What sort of questions can you expect when you go for your first interview for a job in television?
That was the question posed by Tayo via Twitter so I took it upon myself to answer!
Now obviously every interviewer is different. It will depend on their background, what role you are applying for, what attributes they are looking for specifically, and etc. If your job is largely looking after members of the public they are going to want to know about your social skills; if you are going to be in charge of scouring the country for obscure props they are going to want to know if you know how to start looking; if you are to run around and be useful in an emergency they will want to know you are calm and efficient under pressure.
I have interviewed many people for jobs and my questions tend to vary according to the day, my mood and the person. Sometimes their CV tells me a lot about their practical experience and I will spend more of the interview trying to get to know them better as a person; sometimes there are gaps in the CV I want to clarify; sometimes it is for a very specific project and I need to know if their background has given them the necessary level of knowledge about that subject.
But let’s assume you are applying for a runner or junior researcher job on a general factual entertainment programme with no particular subject expertise required. These are some of the questions I might ask:
Why do you want to work in television?
(Don’t answer “because I want to be famous or spend time with famous people”!)
Why does this job interest you?
(Be honest about wanting to get a foot in the door but show an interest and a knowledge of the show and the company you are applying to. You have, of course, checked out their website and watched the show at least once, right?)
What do you want to do in the future?
(If anyone replies “I want to be a presenter” I am immediately wary. Are they going to spend the production annoying the talent asking how they get an on-screen job rather then doing the job? I want to know you are keen on the job, not just trying to find a way to access presenting roles).
What do you like most about the show?
(As a runner you wouldn’t need to provide an editorial review but I would be genuinely interested in honest views. By all means be complimentary but bear in mind my next question could well be….)
What do you think we could improve on the show?
(Again a high level question I’d ask a researcher or producer really but it helps me find out how much you are familiar with the show and again I’m genuinely interested. You are a viewer as well as a runner. Be honest but not scathing!)
Have you done any running or work experience for TV before?
(You may have made this clear on the CV but I may ask anyway! The answer ‘no’ is fine but follow up with a ‘but’ – “but I have had several holidays jobs/worked on a college media course/helped my dad set up his new sandwich-making business/organised the school play/etc requiring me to think on my feet and support a team”.)
What would you do if a member of the cast asked you to go and buy alcohol or drugs for them?
(Highly unlikely question but hey it happens and I may be interested in how you would deal with a potentially difficult situation. Whatever your answer it helps me to see how your mind works).
The director has decided he wants a pair of Irish dancing shoes and needs them that afternoon. How would you about finding them or any other last minute, and possibly obscure, prop?
(A test of your resourcefulness. Think not only of how you start looking but how you will get them to the studio/location on time).
What do you think would be your learning curve on this job?
(One of my favourite questions in interviews for the more experienced candidate. I like that someone is honest about what they can do and what they may find challenging – as long as they are keen to learn and experience it.)
What do you think are your personal strengths and weaknesses?
(Tricky one but many successful people try to find a weakness that isn’t too devastating rather than pretend they are perfect?! A weakness is OK if you are aware of it and working on making it a strength. Naturally you have worked out plenty of strengths – efficient, hard working, good with people, sense of humour, understand how important chocolate is in a crisis, etc but again be honest. Your lies will be found out very quickly).
When can you start?
(‘Now’ is always a good answer for productions that are put together as the last minute!)
Does that sound daunting? Well in truth those are tough questions for an entry-level job – they are more suited to more experienced roles but worth thinking about them anyway.
Having asked a few media folk what they would ask they made that very point. Here’s what they had to say:
Hope that helps. If anyone would like to add their typical – or even untypical – questions, please do. Come on, producers and PMs – you must have some favourite questions you like to pose to unsuspecting interviewees? Help Tayo out here!