Interview Tips for the Station Visit
By: Mike Brannen
A while ago a friend asked me for some advice going into an interview with a TV station. Three of the four stations that brought me in for a face-to-face last year offered me a job. So either I’m lucky, or I surprisingly said and did the right things (some might say a face-to-face is a near-lock for the job, and I wouldn’t reject that thought).
Anyways, I emailed my friend some tips, along with anecdotes from my interview experiences. It’s kind of a rambling mess, but the least you can take away from it is something to consider when you get an interview.
1. Arrive early, smile a lot.
2.Don’t come empty-handed
I brought a small binder that had a legal pad in it so I could write things down and store any paper work handed to me. I got lots of little notes. I kept extra cover letters and resumes in there too. Whether or not you actually use it is moot. Having it with you gives the impression (or illusion) that you care. I wouldn’t bring an iPad/tablet if you have one; I think it looks tacky at an interview. Maybe in a couple of years it will be acceptable.
3. Have a valuable ethical question to discuss.
At one interview, I said I was concerned about how many scripts said “according to the (local newspaper).” I said I came from a background where we didn’t report anything that wasn’t ours. This was my attitude straight out of school. The Assignment Editor at this station gave me a fair answer by saying if it was the biggest story (like the Mayor embezzling money or something), and we didn’t at least mention it and attribute it, and every other TV station did have it, our audience is going to feel left out. This was a good five minute discussion, but I thought it was important because it showed I was paying attention to what was happening at the station.
4. Find ways to show you are different than their current employees
I had an Executive Producer make a really good point by saying he didn’t want to hire somebody who would just agree with everything and everybody. He wanted somebody who thought differently, and the station into a different direction. Someone who was forward-thinking, independent, etc. So, hopefully your ND has that attitude, as opposed to wanting to hire sheep.
5. Oversell yourself
For every question they ask, say you’ll be able to do it and more, and still be able to be creative. In TV, aggressiveness is never a disliked trait.
Have fun in the interview. Make them laugh, because 20-30% of the hiring decision is on personality too. Some News Directors will want a hard-ass who’ll get stuff done. Some will want someone who is good at what they do, but also have a personable attitude. I’m more of the latter. It’s kind of a guessing game with whoever is doing the interview. You’ll have to feel it out. As I mentioned earlier, some will tell you that you are already hired if you are coming into the interview, but it’s upon you not to screw up and lose it. They just want to confirm you’re not a whack job.
Of all the things I’ve discussed, I cannot stress enough the importance of observing what the interviewer says and does. This is the time to do all you can to impress them, and convince them you are the hire they need, and not just want. Every interview will be different, so stay on your toes, and pay attention to perceptual cues.
Even if you don’t get the job, use each experience to improve your interviewing skills. You’ll get ‘em next time.
Mike Brannen is a morning newscast producer for KIRO7, the CBS affiliate in Seattle. He recently received a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and completed his thesis, Motivational Use of Twitter. He previously worked multiple positions at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Missouri during for four years. You can follow him on Twitter: @MikeBrannen.
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