- Getting the interview
- Interview or 'Meeting' tips - Get that work experience
- Application & interview tips - Claire Dowd - Personnel BBC Television - Graduate Training Schemes
Once a producer has seen and liked your CV on startinTV, you are likely to get an email or a phone call. This is where you get your first chance to convince them you are driven and dedicated, and have an informed opinion of the media and the TV industry.
If they telephone, they will probably be short on time. Mention only relevant stuff. Ask them about their area, so you know what IS the relevant stuff - think of it as a piece of TV research.
They may email or ask for a letter outlining your specific interests/ideas.
Start by grabbing the attention. A punchy, imaginative opening that also shows something of your personality is good, but try not to resort to obvious gimmicks. This is an opportunity to demonstrate some creative writing and put over your strengths. Secondly, respond to their approach - they will probably ask for your abilities relevant to their programme, so keep it relevant and give it life.
Thirdly - Your USP - your unique selling proposition - why are YOU the person they need… What are your special strengths? Finally, be accurate. Take care to get names correct. If you are unsure of someone's details, call their office and ask, no-one need know who you are or why you are asking. Get punctuation and presentation right. Keep a record of your email /letter - it may be useful to refer back to before an interview.
So remember it should be clear, succinct yet personalised. To give you an idea of how competitive the business is: The BBC Graduate Trainee schemes get around 10,000 applicants for around 30 places. Even jobs further up the ladder in the industry may have 100:1 ratio of applicants to places.
You need to come over as an enthusiastic, personable, imaginative, articulate and confident communicator. In the course of running and research for example, you will come across an extraordinary range of people. You will need to understand them, empathise with them and persuade them to talk to you for the purpose of making a programme.
Key points to help you get that first interview:
- Ask questions about their area of programming.
- Be prompt in responding and concise and imaginative in letters or emails.
- Emphasise your unique strengths and relevant experience.
- Keep a record of your email and letter.
- Above all, be keen, bright, interesting and interested.
It's essential to prepare for the call, and then the interview. You should know the business if you are serious about working in it. Obviously! You will be at a huge advantage if you know the role that you would be suited to - the nature of the job you are aiming for.
Read the trade press, the National Press, watch TV (actively!), have an opinion on programmes, read TV books, view company websites, and talk to people in the industry when you can. Don't ask them for a job, ask them to tell you about theirs!
Then you will build up a picture and you'll know:
- Are you still interested - despite the hard work and sometimes only average pay?
- Which job area you are most suited for and interested in?
Interviews are for you to display your strengths - though you can say too much and shoot yourself in the foot. Say what you mean to say and STOP talking. They can always ask another question. Listening to and considering what is said to you is important - the clue is often in the question! Think about what you want to say to them. Be like a politician - walk into the interview with a few key points you want to get across and then look for an opportunity to do so.
Consider these: Why do you want this job or opportunity? What are your strengths? What can you bring to their team? What appeals to you about this company? What programmes have you seen recently? (Pick an interesting one you can talk about) What sort of programmes to you like? - this can be quite a give-away. It needs to include their area or you're wasting your (and their) time.
Present yourself well. TV is a casual business, but best not be underdressed. Arrive early so you are relaxed and can think through your responses to the predictable questions. There will be unpredictable questions too, and the more relaxed you are for these the better will be your responses. You will be expected to shake hands, so do so confidently and firmly. Remember it should turn out to be a relaxed conversation for your mutual benefit, as the interviewer is also trying to get a successful result and wants to find someone suitable. Have a few questions lined up to ask them. Be ready to ask about their recent or ongoing projects - which you will have researched.
If you feel nervous practice a few simple relaxation techniques before you walk into the room. Controlling your breathing and making a conscious effort to relax your neck, shoulder and back muscles can make all the difference. Run through your strengths again and feel positive about yourself, - if you have prepared well, there is no need to be nervous. If, during the course of the interview, you still feel stressed, try allowing a moment to pass before you respond to each question or point raised. This extra fraction of thinking time is extraordinarily useful and can help you to remain calm and controlled. You are there to have a conversation about how you might be able to help them in their business and how that, in turn, might help you. The interview is not a form of combat, it is a sensible discussion with a purpose and, with the right preparation and frame of mind, it can be a genuinely enjoyable experience. If you are still feeling anxious then try the simplest cure of all. Smile.
Key points for your first interview
- Prepare by thinking about your strengths and relevant qualities.
- Be friendly, relaxed, confident and keen.
- Listen to what is said and consider it well before responding.
- Demonstrate informed opinions on programmes and the industry.
- Calm any nerves with simple relaxation techniques.
Some applicants haven't even got an idea about what's on the TV or radio at the moment. Research the job that you are going for. We need to see evidence that you know our product. To be honest … would you go to say McVities and not know that they do great chocolate digestives?"
We want to have a conversation about television. I want to hear subjects suggested that will lead to simulating conversation, whether it's on BBC programmes or Big Brother. I want to see people stand up to discussion of their subject and not collapse when trying to argue a point!
It is good to write full sentences. We want people to demonstrate their writing skills. I see a lot of e-mail language which is inappropriate and unhelpful. Chatty phrases, dots and hyphens are not what we are looking for.
Do take care to see that you've filled in all the boxes, and have done what we've asked. If you don't do as we request, then we do not even look at the application form! Warning!
We get abysmal punctuation, poor grammar and spelling. Please use your spell checker!
Take a good look at the overall presentation. If your application form looks messy then we will throw it away.
In BBC Wales for example there are around four graduate trainees per year on twelve month contracts. After a three week induction course, in Wales and London, you can decide what you are into and we can work out what work is needed at our end, and match you up with the right department.
Later we do move trainees outside their comfort zone in one of the four placements. No-one is surplus to requirements, you will be working hard and not hanging around. Graduates will receive a training salary whilst on placements which include a mixture of TV, radio and on-line.
We advertise these places in February, March in the Guardian on Mondays the Western Mail and the Liverpool Daily Post. You can also find out about them at www.bbc.co.uk/jobs.