Interview with Amy Smith, Head of Talent from Framestore
In our first part of looking into the importance of CVs for your job applications we have a chat with Amy Smith. Amy and I originally met 2016 during my Launchpad internship at Framestore in London. She is now the Head of Talent there and a person with great integrity so I asked her to join me in the quest of the perfect CV.
Can you give us a little background to yourself of why you can share some light on the CV topic?
I have been working in HR and recruitment for the VFX industry for over 16 years now in both the UK and Canada so have literally seen thousands of applications and CVs over the years so I hope that I know a little bit about it by now! ;-)
That’s a lot! Can you give us an approximation of how many you have processed? Are they mostly passable and worth further investigation?
I honestly wouldn’t know where to start with counting them! At Framestore we receive hundreds of applications a week so I’ve certainly seen a lot over the years. I would guess that maybe two thirds of CVs I see are ok and passable.
Is the CV really the first barrier of an application or do you check portfolio/showreel afterwards anyway?
Actually it’s generally the other way around. Typically we will look at the showreel/portfolio first (for an artist role at least) and then the CV second. The CV is used as more of a sense check on someone’s background and experience but also as a way to find out a little bit more about who they are as a person and what their interests are.
Since you and your team have to scan through a lot of applications through a day.
What are the 3 keywords/blocks/assets you search the most?
 Typically we would be scanning for the job title of the job we are recruiting for - so, has this person done this job before.  We would also be scanning for particular software packages/tools that we know the person needs to have to get up and running quickly and  finally we would also be looking at how they describe the work they’ve done. Does the word ‘I’ appear a lot or do they talk about working in a team and use the word ‘we’ in there too?
"The CV is used as more of a sense check on someone’s background and experience."
Can you name common mistakes in a typical CV you would rather never see again since it also lowers the applicants chances?
 The classic mistake is when someone says they would really like to work at one of our competitor studios because they haven’t double checked before sending it to us!  Equally, getting someone to check your CV for spelling/grammar mistakes is always valuable, especially if it’s something you know you struggle with yourself. It certainly doesn’t look great when you list a key skill as ‘attention to detail’ and then you CV doesn’t bear that out!  The other really awful mistake is when someone writes their CV in the third person. Please refer to yourself as ‘I’ at all times!!!
Are there some common sections which are not really key but written every time? Are hobbies even important to mention?
Personally I don’t really value a ‘Mission Statement’ or opening paragraph on a CV. These usually all end up saying more or less the same things and don’t add any value to someone’s application so I would just leave that off. Hobbies on the other hand I actually quite like as it gives me a sense of who this person is and what might make them different to another candidate. Having said that, don’t put a hobby on there that might be potentially offensive to someone else or that you are not prepared to talk about at interview. If you have a cool hobby we’re going to want to ask you about it!
"The classic mistake is when someone says they would really like to work at one of our competitor studios because they haven’t double checked before sending it to us!"
What do people get mostly wrong when they apply for positions?
(Maybe specifically for Framestore.)
Not reading the job description! So many people apply for irrelevant positions because they’ve seen the job title and assumed they know what the job is but haven’t actually read the job description and thought about whether their skills are relevant or appropriate.
Artists tend to make their CVs artistic. An art project in itself since they believe it is a reflection of their work and should shine through.
What is your take on that? Rather a clean table sheet or an artistic one and why?
I’m 100% on the side of a nice clean and plain CV. There are lots of reasons for this:
It makes it so much easier to read and get to the information we’re looking for quickly.
The document will be view able on all operating systems and computers and will be a smaller file size allowing it to be shared more easily between people who need to see it.
It will print better and doesn’t require colour printing which not everyone has access to
A plain CV will generally have blank margins which allow us to make notes and a white background allows us to highlight things and write directly on to the CV.
"I would guess that maybe two thirds of CVs I see are ok and passable."
What is the biggest gift of a cover letter?
When does it saves applications and brings them to the next level?
Your cover letter is your chance to shine. Your CV is essentially a factual document. It is a list of jobs and skills that you have developed over time but it doesn’t necessarily give any indication of things like your sense of humour or your manner when working in a team or what it is that makes you an individual. I am a strong believer in a cover letter and they can take what is a very straightforward and uninspiring CV and make someone a person I have to meet at interview. So don’t waste it! I don’t need a cover letter to be a five page opus of your life though! Just a couple of paragraphs that outline who you are, why you want this position and what it is about us that appeals to you is plenty. But don’t use stock phrases from the internet, speak as you would if you were meeting us in person, that’s what we want to hear.
Your experience goes beyond working in the VFX industry.
Did you notice a difference to a non film organisation? How is an application different for a company like Framestore compared to Bosch or an accountant firm?
I actually think that CVs outside of VFX are generally a little better because they don’t have a showreel or portfolio to fall back on so they really have to invest in that piece of paper! Your portfolio really is your calling card in this industry so often the CV can be a bit neglected and not made the most use of.
After seeing so many applications. Do you still get impressed from time to time by some of them sometimes? What is it that impresses you?
Absolutely! I still get impressed. Generally it’s because you can tell how much thought someone has put into it. Thought about how they want to present themselves but also thought about how we as recruiters want to see that information. People who take the time to explain little oddities in their career progression or who demonstrate that they’ve really read our job description and tailored their application to that impress me and make me want to invest more time in reviewing their application as a result.
Any current trends you see regarding applications in this industry?
A lot of people are now forgoing a CV altogether in favour of just using their LinkedIn profile. I don’t have a problem with that as such but then you do need to invest some time to fill out and complete your profile in just the same way as you would for your paper CV. Just a list of previous workplaces with no detail and nothing else to show isn’t really telling us anything!
You are also part of the organisation Access:VFX.
What does it have to do with applications and why is it important?
Access:VFX is an industry-wide initiative aimed at addressing the diversity and inclusion of visual effects by promoting opportunities to more women, people of colour, the differently abled and those from less affluent backgrounds. We strongly encourage applications from as diverse a range of people as possible as it’s only through diversity that you achieve innovation and true creativity.
Would you like to add something addressing everyone who wants to apply for a position at Framestore?
Don’t be afraid to get in touch! Yes, we have an online application form that is designed to ensure that your application isn’t missed and that it gets immediately to the right people. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t also e-mail us or connect with us on LinkedIn to follow up, tell us more about you or just to check in on how your application is going. It’s always worth making a connection as, even if you don’t get this job, we’ll remember you much more than a faceless applicant in our database.
Thank you, Amy, for taking the time for our burning questions. You can also find her on LinkedIn. There are so many great insides in this interview I would recommend to read it at least twice and compare it with your current CV and applications even if you are not applying for a job at the moment - you never know in the future.
How about working at Framestore?
Check out our showreel interview: The perfect Showreel with Amy Smith