Top Ten Tips – Preparing for Media Job Interviews

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Hello, Creatives!  Job interviews can be terrifying.  Let’s be honest; they’re a tiny window of time where you have to prove yourself to an employer.  There’s a big metaphorical spotlight shining down on you, and it’s warm and you’re sweaty, and you’re practically 99% Perspiration yourself!

We want to help you master those media job interviews, and by the end of these Ten Top Tips we hope you’ll know more ticks and techniques to excel in any media interview.

af1) Make the First Move

“I called ahead & asked to meet with the person who previously held the post.  Out of 9 people interviewed for the job, I was the one person to do that.” – Andrea Fairless, Careers Coach

While Andrea Fairless, (currently a Careers Coach at the University of Sunderland) stresses that she doesn’t know if this was a deciding factor in receiving her previous position as Careers Advisor for UK careers advice company Connexions, it certainly didn’t hurt.

Because of this phone call, Andrea was able to meet to talk about the environment at Connexions, what everyday tasks she would encounter, and other useful little tidbits.  Even if it’s just a short phone conversation with your potential employer, just having the time and the space to fire a ease a few concerns before your media interview can work wonders.

2) Know the Buzzwords

Chances are a media company will be advertising an open media position with a written job profile – giving you all kinds of information about what the role is about, and what you’ll need to be able to do.  Read, read, read this job profile.  It’s a no-brainer, right?

But there’s so much more that job profiles can give you, if you know how to read between the lines.  Look out for any buzz words like “teamwork”, “organisation”, “time management”, “fast-paced environment”, etc. – If they’re mentioned in the job profile, it’s likely that a media employer will ask you questions about these topics at the interview.  This way, you’ll be able to prepare what questions you’ll likely be asked in advance, and give you time to think of some answers.

Some media employers may go out of their way to make life easier for you – for instance the likes of the BBC usually list what they class as an “ideal candidate” for a position or a work experience.  So, if they give you the boxes, make sure you tick as many of them as possible.

3) Online Reputation

According to the Jobvite UK Social Recruitment Survey, one third (33%) of all recruiters plan to increase investment in recruiting via social media in the next 12 months.  Year by year, more media employers are turning to how you present yourself on social media, so you need to make sure your channels won’t deter a media professional.

(By the way, Jobvite’s survey is genuinely an amazing resource for finding our about the general employment landscape, and trends that are on the horizon; including what employers are doing differently to attract employees, how our employment landscape compares to the USA, and tons of other stuff.)

4) Know the Company

This one’s all about research.  And a quick search on Wikipedia won’t suffice.  A media employer will want to know why you think you are a natural fit to them; so how much do you know about the media company you are applying to work for?  And, how can you prove that you are well suited to be a part of them?  The more you can showcase you know about the media company, the more likely it is they’ll recognise you care about them, and care about fitting into their ethos and their way of life.

5) No Previous Job is Too Small

You’ve probably heard of the term “transferrable skills”; i.e. the things you’ve learned in previous roles, on work experience or internships, or through your education.  For instance, if you’re applying for a position as a TV journalist, have you learned any video editing software in the past which may be useful?

But it doesn’t have to be as linear as that.  What if you’ve been had a role in a fast food restaurant?  Surely that’s not any use for you now.  Well, it certainly shouldn’t take up a lot of space on a media CV, but it’s not unimportant.  If you’ve worked at KFC, you’ll have been used to constant quick-fire deadlines, communicating directly with regular customers (customer service and customer care), dealing with a busy and sometimes stressful environment…  The list goes on – all of these skills will likely be important to a media employer.

Try making a list and thinking about what flexible skills you have gained, and remember that practically anything, no matter how “unimportant”, no matter how “menial”, could potentially be the one thing that impresses your interviewer, and win them over to hire you into a new media position.

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6) Be a “STAR”

If your media job interviewer asks you for a specific example to show how you’ve done ______, which is a highly common question known as a “competency based question”, here’s a here’s a handy mnemonic to reel off & make sure you’re ticking all the right boxes:

Situation – what was the job and what was your role?
Task – what is the thing you were required to change/act upon/improve?
Action – what did you do to make this possible?
Result – and what was the outcome?  Did you achieve your aims, and do you potentially have a figure to back it up?

Many media employers, particularly the bigger companies, will allow them to prove why they have hired one candidate over another, in quantitative terms.  So always be sure to give your media interviewer some well fleshed examples, including all points of the STAR.

7) Bring a Snazzy Notepad, and Use It

I’m a big advocate for having something to write on; it’s a great way to show you’re keen, organised, and care about getting details right.  It might feel really weird writing a couple of things down (and do keep writing to a minimum), but for some people this can help relax the mind and focus on more than just speaking out lout.

rhOne technique Rob Hunt, Careers Advisor & head writer of the Creative Futures blog taught me was using a notepad is a great way of dealing with long or two-parter questions:

“Writing down a couple key words about the questions in an interview can help you make sure you’re covering everything your potential media employer is asking about.” – Rob Hunt, Creative Futures

8) Eye Contact

Some things are no-brainers, and as such I’ve not given them a space on the list.  Things like “don’t wear sweatpants”, “don’t prove you can eat a foot long Subway sandwich in under sixty seconds”, and the ever important “don’t vomit on your potential employer”.  You know, the obvious media interview no-goes.  And on surface value, giving good eye contact in a job interview should be second nature.  Don’t sit there and stare at the table, or your over your interviewer’s shoulder, or the wilting potted plant in the corner.

But what if you’ve got more than one interviewer?  Maybe you’re in front of a panel.  In situations like this, try to give equal eye contact, and if possible equal attention, to everyone sat opposite you.  Practice eye contact with some friends.  Try and find the space to be comfortable with just looking into someone else’s “window to the soul”.

9) The Importance of Being You

Make sure you don’t sell yourself to be something you’re not.  Tell the truth on your CV, don’t pretend to know how to use any media programmes you’ve never used before, etc.  Remember that everything you say, everything you try to sell yourself as, you’ll have to live up to if you receive the media job.  So, sell yourself as the real you.

What are your own strengths that might separate you from another candidate for this media job?  Have a think about what makes you stand out, your “unique selling points”, and don’t be afraid to be confident in yourself and let those skills be known.

10) Any Questions?

Quite honestly, it’s one of my least favourite parts of a job interview.  That moment, usually right at the end of the interview when they suddenly give you the opportunity to flip the table and become the interviewer.  “Do you have any questions?”

And, when they ask you, take a moment to look at this list in your snazzy notepad and make sure everything’s set in your mind.  Even if you then say “no, I think you’ve covered everything, thank you”, it still shows your potential media employer that you’re taking the process seriously.

I must say a big thank you to Andrea Fairless & Rob Hunt from Sunderland Futures for helping me to compile some of these Top Ten Tips.

In fact, if you want a snazzy looking notepad to take into your media interview, 99% Perspiration have you covered!  Look at all these lovely things you can buy.

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What kind of interview experiences have you had?  Good?  Bad?  Unexpected?  If you’ve got any more tips to suggest, please don’t hesitate to get involved in the conversation – and you can do so by joining our community of creatives on Facebook.

Click here to listen to Joanna Makepeace-Woods on 99% Perspiration

Click here to listen to Joanna Makepeace-Woods on 99% Perspiration

And finally, Creatives, episode 22 of the 99% Perspiration podcast is a whole half hour of “Powerful Pitching & Top-Notch Networking” from Joanna Makepeace-Woods, Employability Manager at the University of Sunderland.  Check it out for even more advice, from us here at 99%.

nyf-gold-award-jay-sykes-circle-crop1And, as always,
Stay productive, stay awesome!

Jay Sykes
Executive Producer, 99% Perspiration

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