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Recruiters from Various Studios Demystify the Corporate Talent Acquisition Process for RespectAbility Summer Lab Participants

Screenshot of panel discussion with five speakers and an ASL interpreter on Zoom.Los Angeles, CA, July 15 – “We’re not necessarily looking for a culture fit, but a culture add,” Rebecca Martinez, a recruiter from ViacomCBS, told 30 participants in RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. “What voices are not represented within the department? So, it’s not about fitting in. It’s what value do you bring? What does your unique set of skills and experience bring to the organization?”

As part of Week Three of the Lab, talent acquisition recruiters from various studios visited the Lab to share insider tips and tricks of breaking into the corporate entertainment world.

The cohort was first joined by Joel Camarena of Sony Pictures Entertainment. As the Senior Manager of Global Talent Acquisition Programs, Camarena oversees recruitment for early career roles, including Sony Pictures’ internship program where a 2020 Lab alumna is currently placed. His presentation, appropriately titled “Recruiter Real Talk,” included insights on resumes, cover letters and interview etiquette, demystifying the recruitment process for the participants. While he mentioned that every recruiter may have a different approach, Camarena shared that a good cover letter is less than one page, and when he reviews a candidates’ application, he only spends about ten seconds looking at a cover letter and that they should be clear and concise. Tailoring his insights to the group, he also shared that because the cover letter is more personal, it’s an appropriate place to “tell your story” and “share specifics around your disability and how it has affected you.”

Following “Recruiter Real Talk,” additional recruiters joined a panel to share their own perspectives and insights. This panel included Carol Bonilla from Sony Pictures Entertainment, Chelsea Martinez from Disney Streaming Services, Rebecca Martinez from ViacomCBS, and Domenic Vermeulen from Lionsgate/STARZ. They further demystified the process by not only sharing more insights about the recruitment process at their respective companies, but also pulling from their own experiences pivoting from other careers. The panelists emphasized the importance of having transferrable skills, regardless of industry. Vermeulen, who recently transitioned to human resources from a production role, shared that some of his transferrable skills were budgeting and handling money, while Chelsea Martinez took certification courses that were relevant to both her public relations and human resources work.

The panelists also shared insights on creating a more equitable recruitment process. When asked about the weight of interpersonal skills during the interview process as that is a common concern for neurodiverse candidates, Bonilla shared that while Sony Pictures holds trainings for hiring managers to be mindful of such, what a candidate brings to the table as an independent contributor is more important.

“If a job is meant for you, it’s meant for you,” Bonilla said. “You can probably do really bad and poorly in an interview, but the job is meant for you.”

“Focus more on what makes you special and less on how you can fit into the current ecosystem,” Rebecca Martinez chimed in. “Because most companies don’t necessarily want to continue the ecosystem as-is. A lot are trying to break certain cycles that have been happening over many, many years.”

The panelists also encouraged the participants to be their authentic self when interviewing and to be confident in their abilities and what they bring to the table.

“During my [own] interview process, I made it very clear that my next position will be a place where I can be my full, authentic self,” Vermeulen said. “I said this is what I want. You will get their love. Keep being yourself. I think that is a huge, huge plus. And I would say in combination with being yourself, have confidence in yourself. Be yourself.”

RespectAbility’s third annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities brings authentic and diverse portrayals of people with disabilities to the screen by creating a pipeline of diverse professionals with disabilities behind the camera. Participants include people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities ranging in age from people in their 20’s through their 50’s. Lab alumni from 2019 and 2020 currently work for a variety of studio partners including Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and The Walt Disney Company, as well as in writers’ rooms for Netflix’s Mech Cadet, CW’s 4400 and Showtime’s Dexter, among others. Others have had films featured at festivals such as SXSW and participated in additional career track programs including with Film Independent and Sundance Institute.

Meet the Author

Vanni Le

Vanni Le is the Entertainment Outreach Program Manager at RespectAbility. She focuses on fighting stigmas by ensuring authentic representations of people with disabilities in film and television. Le brings brand strategy and program management experience from both the entertainment and nonprofit fields, having previously worked at the Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, March of Dimes, and most recently A+E Networks.

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