Job interviews. They’re never fun, even if you think one’s actually gone really well. But would you be brave enough to have your job interview broadcast to millions of people on prime time TV? That’s exactly what people have been doing on Channel 4’s new series, ‘The Job Interview’.
We’ve been busy watching and live-tweeting all the cringiest and most controversial moments, so we decided to go behind the camera to ask one of the show’s creators, Executive Producer Lorraine Charker-Phillips, why they made the show, and her tips for getting a job in TV.
Hi Lorraine, can you tell us about your role in creating ‘The Job Interview’?
OK, so the show is made by Label 1, and I’m one of the Executive Producers at Label 1. We created this format last year, and we have a track record of making documentaries that look at universal experiences. Simon Dickson, who’s the Creative Director of the label, was the Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 for nine years where he co-created One Born Every Minute and 24 Hours In A&E.
Day to day to make the programme as an Executive Producer you’re there right at the concept asking: What’s the shape of the team going to be like? What do Channel 4 want from this? What’s the audience going to feel? You have the chance to take one step back to see; Where are we on our time frame? How are we feeling about it? How are the team feeling when we get to the edit? And key also for an Executive Producer is always liaising with the broadcasters. So when we’re having our team meetings it’s about making sure we’re taking the right information across to Channel 4, discussing any concerns that we’ve got, informing them how the show feels, what the space is going to look like. You’re directing the team and taking up enough information to liaise with the broadcasters.
There’s a lot of awkward moments in the show, do you think we should be talking about job interviews more in society?
Definitely! Absolutely! For me, it doesn’t matter what job interview you’re going for, whether it’s a £16,000 a year job, or a £160,000 a year job, the feelings are the same and a lot of the basic rules are the same. Having made programmes like One Born Every Minute, you go into a sort of a secret space of the birthing room, and that’s witnessed by your partner, or your friend, or your mum, whereas when you go for a job interview, you don’t take somebody with you. You go into that room on your own. There’s very few spaces that we go into on our own, and the job interview is one of them. I think we absolutely should be a bit more honest about what really goes on in a job interview, what really happens, and how employers feel when they’re doing those interviews.
Did you have any cringey job interview moments when you were starting out?
Haha! Yes I did because I was over-enthusiastic and you desperately want to be somewhere. When you’re first starting out and your CV’s quite sort of short, you want to put things on there that sound interesting. I put too many things on there that I thought sounded interesting, which I think probably sounded slightly ludicrous when I look back! When I came down to London to try and get started in television I ended up putting in one of my first CVs that I was a keen tap dancer, I’m not quite sure what relevance that has to working in television!
What was your first job in TV?
I did a Drama and Media Studies degree in Liverpool and I ended up doing some voluntary work with the Liverpool Film Office. I absolutely loved it! I worked for City Council and we were involved in closing down streets if they were having filming, and promoting Liverpool as a filming location. From that I met a gentlemen called Eric who ran an independent company. He was making a documentary up in Liverpool, and I ended up talking to him, it wasn’t an official interview but he ended up saying to me ‘look if ever you come down to London and want a job, come and seek me out,’ so I did. I started off as a Production Assistant in a very small, independent company. I learnt how to direct by watching somebody else when they were filming. To this day I can still remember watching footage back and thinking ‘oh so that’s how they ask those questions’, or ‘that’s how they get a cutaway’ and just trying to use every experience I possibly could to try and understand how the industry works.
What resources can we use to learn more about the TV industry?
My key bit of advice for young people is: watch the credits. If you watch the credits, you’ll start to see who the directors are, who the executive producers are, who the companies are that are making programmes that you’re interested in, whether it’s a game show or it’s a documentary.
I think writing to people at the company and quoting programmes that you’ve watched and why you’ve watched them, that’s what makes people in TV stand out, rather than just saying ‘I want a job in television’, everyone can write that. And that’s not about having a media degree.
What should we expect if we’re heading to a job interview in the TV industry?
Most TV companies, especially when you’re starting out in the industry, want to know what you watch, they want to know what you like and why you like something. People are keen to find out what influences you as a potential programme maker and why you want to work in television. So having a really varied landscape of things that you watch. Whether it’s Netflix, BBC, or iPlayer, how you’re watching and how you’re consuming media is really important because that’s the thing that shows you’re passionate about the industry before you’ve started working in it.
Television is one of the easiest jobs to talk about: it’s everywhere. It’s not difficult to find it, whereas perhaps if you want to be a Marine Biologist, that might be more difficult to source! We’re surrounded by media, so if you turn up to an interview for a television job and you haven’t watched anything that that company have made, that just looks really rude and you look ignorant and you don’t need to be because it’s out there for you to find.
Check out Lorraine’s top TV job interview tips…
Do your research: We want to make sure people have really researched who they’re possibly coming to work for. It’s so easy to get information about people, yet I’m amazed by how people haven’t heard of the programmes we’ve made, or don’t know anything about what we’ve done. It’s extraordinary that people don’t do that when the information is so easily at hand!
Tap into what’s being talked about: Get on BAFTA’s website and look at who’s won awards, go onto the Sheffield documentary festival website. There’s a huge documentary festival in Sheffield every year, they always have information up there. It’s just doing your preparation, there’s a huge amount, there’s a wealth of information out there, before you turn up to a television interview.
Use your initiative: I think anything in an interview with young people that shows they’ve used their initiative is impressive.
Do things outside of school, and show off about them: I do think it’s important that people have skills outside of what their career is. That’s incredibly interesting and it gives you something else to talk about. Young people need to feel like they’re a rounded person, and that they’re interested in the world around them, they haven’t just studied and come straight into the workplace. No longer is it just about the academic qualifications, but being a rounded person, engaging in the world and having an opinion on things.
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