Tag Archives: The House Magazine

Getting an interview: how to make an impression and bag that job

17 Oct

If you’re looking for guru-esque advice about how to pass an interview with flying colours, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.

The blog title is more of an aspiration, rather than a ten point how-to guide.

In fact being invited for interview is something of an achievement at the moment.  I’ve lost count of the number of applications that I’ve filled in.

And I’m not talking a copy and paste exercise from one application or CV to another. I mean full-on in-depth analysis of the organisation, its values and principles and how I’d hope to fit in.

Of course 99% of the time I’m unsuccessful, well I assume so as no-one bothers to reply, but on rare occasions I get a reply which says: “We would like to invite you to interview.” Exciting times indeed.

Now as I’m just another wannabe hack, you may assume that I’ve not been all that successful in the interviews I have had. This is partly true. However I do have a decent track record in some respects.

As part of my degree I had to organise a 12-month placement in Westminster. As I was interested in going down the media route I opted to apply for a placement at The House Magazine.  

It wasn’t a given that they would take me on, but I must have done something right during the course of the 30-minute interview as I was offered the placement there and then.

On the train back up to Hull I did what any self-respecting successful applicant would do, I toasted my success with a half a bottle of rosé that I had smuggled onboard from the King’s Cross branch of M&S.

Runaway success onboard the Hull-bound train

I passed an ‘interview’ for my waitressing job and I also passed the interview I had for a temporary admin role. Granted they weren’t the most difficult.

And let’s not forget the post-grad journalism course I’ve just completed – part of the application process was an interview, along with a written test. But let’s face it, it would be pretty dire to fail an interview for a course I was intending to pay for.

Since completing my NCTJ this year I’ve attended two interviews and failed to bag that elusive first media job.

The first interview involved a five-hour round trip travelling by trains and taxis. It wasn’t so much an interview, as half a day’s unpaid work.

I had to undertake a number of typical journalism tasks including re-writing news stories, editing copy, researching the latest updates from the emergency services and compiling lists of potential leads. After three-and-a-half hours of doing that I was then taken into a back room to be interviewed.

It was more of an informal chat than an interview, and after a cursory glance at my portfolio which he noted contained, “all the usual student crap” he asked me the grand total of three questions:

(1)   Why do you want the job? (Insert lengthy explanation with examples here)

(2)   How would you handle a death knock? (Same as above)

(3)   Are you willing to relocate? (Yes)

As we shook hands he promised to get in touch regardless of the outcome. To be fair he did, four weeks later. And he said no.

The second interview was a two-day affair which involved me working (for free naturally) on a Thursday and Friday.

I wrote, chased and filed copy, conducted interviews and organised the photo diary over the course of the two days, with the only interview aspect being a five-minute chat asking how I was getting on.

My portfolio of work wasn’t even mentioned. Again I was told I would be informed of the outcome by the following Monday.

I wasn’t. Instead I found out the following week that I hadn’t got the job by virtue of the fact that a mutual acquaintance had accepted the role two days earlier.

So what have I learnt from these experiences?

(1)   Most places don’t respond when they say they will.

(2)   My portfolio isn’t as important as I imagined it would be.

(3)   An interview is essentially a licence for an organisation to get a bit of free work out of as many applicants as possible.

(4)   A lot of it is down to who, not what, you know.

(5)   It will inevitably involve some chasing on my part to find out the outcome of the interview.

(6)   You need extremely tough skin to succeed in this industry.

 However the following is still important:

(1)   Dressing smartly

(2)   Believing in yourself

(3)   Taking a portfolio with you (just in case)

(4)   Researching the organisation

(5)   Knowing your own experiences, skills and how they meet the criteria.

(6)   Identifying your own weaknesses and how to improve.

I’ll bear all this in mind the next time I’m lucky enough to be invited to a job interview.

For now it’s tea, toast and yet another application form.

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