The special skills section of your resume should always be the last bit of information on the page, but that doesn't mean it's not important. As an actor, this list of unique talents will both set you apart from other candidates and reassure directors and producers that you’re a great fit for a role.
The tricky part is figuring out not only what talents you have but also which ones to list and what special skills are worth acquiring to help boost your chances of being cast in your dream role. Not all special talents are created equal, so whenever possible, take some time to tailor your resume to the role you’re auditioning for.
Any special performance skills you have — accents, dance, singing, etc. — are always appropriate to include on your resume. Other choices are more nuanced. Have a terrific party trick that always delights your friends and family? That might not be the best thing to include under special skills unless you know it would be an asset to the role you’re auditioning for.
Don’t count out your talents off stage, either. Having a valid driver’s license is a big perk for some gigs, and being able to drive a stick is even better. Be sure to include that skill when auditioning for summer stock or regional theater! Likewise, don’t be afraid to list some of your technical theater experience. There are occasions when theaters hire actors to perform on stage and do a bit of backstage or administrative work (be sure to get extra compensation for these duties). Plus, listing them on your resume signals to casting directors that you’ll probably understand and appreciate all of the effort and people involved in the project.
Special skills you should add to your resume.
Performers' special skills tend to fall into three general areas:
As a rule for acting jobs, make sure to include the very best of your performance skills on your resume, and add the others on a case-by-case basis. Never include a special skill you don’t really want to use.
- Play one or more musical instruments
- Crying on cue
- Dance (ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom, etc.)
- Stage combat (especially if you're a certified actor combatant)
- Weapons handling
- Voiceover acting
- Sports (particularly if a sport relates to the role)
- Horseback riding
- Languages you’re proficient in
- Singing (include your vocal range)
- Musical styles
- Comfortable working with animals
- Magic tricks
- Foley artist
- Acting styles you’ve studied in depth (Meisner, Chevhov, Practical Aesthetics, etc.)
- Understudy experience
- Stand-up comedy
- Roller skating
- Baton twirling
- Rope tricks
- Knitting (it's written into a surprising number of plays)
- Music direction/conducting
- Body percussion
- Set construction
- Stage management
- Running a light or sound board
- Hanging and focusing lights
- Operating a fly system
- Scenic painting
- Designing and applying stage makeup
- Intimacy director
- Having a driver’s license (if you can drive a stick, include that)
- Prop-making or crafting skills
- Child wrangling
- Licensed to operate a forklift
- Projection or video design
- Computer proficiency
- Box office experience (share any ticketing platforms you’re comfortable with: Vendini, Eventbrite, Ticketmaster, etc.)
- Graphic design
- Writing press releases
- Managing facilities schedules
- Drafting and executing contracts
- Budgeting for productions
- Community outreach
- Literary management
- Creating study guides
- Social media management
- Leading post-show talkbacks
Is it okay to lie about your skills on your resume?
Generally speaking, you should not lie about your skills on your resume. You’ll set yourself up for a potential disaster if you claim you can do something you really aren’t capable of doing, and it’s going to be unpleasant for you and the rest of the people you work with.
However, there are a few gray areas where you can get away with a little white lie. For example, a pretty skilled dancer could probably pick up another style relatively easily. Someone who is already fairly athletic will more than likely be able to learn how to roller skate with a few lessons.
Use your best judgement when it comes to stretching the truth in the hopes of snagging a role. The world is small, and word spreads quickly when actors create problems. You’re better off being truthful and letting a role pass you by rather than causing of lots of consternation for everyone involved in a project. Most casting directors will respect your honesty and keep it in mind when your paths cross in the future. Better to save your reputation than make promises you can’t keep.
Should I learn a new skill for a role?
If you’re willing to learn a new skill, go for it! It’s always great to add new training to your resume, and anything unique to your skill set will make you more marketable. Be relatively realistic about your goals — don’t set out to master skydiving if you’re deathly afraid of heights — but feel free to challenge yourself. Take up a new instrument, try a new sport and continue to learn and grow. It’ll only aid in the longevity of your career.
If you’ve been hired for a specific role that requires a new skill, don’t hesitate to ask your employer to pay for lessons or coaching. Lots of actors are so grateful to be cast in something that they're shy about asking for financial support to acquire a skill needed for the role. If you’ve been cast in a play, musical or film, it’s because the director and producer think you’re the best fit for that role. They’re going to want you to succeed in every detail of the piece, and it’s in their best interest to support you as you master whatever skills the role requires. Be professional about your request, and your employer will respect you.
If they say no, then you’ll need to decide if it’s something you want to invest in. Many skills will transfer to other roles, so you might decide that you want to move forward and pay for lessons yourself.
Regardless of whether you’re learning something new for a specific job or as a part of your continued education as an actor, it’s always a good idea to keep expanding and adjusting your skillset.
Tailoring your skillset for the career you want.
Acting is just like any other industry — you can learn and master skills that are uniquely suited to the work you want most. If your goal is to work in musical theatre, take lots of singing and dancing classes. If film and television are where you envision yourself, spend time learning how to act for the camera.
No two actors are alike, and there’s no need to pressure yourself to be just like your colleagues. You may find that your interests shift and change as your career evolves, and you should let that happen. Be open to the world around you, and have fun with your career.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the desire for an acting job — any acting job — but don’t lose sight of what you really want out of your career. Take the time to be strategic about your path and the skills you want to learn. You’ll be happier with yourself and, ultimately, with the roles you earn.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.