Advice and How-To's Especially for ACTORS!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

How to List Special Skills on Your Resume

Recommended Reading:
(and if you buy, I get a little gift!)
Accents & Dialects for Stage and Screen
Tales & Techniques of a Voiceover Actor
Juggling for the Complete Klutz

I recently got an email from Tina who writes:

Hi! I would like to ask you some questions about special skills in an actor's resume. I would really, really appreciate your help. I am a dancer and a singer and also…I write lyrics for the songs, ...actually I do a lot of things but I'm curious what fits in an actor's resume....Photoshop and making banners isn't really a skill that matters, right? And also, I won a lot of competitions in dancing, should I list that too, or should I omit this kind of information, because it sounds like you are bragging (I've read that casting directors don't like that), …but on the other hand if you don’t put all this kind of information, there isn’t a lot of info (I haven' t been in a movie, but I' ve done some TV work, but again, mostly extras) for me to enlist. I'm confused about it really and I would appreciate any kind of help. THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!

Hi, Tina! It is wonderful to hear from you, and I will be glad to answer your question. Here's what I usually suggest when it comes to listing special skills. You want to list skills that can be demonstrated on stage or on screen. Meaning- it needs to be something you could conceivably be asked to do in a play, on TV or in a movie. Based on the things you mentioned, I would include information about your singing and dancing, including something about your awards, like, "award-winning dancer- multiple competitions" (and then perhaps list the styles of dance that you do- It's not bragging- it's the truth!) I would also make mention of your lyric writing since it is so relevant to our industry.

The rule of thumb- special skills should be things that not that many regular people can do! Accents are special skills, everyday hobbies like knitting are not. And as wonderful as doing Photoshop and graphic design are (and not that many know how to do it), it is not something an actor would typically be asked to do while actually performing.

Here is a sample list of the kinds of things that can go in a special skill section - if you do them very well:

Dance (list styles)
Singing (list styles/range)
Tricks (balancing on unicycle, juggling, etc)
Stage Combat/Swordplay
Stunt work
Musical instruments played
Languages spoken
Hobbies (if they're demonstrative and unique)

This isn’t a full list, but it is a good place to start.

I've also written a separate article on special skills that you should check out:

Bite-Size Business for Actors: Special Skills

Last thoughts- If you are concerned about your resume looking too sparse, make sure that you are getting plenty of training. Good training can make up for a lack of experience, so you will want to focus on becoming as specific and focused on your craft as you can, and good training will really help.

And... be sure to leave your background credits off your resume. In the next few days I’ll be posting an article going over the exact reasons why!

Have a comment or question? Leave it by clicking below!

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out

7 COMMENTS - Click to READ:

Laura said...

great advice! Thanks!

Erin Cronican said...

You're very welcome! =)

Annuity said...

I really greatful to you for this information!

Unknown said...

As a longtime casting director, here's my point of view. In your special skills, we want to see talents that will help us cast you. If you shoot guns - tell me which kind of guns and how proficient you are. If you do accents, specify which accents. Don't just say "English accent" because that's too broad. Specify (Cockney, East End, etc.) If you are a licensed RN it's great to know if I'm casting a medical show because I know you'll be more than comfortable with the dialogue. Can you drive? Can you drive a stick-shift? (I can't!)

As Erin says, do not pepper your special skills with with things that probably won't pertain to the actual job. I've seen it all. "Ear wiggling", "makes great Eggplant Parmesan", "Julia Roberts niece" - which was a very young Emma Roberts who seemed to think that being Julia's niece was not something she was born into but an actual special skill!

Help us help you get the job with specific information about your talents and skills.

Unknown said...

Your advices are really helpful and relevant ... This will definitely help in improving acting skills... thank you for sharing!!!
Grooming Acting

Anonymous said...

Can you give a list JUST FOR ACTING skills, not dance or stunts or sports, just for a person wanting to 'act' in front of a camera for film or TV ya know?

Erin Cronican said...

Hi, Mirrorcos. Thanks for your comment. Respectfully, stunts and dance are absolutely part of what an actors might need for their acting career, depending on the kind of work they want to do. Many, many actors do their own minor stunts or play sports on screen, and if someone is interested in doing action based film/TV work having these skills on a resume make a big difference. In addition, dance is a hugely important skill for any actor interested in musical theater. This blog has been created to serve actors in any genre or medium (including film, TV, plays, musicals, commercials, print, voiceover, and industrials.)

Note: This is especially useful when an actor is looking to get their SAG-AFTRA or AEA card - having a skill that sets a non-union actor apart from union actors allows the producer flexibility to cast the non-union actor and give them their card (via the "Taft-Hartley Act.")

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