How to Prepare Yourself for a Media Job Interview

Businesswomen reviewing paperwork in office lobby
Hero Images / Getty Images

A media job interview is the chance to dazzle a prospective boss with your background, skills, and ambition. But it also requires a great deal of homework in advance so that you'll be the one who's offered the position and not become the victim of a bad job interview.

Prepare yourself for a media job interview and stand out from your competition. Simply know what types of questions you'll be asked so that you're ready to sell yourself effectively and have time to ask your own questions.

Learn About the Boss Before Your Media Job Interview

This gives you a quick way to break the ice and calm your nerves. Use the Internet to find out her previous positions, where she's lived, and any media awards she's won. Maybe you can compliment the photo of her poodle you notice on her desk—anything to avoid awkward silence.

People enjoy talking about themselves. This will get the interview started on a more informal note and let you see whether your potential boss is all business or enjoys some small talk. If there's an interest you share or other connection, mention it. Even if it's as simple as saying you've lived in the same state, it's enough to get the conversation going.

Know the Background of the Company

Most potential bosses are wary of job applicants who've applied everywhere and couldn't care less which job they get. By learning the background of the media company, you show that you've done some research and are eager to know more about the position than just what it pays.

The New York Times and the New York Post are two newspapers that cover the Big Apple, yet their approaches are very different. You should be aware of whether the company is traditional or cutting-edge. That will dictate how you dress and how you should conduct yourself.

A start-up company might give you chances for faster advancement, though there might be risks the operation won't survive. A generations-old media outlet may have more layers of management and structure, but it might offer more stability and long-term benefits.

Study Current Events

It doesn't matter if you're applying to be a Top 40 radio announcer or a local TV reporter, you will be expected to know the latest information about your industry. Some media managers even present pop quizzes to interviewees to test their knowledge.

Depending on the position, find out what's going on in Congress, on the concert scene or at the latest electronics show. Even if you're not asked directly about current events, you'll be able to bring them up in the conversation to show you keep up with the news.

If the job opportunity is in another city or state, check out the local news website to get a feel for the issues of the area. Media managers want their new hires to hit the ground running and knowing about the mayor or local sports team never hurts.

Expect to Have Your Skills Tested

You may be asked to do more than recite what you know about current events. An applicant for a writing position may be handed some copy and given 15 minutes to re-write it into an article.

Don't panic. Your writing was good enough to get you an interview, so someone had to like it.

Your worry may be about writing creatively. But what may be tested is your ability to write clear, understandable sentences with correct punctuation.

Whether you're a magazine photographer or an on-air personality, if asked to perform on the spot, make sure you demonstrate your mastery of the basics. You will learn about the company's style after you are hired.

Be Prepared to Talk About Your Current Job

It's inevitable that you'll be asked about your current job and why you want to leave. You may be tempted to say you hate the long hours, low pay, and your obnoxious co-workers. While that may be true, it's better to answer this question more cautiously.

There's nothing wrong with saying you want new challenges or that you desire to learn new skills. Make whatever you say sound positive. It's common in the media industry for employees to want to move up to bigger markets, experience a new city and work for the top media outlets. If you simply want to further your media career, just say so in the media job interview.

However, if you take a swipe at your current company or boss, that negativity can leave the interviewer concerned that you may be a problem employee. Who knows? She may be best friends with your current boss and your words may come back to hurt you.

Be Candid If You're Out of Work

In media, being out of work is a consequence of a competitive industry. It happens to most of us and may have even happened to your prospective boss at one time.

If you were laid off, there's no shame in saying so. In these economic times, supervisors are well aware of the new focus on the bottom line and cost-cutting mandates when revenue doesn't meet projections.

If you were terminated for another reason, be honest about the circumstances without revealing every detail. There's no need to drag down the interview with a long-winded explanation of your situation. Saying that your company was bought out and the new owners wanted a change of direction may be all that's needed.

Decide How Much of a Commitment You're Willing to Make

You might think a media manager loves hiring new employees. Truth is, most would rather keep the people they have and build their skills rather than start from scratch with a new face.

That's why you may be asked what kind of commitment you're ready to make to the company. A boss doesn't want a here-today-and-gone-tomorrow worker.

You need to say you'll be there two years, minimum. The first year will be taken up by training, which gives you one year to be a solid producer.

If you can honestly say you want to be there longer, emphasize that you're willing to sign a long-term contract. You're giving your boss the peace of mind knowing that she won't have to repeat this process for a while.

Anticipate Probing Questions

Some potential bosses will go beyond the standard questions to try to find out more about you. "What was the last book you read?" or "What was the biggest mistake you ever made?" are sometimes asked.

While it's impossible to predict what you might face, prepare yourself for probing questions. Consider why you want to work for this company, in this position, and what goals you want to accomplish. The answers can be part of what you tell the interviewer.

A few bosses may be trying to trip you up to test your grace under fire. After all, if you're applying for a reporting job, you'll have to use this same skill set to ask tough questions during your own interviews.

But the majority of potential bosses just want to get to know you. You'll find the anxiety you may feel will ease when you realize that they're taking a risk with anyone they hire and that you both want to make the correct decision and have a happy, productive future.