(or how to prepare for a job interview)
Feeling nervous before a job interview is normal. But while most professionals only go through the process every few years, those of us in the entertainment industry often have to interview several times each year. Therefore, good interviewing skills are an important part of being successful in the business.
I recently spoke about Resume Writing & Job Hunting for the Assistant Editors Bootcamp. And I’ve included a YouTube link to the interview section below. But in this post I am going to talk about something I didn’t cover during my presentation: how I like to prepare for a job interview.
There are two reasons to prepare for a job interview. Firstly, the entertainment industry is a business of relationships, and finding a professional connection can be the difference between getting the job or not. The research process I describe below is meant to increase the number of potential connections between you and the job you are looking to get. Secondly, proper preparation enables you to anticipate questions your interviewer may ask, and to fill your mind with answers.
During the research process you will create what I call: the interview brief. The interview brief is a one page document of notes that I create before I go to a job interview. Here is an example brief I created for a colleague who was interviewing at Goodbye Pictures for a position on The Real Housewives of Dallas. The point of this document is to preemptively fill your mind with thoughts and questions about the company, the show, and the people you are going to meet. Creating a brief requires you to gather three critical pieces of information, in decreasing order of importance, from the person who reached out to you about setting up a job interview:
- Who will you be interviewing with?
- What is the production company you will be working for?
- What is the show you will be working on?
The first place I turn to is IMDB. I know that a lot of people have problems with IMDB, but it’s currently the best source of finding connections between you and the person interviewing you. I like to look at person’s credits to see if I know anyone who’s worked on a common show or production company. IMDB will also give you sense of someone’s experience, have they only worked in one genre for their career, have they bounced around between formats? A person’s career trajectory can also help you anticipate their needs. Someone from a production heavy background might be looking for someone with a lot of post experience to help cover their blindside. Someone with extensive post experience might be interested in someone who’s recently worked in the field and can speak the language of production. At a minimum, during your interview you can always ask your interviewer about their experiences on a past show. But looking for common associates isn’t your only goal.
You can infer a lot about a show or production company with IMDB sleuthing. What you’re looking for are patterns of promotion. For example: has the same person been Lead A.E. for three seasons? Is this season’s Co-Executive Producer last season’s Supervising Producer? Has there been a new Post Supervisor every season? All of these things can give you a sense of the work environment you’re about to walk into. Lead Assistant Editor continuity usually means that the work is probably consistent and the scene nice enough that people want to stick around. In the other example, a new Post Super every season could be an indicator of a chaotic post production process. These are also things you can ask about, or be on the look for, during your interview.
After IMDB I hit the trades. I like to search Variety and the Hollywood Reporter for the production company to see if it’s been mentioned recently. Any awards worth congratulating your interview about? The industry trade magazines are also a good place to learn things about your shows as well. Any cast/crew/location shake ups? If you’re called in to interview on an unannounced show, sometimes you’ll find clues here.
The final stop in my research is Reddit. I read reviews of the show or any other shows produced by the production company. I like to get a sense of the cast and the fans’ favorite episodes. Then I watch as many of them as I can. You never know when you’ll be able to impress someone with a tiny detail you noticed while watching. Recently I was in an interview with a Senior Producer who made an astute observation about our show’s cast that really impressed the two Executive Producers and sparked a long conversation about the upcoming season’s story goals.
As you can see I really believe in doing your research, because the interview is your first opportunity to prove what type of teammate you are going to be. Doing the research demonstrates that you’re an engaged candidate who will go the extra mile.
If you find yourself thumbing your nose at too many of the things you’re learning, perhaps this isn’t the right job for you. Most people don’t realize; job interviews go two ways. As much as someone is deciding whether or not they want to hire you, you are also deciding whether this company is a place that you want to work. Life is too short to spend ten or twelve hours a day working with people whose values aren’t aligned with your own.
Either direction your research takes you, the most important part of every job is understanding why you are taking it in the first place. Perhaps you need the money and the job pays well. Or perhaps you want to learn how to Sync & Group. Then, when things get difficult, as they inevitably will, you’ll be able to retain your composure because you’ll know why you’re enduring in the first place. The number two reason I see people freak out and quit is because they didn’t have a good understanding of why they took the job in the first place.
People in the entertainment industry often have to interview much more frequently than the average professional. Through proper preparation you can set yourself up for success by anticipating the needs of team you’re going to join. But the ultimate goal of the research is figuring out what you want from this job, from this industry, and from your career.