Mastering the Interview: Tricks I Learned on My Job Hunt

Lily Cedarbaum

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV.

The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!
Lily Cedarbaum

The job interview is an elusive beast: with luck and persistence you may capture one, but it will take many tries before you tame it. Job interviews in the entertainment industry are no exception. And with thousands of (job) hunters and gatherers scanning career websites daily, all with the same goals and polished resumes, trying to stand out can be a nightmare. In fact, I think I’ve had that nightmare.

So what’s the trick? After college, I had what I like to call a crash course in the interview process. I experienced both the successes and failures of many techniques. No one can be a true expert, because every interview is different, but I’ve learned certain fail-proof tips along the way.

Target Your Resume
With all the writing and work that goes into a single application, it’s understandable that you want to leave your resume be. However, your interview will be structured off of whatever version of your resume you hand your prospective employer. Make sure your resume mirrors the specific tasks of the job at hand. Think about what the company is looking for, not what is generally most impressive.

For a while after college, I kept my Saturday Night Live internship at the top of my resume, but with no success. It wasn’t until I inserted my administrative assistant position at a medical office that I started getting interviews. It was my experience in entry-level tasks rather than my overall experience in the industry that grabbed my interviewers’ interests, because it was often an administrative position that I was applying to. For my current job, I even mentioned that I had hostessed and bussed at a restaurant, and my supervisor said, “That’s an important skill-set, you should have that on your resume!” She was only half-joking.

Dress to Empower
I don’t care how much of a slob you are during normal hours, piecing together the perfect interview ensemble can really give you an extra confidence boost. I am by no means a fashionable lady, but I would spend hours obsessing over interview outfits that both highlighted my professionalism and indicated I had a dynamic character.

Consider the company’s character and emulate a heightened version of that. For example, my current company has a casual, artsy vibe, so in my interview, I made sure to wear formal pieces with fun patterns. I still felt powerful while exhibiting my creative flair.

Think, as well, about what fabrics handle sweat, nervous movement, and sitting for long periods of time, because you will be doing all of those things. At once. And for the ladies out there, find closed-toe heels that don’t make you walk like you’re drunk. No one wants to see that.

Stalk the Company
In the age of Facebook, we are all now trained sleuths, so why not use it toward employment and not just creeping on your ex? Before an interview I would search my company in every trade magazine imaginable, as well as on all social media platforms. Also Wikipedia for which I HAVE NO SHAME. Then I would note news of significance and strategize ways to smoothly bring them up during the interview. At an interview with a prominent film distribution company, when asked about my educational background, I mentioned my semester abroad in Ireland, which allowed me to gush about a small-town Irish film they had recently acquired. It came off as genuine and informed. At a production company, when asked about why I was interested in working for them, I mentioned their growth as exhibited by a smaller company they had recently purchased. Then I congratulated them and they loved it.

If you are doing a Skype or phone interview, I recommend having all of the relevant web pages open, and write down the bullet points of company news to cover. One interviewer at a Boston Theater was so impressed with my knowledge of the space’s history that I made it to the final round of interviews, though I hadn’t worked in a theater for four years and wasn’t in Boston. My secret? the theater’s Wikipedia page was open on my screen, like an open-notebook test. I repeat, NO SHAME.

Practice the Basic Questions
At this point, we all know them: your weaknesses, your strengths, why this company, etc. There are many websites that list typical interview questions and how to answer them. One of my favorites, Alison Green’s askamanager.org, gives you the straight truth with the perfect amount of sass. Try rehearsing your answers in front of a mirror as well, so you can learn to control any nervous twitches and practice open body language.

Find Your Connection
Utilize your networking within the interview. You could have an amazing performance, but a prospective employer will only hire someone he or she can trust. Whether you both know the same professor from college or a supervisor from a past internship dates the interviewer’s brother, your connection illustrates a trustworthy background and a second party to support your excellence.

For my current job I told my interviewer as I was leaving that my friend worked at the audio equipment rental facility that catered to them, and that my friend’s company loved them. Admittedly, it was a bit of a stretch, but I think it made me a more trustworthy candidate.

The Follow-Up
My favorite/ slash most awkward part of the interview process. It’s kind of how one feels after a first date. Did they like me? Was I too desperate? Do you think they’ll want to commit? While all these questions rumble around in your head, it’s important to stay in touch.

First off, you should write a thank you message to your interviewers within 24 hours of your interview. Many favor the email, but one of my favorite tricks is the hand-written thank you card. It’s way more personal and thoughtful, while also helping you stand out from the crowd. When my friend first advised me to do this I thought it would be so antiquated, but since then I have only gotten positive feedback, specifically mentioning my card as a special touch

Whatever time your prospective employer told you that he or she would need to make the decision, you must contact them then. Do not smother them, but do not let them forget you. It’s a fine line, but one easily balanced with a little perspective. If you have any second thoughts about reaching out to the company, put yourself in their shoes and ask, “Too soon?” Chances are you will probably say no.

Lily Cedarbaum

As a college student in NYC, I quickly got sucked into the world of television internships and became addicted to it right away. Starting off in Corporate Communications at NBC Universal, I eventually networked my way into internships at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Joy Behar, The New York Television Festival, Doctor Oz, and Saturday Night Live. While I loved my internships at high-profile networks and festivals, I was excited to branch out and try something off-beat after graduation. To shake things up, I spent a few months living in Los Angeles, where I spent time freelancing and meeting with contacts before finding my way back to New York for a job at MindSmack TV. The entertainment industry is a hard field to navigate, and I am excited to be a part of The Media Chronicles to assist others along the way!

One thought on “Mastering the Interview: Tricks I Learned on My Job Hunt

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    I am currently not looking for a position but I will
    certainly keep these tips in mind on my next job search.
    I will pass this on to people looking to be employed. The article was well written with many points to take advantage
    of.

    Reply

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