Job Interviews in Television

  • Expert reveal interview secrets, by Mark Roberts
  • A response to Mark Roberts' column, by Steve Kalb
  • What can go wrong without an interview (anonymous)
  • A response
  • Interview tips
  • Questions you should ask
  • NOTE: These columns and letters first appeared in ShopTalk and are included here with permission from the editor of the newsletter, Don Fitzpatrick.

    Expert Reveal Interview Secrets.

    By Mark Roberts (May 20, 1995)

    (NOTE: Mark Roberts is a radio talk show host and producer of the video "How to Get Hired, After You're Fired" volume one.)

    As a radio talk show host, I have had the opportunity to interview many experts on the job search. If you are looking for a job, this information could give you the edge over the competition.

    What is the purpose of the interview? Contrary to what you may believe, the interview is not where individuals exchange information. According to Kenneth and Sheryl Dawson, authors of "Job Search, The Total System" (John Wiley & Sons, 1988) it is a performance as if you where an actor or athlete. The interview can best be described as a psychological game that you control through learned skills. The purpose of the interview is to get an offer. Ultimately the goal of the game is for both you and the employer to be in a win, win situation.

    What questions will they ask in the interview? First, to be successful you need to know what questions will be asked in advance. How do you find out? It's easy! Just call up the potential employer and ask him over the phone. Yes as incredible as that may sound, you can talk to the person in charge of hiring and find out what kind of individual they are looking for! Then you can ask how they want their questions answered! For example, on the phone, ask the person in charge of hiring, "what kind of employee are you looking for and how would you like him to respond in the interview?" Then when it's time for the interview, you will tell them what they want to hear.

    What do employers ask themselves? They want to know how you can make their life easier. Are you a team player? Are you dependable? Are you a self starter? How can you help the employer to cut costs and increase revenue? This gets the employer's attention.

    What is proof by example and why is it important? Keep a list and all written examples of your job accomplishments. You will first use this in resume preparation and later in the actual interview. In the interview you might explain how you increased sales. However, you need to prove it to the interviewer with something tangible. Anyone can say they increased sales, but can they prove it? In contrast to the other applicants, you will have written (proof by example) for the employer.

    How should you act in the interview? According to Judith A. Dubin and Melanie R. Keveles authors of "Fired For Success" (Warner Books, 1990), you want to demonstrate a positive attitude, high energy and spirit, enthusiasm and excitement. Richard Bolles, author of "What Color Is Your Parachute?" (Ten Speed Press, 1989), believes that energy and enthusiasm is of immeasurable importance. In summary, the more excited you are the more attractive you are.

    Now that you know how to act, how do you build self confidence? One of the best ways to improve your speaking and listening skills that in turn will build confidence is to join a Toastmasters organization in your community. Toastmasters is the premier speaking and listening club and has been in existence since 1924. As Public Relations Vice President of a local Toastmasters organization, I can attest to the fact that it will help you think quick on your feet and how you come across in public. Club members also will be happy to help you practice possible interview questions. Being affiliated with Toastmasters International also looks good on your resume. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for the nearest club in your community.

    As I mentioned earlier, interviewing is not only a game between you and the interviewer, but it's also a numbers game. The following statistics will help you understand the averages in the game so you will not get discouraged when you are rejected. According to Patricia Noel Drain, author of "Hire Me! Secrets of Job Interviewing" (Price Stern Sloan, 1992), it takes about 32 resumes to get one response. You have to send out 47 resumes to get one live interview. On average it takes 21 interviews before you will get an offer. The greater the numbers, the better your chance. As actor and author Jake Steinfeld states in his book "Don't Quit" (Warner, 1993), believe in yourself, and others will believe in you.

    For more information:

    Roberts' video includes valuable tips and advice gleaned from his interviews with celebrities, authors, experts and motivational speakers. It also includes the top ten interview questions asked most by headhunters and employers, and how to answer them. The video is approved by the NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINIS- TRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL that is the leading nationally recognized scholarly refereed journal in educational administra- tion and supervision.

    For more information on the video "How To Get Hired, After You're Fired," send e-mail to CompuServe at CIS:MARKROBERTS or Internet address MARKROBERTS@CIS. or

    A Response to Mark Roberts' Column on the Secrets of Interviewing.

    By Steve Kalb (May 23, 1995)

    (NOTE: Steve Kalb is a radio talk show host, reporter and news director.)

    It is not very often I have something I believe worthwhile to contribute to Shoptalk. After reading Mr. Roberts column on interview secrets I find myself compelled to write.

    Full disclosure: For the last 7+ years Ken Venit (of Primo Newservice) and I have hosted radio and television critique sessions around the country. Between regional and national RTNDA and SPJ conventions we have probably hosted 20+ critique sessions. A former reporter and news director I am the only talk show host in both the RTNDA and SPJ and have served as both a chapter president (SPJ) and state co-ordinator (RTNDA). Attached is a primer I have used when running critique sessions. Up until now it has been on a legal pad. I hope it is instructive to some.

    So You Say You Want To Work For Me

    Going on a job interview is like going on a blind date. Your possible future employer knows virtually nothing about you except for what you have put on your audition tape and resume. We will discuss those later. You probably do not know much more about them than what you read in a brief ad. The trick to getting the job is to know more about them when you walk in the door than they know about you. Then you can ask decent questions and stand out from all of the other 10,000 potential employees that have sent tapes in the last two weeks.

    Before you even apply for a job learn something about the city in which you may want to work. If you have a computer invest $50 in a computer program called "Smart Moves" by PHH Technology Services. It has maps and other information for thousands of cities and towns all around the United States and contains such vital information as information on taxes, housing costs, crime rates and a fairly extensive breakdown on the population by ethnicity, household structure, occupation and age distribution. As I recollect the program was originally designed to help real estate agents assist people moving to other cities and was adapted for use by the general public. It is an absolute bargain. No computer? Look for a book in the library or bookstore called, "Places Rated Almanac." It is almost as good. The key here is information. The more you know the better off you are. You may decide you do not want to work there.

    As soon as you find out you are going for the interview find out as much as you can about the city and surroundings. There are any number of ways of doing this. Assuming the interview is only ten days from today call the local newspaper and see if they can send you back issues. A week will suffice. It will cost you a couple of dollars but you will be better prepared than the candidate who just walks in the front door. Remember your goal is to stand out favorably in the mind of the interviewer and to show you are truly interested in the job. If you subscribe to an on-line service (CompuServe for example) use the Electronic News Service to "clip" articles that may be of interest. Your fallback position is to hit the library. If it is a big enough city you may be able to get back issues of the newspaper.

    Assuming you do not have any friends in the market you are trying to get a job in call the local college or university and ask to speak with the head of the journalism department. Offer them just about anything (except your first born child) for one of their students to videotape a couple of newscasts from your prospective employer and the competition. In the case of radio just ask them to aircheck a couple of hours during a.m. and p.m. drive. Have the student or university overnight it to you and you pay the postage. $50 and the promise of mentoring a couple of their students usually works well. Take notes.

    If at all possible get to the city or town of your potential new employer the night before your interview. You want to watch their newscast(s) or listen to their programming. Take notes and then sit back in your not terribly spacious hotel room with a martini (optional) and review what you liked and what you did not like about their programming. You may want to refer to those notes in the interview the next day.

    If you can't get to the city early or you are driving do not give up. Radio is easy. Leave early. 50 miles out of town you should be able to pick up the signal of the station (if you can't and this is not your first job you may want to re-think working there.) Listen on the way in and take notes. It is a little harder if you are driving in from out of state and it is for a television interview and you could not leave the night before. Try to get to the city of your future employer before noon. Find a television/appliance store (Sun/Silo/KMART etc.) They usually have a wall full of televisions. Switch one of the televisions to the station you are trying to get a job at and the one immediately next to it to the station's major competition. If you are lucky a salesman will not show up for about ten minutes. I have a policy of never lying. If the salesman asks, tell him/her exactly why you are there and exactly what you are doing. If they have a brain larger than a filbert they will help you. Who knows, you might like the television so much you might actually buy it. If not, you may not be a sale now....but you will be one later. Make sure you get his/her business card and drop a note when you get home. If you do buy a TV make sure he gets the sale.


    You have two ears and one mouth consequently you should speak half as much as you listen. If you have done your homework you know more about his operation than he knows about you with the exception of the information and opinions he has garnered from your audition tape. The fact he has invited you in for an interview means you have made it over the first "speed bump." The key is to impress him and not blow the interview. Ask him what he is looking for in a reporter/producer/writer/talk show host, whatever. You KNOW what they do and you know what their competition does so you can now weave what you know with your experience and what you can do. Be clear, concise and forthright. Never lie. If after listening to what he wants out of an employee you do not honestly feel you can do the job be honest enough to tell him. If he is REALLY interested in you he may modify some of his positions. If not you part as professionals. Most people will respect you for that. Remember the only two products you have "for sale" are your professionalism and talent. One without the other is useless.

    The Resume & Tape

    Contrary to popular belief resumes can be longer than a page. However make sure the information you include is important. I am reminded of a critique session I ran a couple of years ago in Atlanta. A college student handed me her tape and resume. Even though she was only a junior in college it was a two page C.V. beginning at birth and noted (among other useless information) that she had been president of her baton twirling team. When I suggested that while this was terribly interesting it was not exactly important she allowed that her professor had demanded it be included. Remember, a resume is a synopsis of your life, professionally for the most part, not everything you have ever done in it. Plain white paper, black ink and a legible typeface. I once received a resume on hot pink paper. It hurt my eyes so much I couldn't read it. Another had a type face so small and illegible (she really wanted everything on one page) I just gave up. I should not need bifocals to read your resume. Check for typos. I have a resume sitting on my desk from a "studnent" from an Ivy League college. He is a "studnent" throughout his resume and cover letter. Proof reading is a good thing.

    Speaking of cover letters this is where most people crash and burn. If the tape is a collection of what you can do and the resume is a synopsis of what you have done then the cover letter is the reason why someone wants to look at the other two. The cover letter should amplify the major portions of the resume and explain what the interviewer will see on the videotape/audition tape.

    I suggest you include two or three references with your packet. These days news directors do not have the time to eat lunch never mind search out references. Anything you can do to make his/her life easier will make you stand out from the rest of the pack. Make sure you tell the people you are using as a reference that you are using their name. I've been surprised more than once with a phone call out of the blue from someone seeking information about a former employee.

    Unfortunately most news directors/program directors decide whether or not they like your work after the first ten seconds. It is not that they suffer from attention deficit disorder (although some I suspect do) but that there is only just so much time in the day. Given that you need to grab their attention make the first piece on the tape the best you have in your collection. HINT: When you make your tape make sure your first piece starts within 3 seconds of the end of the leader. Much longer and the viewer will hit the "fast fwd" button and possibly miss the first 10 seconds of your great piece. They might rewind it but do you want to take that chance? In radio make sure you telescope the commercials. Radio news and program directors hit the "fast fwd" button so quickly it is breathtaking.


    You lived through the interview. You are one of five who may be offered the job. You flew/drove home. Sit down and write a thank you letter. Do it now. Post it first thing tomorrow morning. It will make you stand out and isn't that what it is all about?

    I spent 13 years at WELI in New Haven, Connecticut before moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to live with my fiancee. I currently work all over the place and currently looking for a real job in broadcasting preferably back in the northeast. I am available for critique programs for schools or professional organizations. The deal is quite simple. You pay all expenses (plane/hotel/meals) plus a nominal fee (since I work part time everywhere I can't do this for free) which is NEVER more than $300 (it is usually less) and is negotiable depending on the organization (if you are doing this on a shoestring I have a tendency of being very flexible.) I generally donate my time to colleges and universities unless it cuts deeply into my work schedule. The fee is based on the amount of time you want from me and the amount of time I have to take off from work. I do my best to be fair. Inquiries can be made to me at the following address(s):

    Steven Kalb
    P.O. Box 9191
    Pittsburgh, Pa. 15224-0191

    What Can Go Wrong Without an Interview.

    I took a job over the phone. I thought I asked all the right questions to make sure I was going to a good shop. Unfortunately, the news director left many things out or I just did not ask enough questions. The last station I worked at was great, but I thought a new job in a slightly bigger market (in a small market) would be good for me. I was dead wrong. I wish I could give you all the details, but I don't want to bore anyone. I'm sure many of you out there have been in the same situation I'm in now. Personally, my morale is down. At my old station, I was eager to go to work. Now I dread it. What do I do now? I have only been here a few months, and I'm thinking about leaving.

    I wonder, if I start sending tapes out now, how will news director's react to an applicant whose resume shows he/she has been at a station only a couple of months and already wants out?

    From a confused anonymous reporter.

    Response to "Anonymous."

    Regarding the reporter who accepted a job over the phone and discovered too late it was a bad match...

    I hope all the reporter wannabes reading this newsletter can learn from this experience. NEVER accept a job over the telephone. You need to visit the newsroom personally, feel the vibes, and decide if it's the right kind of place for you.

    Several years ago, I flew out of state to interview at a station that sounded like a really good shop. But when I walked into the newsroom, the energy level was low and people seemed unhappy to be there. It was not an enthusiastic, bustling newsroom. Something was wrong, despite the ND's sales pitch about what an up-and-coming station it was.

    I never would have known the truth if I had taken his word over the phone.

    Interview Tips.

    1. Research the station and the city

    2. Dress for the interview... not for the job.

    3. Bring extra copies of your resume.

    4. Be prepared to talk about:

    • last night's or this morning's newscast
    • big news of the day
    • everything on your resume

    5. Arrive early (10-15 minutes)

    6. Shake interviewers' hand when you arrive.

    7. Pronounce interviewers' name correctly.

    8. Maintain good eye contact at least 80% of the time.

    9. Don't bring up salary or benefits... unless the interviewer does.

    10. Listen!! Adjust your communication style to the interviews'.

    11. Be yourself. Try to relax and smile. Be confident and honest.

    12. When the interviewer is finished, ask questions (see below)

    13. Thank the interview for his/her time. Shake hands.

    14. Talk with other employees to get a feel for the station.

    15. Mail a thank you letter the next day.

    Questions you should ask.

    1. Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?

    2. Why did the person I am replacing leave the company?

    3. Please describe the job duties for this position.

    4. What skills are important for someone in this position?

    5. If you hired me for this position, what would be your expectation for me in six months?

    6. Who would be my immediate supervisor?

    7. Are performance reviews given regularly.

    8. What characteristics do the achievers in the company have?

    9. What opportunities are there for advancement within the company?

    10. Do you tend to fill positions from the outside or promote from within?