Ace The Interview ... And Get The Job
June 14, 2016
Knowing when you are ready to move on to your next journey in radio can be a struggle. Being able to make the move over or up usually depends on things like confidence, skill sets, composure, social graces, people skills, and the ability to creatively BS without compromising your integrity.
I get asked all the time, "Sam, do you think I am ready to work in a large market?" Regardless whether it is an air personality or PD, my answer is, "You are ready if you apply and they say, 'yes come work for us.'"
Why I Got Hired
There was always something to learn from every radio job I had; all of it helpful in helping me formulate who I was going to be in this business and the path I was going to follow. Honestly, I have known jocks and programmers who I thought were better in some areas than I was, but the difference between myself and them was my ability to realize I did not have to know everything, but I knew where to look for answers.
I always knew once I got hired, I could easily grasp the big picture and I would learn whatever else I needed as quickly as possible. Early on there were jobs were I was not among the top candidates, but I got the job ahead of others. In fact, I was a last-minute throw-in for my first PD job and I got the gig over several veterans.
Sometimes It's How You Say Something
Your words can either swing an interview your way or leave the interviewer unimpressed. It's all in what and how you say things. A friend told me about a book she is reading called "Broadcasting Happiness" by Michelle Gielan; it addresses how words from broadcasters can "Move other people from a fear-based mindset in which they see obstacles as insurmountable to a positive mindset where they see that change is possible."
The book is not about how to be interviewed, but her point can be re-applied to a lot of areas of communications, including choosing the right words when being interviewed for a job opportunity.
My First PD Job Interview
I can remember being interviewed for my first PD job and the first question I was asked, "What do you think you can do for this station that is not already being done?" I had a simple answer which actually made the GM smile, "This is the first time I have been in your town and I would like to listen for a day, see your music library, and have access to any perceptual research you might have. Oh, I would like to go to one of the barber shops in the part of town your station has the best signal coverage." My friends, not only as a last-minute candidate did I get the job, but I also got more money than what was originally put on the table.
A Phone Call Triggered A Flashback
Recently, the entire memory of my first programming job came back to me as I discussed a great opportunity for a PD. They are interviewing for a job which would move them to a top-25 market. They had concerns and, like always, I went over questions and did a mock phone interview so they could focus and fine-tune his answers for their first shot at the big time. Sorry, I cannot use his or her name because it might compromise their chances. I recorded our practice session and e-mailed it to them so they could review what we had done.
PD: This is great, but I don't know why they would want me. I am in a small market and that is such a big town. Do you think I am ready?
Coach: You are a candidate, so you must be ready. You know your stuff; just get the size of the market out of your head. It's just more available listeners. You need to approach this the same way you would a job in any market. There are certain historical factors you need to know; a grasp of the target audience, an understanding of the sales manager, and what the company's definition of success is for your cluster. Let's practice on some of the questions you might be asked.
PD: Okay, I am ready with pen and paper!
Coach: What are your strengths? Don't ramble, write this stuff down and deliver it like a great actor! I also suggest you give concise answers. In this case, I would mention no more than three areas that are your strengths. In fact, never verbalize long lists of any kind. Alright, let me hear your answer.
PD: I know how to monetize, work well with air talent, and have done promotions which have done well.
Coach: That's all fluff without substance ... come on, you know your stuff! I want you to give an example of what you mean. And do so after explaining each strength. Take your time and write your answers down before giving them to me. I will keep you on speaker phone until you are ready.
PD: Alright, ready, now ask me again.
Coach: Okay, here we go, what are your strengths?
PD: I know how to help sales make money and give the listener a good product to listen to. At my current station our website was not being utilized to make money with things we were doing. I helped put together something that was sort of like eBay and our company has been making a sizable monthly income from it and it's verifiable.
Coach: That's what I am talking about -- great answer for the VP/Programming and the GM! You said what you do and gave specifics. Okay, give me your answer on the working with air talent.
PD: I also work with my air talent, I always let them know I am their biggest fan and it's my goal to keep them going in a direction that will keep them sounding the best they can. A few years ago I took job and when I got there I noticed the entire air staff had a habit of always referring to themselves in third person on the air. For Example, "Big Mike has got your concert tickets," keep listening to win. So I sat down with each air personality individually and stressed for them to become more personal and talk to the audience "This is Big Mike and I am going to give you a chance to win these concert tickets in less than 20 minutes."
And with the morning show, I had them reduce the length of their talk breaks by eliminating a lot of excess rambling and opening the mic. Instead of using drops which said "You're listening to MM105." I had them go live to identify the station and include their names. We saw an increase in the numbers over the course of time and if you wish, I can send you a timeline showing the station's improvement while I have been here.
Coach: Stop, I think you've got the point of how to approach your interview. If you deal with your interview in this fashion, you'll have a great shot at getting this job. Before I forget, never try to anticipate a question during a job interview while the interviewer is talking, always take it one issue at a time. Stay in the moment and listen to what the person is saying. If you don't, it might come across as if you are not paying attention or worse, you might miss the purpose of whatever was said. I mean think about it, how many times have you been on the phone and noticed someone wasn't paying attention based on their delayed response?
PD: Okay, gotcha. Hey, I have never worked with PPM. How do I answer those questions?
Coach: You go read as much as you can and call Nielsen and get a basic understanding. Honestly, it is just another language and another method of measurement. Does your station subscribe to Nielsen?
PD: Yes, diaries are used to rate us.
Coach: There are some similarities, but go get yourself a crash course, in fact I will give you a couple of names of OMs and PDs you can call who have a thorough knowledge of all the ins and outs of dealing with PPM.
PD: I think you are working my brain, but I get it. I just can't believe I have a chance at this.
Coach: Try and relax; that's enough practice for one day, I will e-mail you the recording of our session and we can get right back on the phone tomorrow and practice some more on other key things like; answering what you are asked and knowing when to stop talking. By the way, if you get this job, great, and if not, there will be other opportunities. Most important, you are preparing yourself to move forward.
If you are trying to reach a goal in this business, prepare yourself and be patient. When the time comes, don't over-think it; just embrace the opportunity and remember to practice different interview scenarios with someone. Be concise in your answers and give an example of what you are talking about. Do whatever it takes to relax before being interviewed, whether it's in-person or on the phone. I once actually went to a licensed hypnotist to get myself ready for a job interview. It was worth it because I still use some of the relaxation techniques and apply them to other parts of my life. Whatever it takes, put yourself in position to get what you are after. It only takes one "Yes" to get a job.