website URL to blue underlined hyperlinks when you hit the return key or space bar. Remove these links by selecting Edit / Undo Auto-Format from the top menu. That will return the text color to black without any underline.

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Composers: Only For Uncommon Compositions

No need to include Mozart when listing The Magic Flute. Less is more. White space is gold.

Professional Contacts Section: Two Options

There seem to be two really solid options on how to handle lists of professional contacts and skills: vertical or horizontal comma-separated. I somewhat prefer the horizontal because it the length of names vary so much. And as a footer, it doesn’t break up the vertical alignment so it is not a problem.

I included both options in the Resume Template files.

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Footnotes: Use Them

Rather than writing out the words scenes, cover, current teacher, partial performance, English, or outreach consider using a footer and a symbol such as these:

See the Resume Template files to copy the symbols.

Fonts: One Font Throughout, With Serifs

Pick a font, any font… and stick with it. You can bold it, italics, big, small, whatever. But don’t use multiple fonts.

Resumes should almost always use a font with Serifs, especially in the performing arts. Serif fonts have little curly ends to them and make things much easier to read when printed out. Sans-Serifs generally work better for computer screens (websites, email campaigns, etc.).

In typography, serifs are semi-structural details on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols. A typeface with serifs is called a serif typeface (or seriffed typeface). A typeface without serifs is called sans serif or sans-serif, from the French sans, meaning “without”.

Read more about Serif Fonts on Wikipedia.

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These are some of the more common fonts with Serifs that may work well on your resume:

  • Baskerville
  • Book Antiqua
  • Bookman
  • Calisto
  • Cambria
  • Century Schoolbook
  • Garamond
  • Georgia
  • Goudy
  • Lucida Bright
  • Modern
  • Palatino
  • Perpetua
  • Times
  • Times New Roman

Font Size: Not Too Small

If you can’t fit things in font size 12 (or possibly 11 for some font types), consider cutting things from the list rather than bumping down the font size. Save an archived copy of your old resume before you cut things out (you may need to remember that old gig from 2005 at some point), but cut, cut, cut.

This is one of the hardest steps for most people, knowing what to cut and making the call. That is where the artistry comes in, but you have to do it. Less is so often more. Again consider how few words are on a Coke billboard. Giving your “audience” clarity is much more important than providing an exhaustive list.

Accuracy and Honesty: Yes, But We Don’t Need A Blood Sample

TMI = Too much information.

I find this the most often with upcoming performances, upcoming school work, competition descriptions and side-stage or cover performances. Search for an accurate and honest, yet and elegant and understated way of communicating the truth.

For example, if you received the “Susan Q. Quackenbush Audience Choice award for best Puccini by a junior undergraduate woman in the Great Lakes district,” find a way to simplify and give props to Susan only if you can. “Winner: district audience choice.”

You may propose a rebuttal such as: “Yeah, but I wasn’t the only audience choice winner and I wasn’t a finalist and Susan’s kids were there to give the prize money …” Simpler is better. You should not feel the burden to spell out every detail. This is your resume, and anyone can ask for clarification if they need it.

Be Bold, Remove Underlines

My graphic and visual designer friends tell me that they don’t like underlines much at all, because underlines often break through letters, especially those that hang down below the line such as “y,” “j,” “p” and “g.” Underlines therefore can make your resume harder to read.

If you need to add emphasis, consider using Bold.

Typos and Accents

Offer your friend $1 for every typo they can find on your resume. It will be worth it.

Another suggestion: Google every single item on your resume. If you list Cosi, Google it to see how the Met handles the accent and to see how your character’s name is spelled. Definitely Google every single professional contact on your resume. Those are very easy to miss.

I often see accents missing, going the wrong way, or improper capitalization in these shows:

  • Così fan tutte
  • La Bohème
  • L’Elisir d’Amore — Often the “D” is cap with a small “a”
  • Hänsel und Gretel — If you use “und” then you need “ä”, otherwise just use “and”
  • Roméo et Juliette — If you use “et” then you need “é”, otherwise just use “and”