The job interview is so much more than the questions

Interviewing blog top cartoon.jpg

I've interviewed hundreds of candidates for media jobs, so the advice here is born of experience. It won't be in the job description, or the advertisements, but all recruiters are secretly thinking:

“How will we get along with this person?

"Will they fit in? What will it be like to spend the working week with this person? Will they make a positive contribution to the office atmosphere, as well as the work?"

Here are seven tips for winning the job which are not commonly discussed in the process:


Do your research. When I led a newsroom in New York, I once ended a job interview after six minutes because it was clear the candidate had no clue what the organization was about, what we did, or what the job he’d applied for would demand. Interviewers want to know you have an understanding of their organization and what it does. If you’re applying to a website, a TV station, or whatever it may be, read it daily, print and re-read interesting blogs and stories, watch videos. Call anyone you know who works, or worked, at the organization and ask them for information and advice.

Be able to talk about their product at the interview but KEEP IT POSITIVE. Don’t use phrases such as “I don’t like xxx page” or “there is too much.....”. Everything should be positive:-

“This web page could benefit from more illustrations”.

Come with THREE IDEAS for how to improve things. Make sure you understand where the organization is headed and what they’re trying to achieve.


How you dress speaks volumes about you. My mother always used to say “dressing up will impress, dressing down might offend.” Always dress Business-Smart for a job or internship interview and add a touch of personality – a piece of jewellery or a flower, for instance, for a job which requires creative thought. Smart dress demonstrates you are serious, and have self-respect, ambition, respect for the people you are meeting, and self-awareness.

interview blog appearance graphic.jpg

They also want to know that you can dress like a good ambassador for the organization outside the office.


FROM THE MOMENT YOU ARRIVE AT THE LOCATION, YOU ARE “ON”. You don’t know who you might meet in reception – someone you know, the “big” boss, or an influential person in the hiring process – you simply don’t know. When you walk through the door, turn your phone off and put it away. Wait patiently, and review your research materials.


There is always that awkward walk between reception and the interview location. Seize the opportunity – don’t fiddle with your phone. Ask small-talk questions about the organization. If someone is escorting you, “how long have you worked here? Where were you before? People are flattered by your interest, and by non-intrusive questions. If you’re being escorted by the person who is conducting the interview, say something flattering about the organization which might prompt a response. Using "curious small-talk" demonstrates you have great social skills and can show you'd be interesting, interested, and dynamic to work with.

Try to remember the FIRST NAMES of people you meet and use them when you say goodbye, or thank you. They're also useful for follow-up later.Asking good questions is CRITICAL. It demonstrates real interest and genuine curiosity. Use a firm hand shake with everyone you meet, and maintain good eye contact throughout the conversation. Show your sense of humor and sincerity, as well as your determination to work there. Ask positive questions and make positive, knowledgeable observations about the organization and its product. Be able to speak about your ambitions for your own future with confidence and conviction. Always save some questions for the end of the interview.


“What’s the pay?” - you can deal with that later

“How long will I have to stay here every day?" - sounds like you'll be clock-watching

"How long do we get for lunch? - sounds like you're more interested in your social life than the work

"I don’t really know what I want to be" - you are vague and indecisive with no clear goals

"I’d like to be in charge of this place" - you are deluded, or selfish, or over-ambitious

"I want to earn a million dollars quickly" - you are driven only by money (but perhaps if it's a job on Wall Street, it's o.k.)

"I want to change the world in three months" - if you want to, you have to do it gradually

Don't fold your arms or look defensive, fidget, or interrupt ANYONE


"Where do you see the organization in two to five years"?

"What are your priorities for growing the business"?

"The staff I’ve spoken with are very positive about the atmosphere here."

"I’d like to move into Video Production management"

"I’d like to learn more about sound editing"

"I want to work in a positive, collaborative environment where I can support my colleagues"


Thank everyone by name, ask about next steps in the process (they're probably seeing more candidates). Tell them you've enjoyed meeting with them.


A nice card, or a hand-written note on nice paper, has a lasting effect these days, because so few people take the time to write them. Remember, a nice card from you is likely to be put on display on someone’s desk and serve as a reminder of you and your job application. Second-best is an email. Whichever you choose, the notes should be sent individually and addressed to the people who gave their time to you BY NAME. It should also briefly restate why you want to work there and what you can contribute.

If you liked this advice, check out our group, online or personalized training courses.

Mark McDonald

Birkdale Media