Interview month is coming to a close! We've enjoyed sharing our favorite strategies for answering tough interview questions over the past four weeks. Remember, we can help you put all these tips into practice with our mock interview service.
Question: What's your favorite TV show that's on right now?
You can scour the internet and find plenty of advice for answering basic interview questions -- strengths, weaknesses, long-term goals -- but in Hollywood, there’s one question that’s always asked and is often answered incorrectly. And that seriously tough question: “What’s your favorite TV show that's on right now?” or its counterpart, “What’s the last movie you saw, and what did you think of it?” These questions seem easy enough, and yet, there are four job-costing mistakes we encounter regularly in candidates' answers.
MISTAKE #1: Your answer isn’t something current.
If you're asked about your favorite show of all time, you can answer “Friends” or “Seinfeld” or “Breaking Bad,” and no one will bat an eye. But most interviewers don't ask that question, because they know the answer is either “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Breaking Bad,” or a handful of other award-winning cable dramas. Even if you are asked about your favorite show of all time, you'll also be asked about what you’re watching right now, and although Netflix gives you access to tons of old content, you need to be watching something on the current schedule. Your interviewer wants to know that you're in tune with what’s on TV, since you’re going to be creating it. Sure, you might be bingeing “The League” on Netflix because you never got around to watching it on FX, and you can mention that you're catching up, but you if you don't include a current show in addition, it will seem like you’re not passionate enough about the business to keep up with trends. Same goes for movies. Pick something that's been in theaters within the last month or two, not an old movie that was airing on TBS last Saturday. Going to the movies regularly is part of the job, so make your friends jealous by taking advantage of one of the most fun aspects of working inHollywood.
MISTAKE #2: Your answer doesn’t include the right genre/format.
In your cover letter, you said you're passionate about the company because you really like unscripted TV. Then, in the interview, you say your favorite shows are “Mr. Robot” and “The Walking Dead.” Where’s that reality TV show? It’s fine to list your actual favorite shows (especially because they could turn into conversation-starters), but there’s got to be something in the company’s wheelhouse that you watch and enjoy. If not, you shouldn’t apply for the job. The only thing worse than watching a genre of TV you don’t like is spending 10 hours a day developing or producing it. But don’t lie and pretend you're obsessed with Real Housewives when you’ve only seen a couple of episodes. You don’t want your interviewer trying to bond with you over a recent episode and all you’ve got for her is a blank stare. Same goes for movies. If you’re applying to work at an indie company, mention the blockbuster you saw last weekend and a recent indie you’re into or excited about. The word “favorite” is loose here: It’s something relevant that you watch and enjoy.
MISTAKE #3: Your answer is too obvious or too weird and obscure.
A major reason why interviewers ask this question is to gauge your taste so they can get a sense of what you’ll contribute creatively to the team (even if the opportunity for creative contribution is way, way down the road). Which actors will you gravitate towards as a rep? What scripts will you like as a development assistant? What aesthetic will you bring to production? If your answer is really obvious, you risk not standing out. An answer we hear all the time is “I generally watch what’s on HBO and Netflix, and I just love “Game of Thrones” and “House of Cards.” Don't leave these out, because they may provide an opportunity to bond with your interviewers over a show they're likely watching too, but keep in mind that everyone else they're interviewing is giving the same answer. What do you love (or simply watch) that’s a little more unusual? “BoJack Horseman?” “You’re The Worst?” “Mozart in the Jungle?” Still reputable shows, but a little less obvious. On the flipside, you don't want to give an answer that's totally random. Maybe your favorite show is “Good Witch” on Hallmark, and it might be really great, but chances are, your interviewer hasn’t seen it or even necessarily heard of it. Points to you for being aware of lesser-known shows, but you do want to showcase some mainstream taste to highlight your eye for mass appeal.
MISTAKE #4: Your answer is incorrect.
How can your favorite show be incorrect? Well, if you say, “I love HBO shows, 'Game of Thrones' and 'The Walking Dead' are just so great,” you’ve -- potentially inadvertently -- suggested that “The Walking Dead” is on HBO, when it’s actually on AMC. Another version of this answer is “I love cable comedy, like “Angie Tribeca” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” The latter is on Fox, very much a broadcast network. Knowing who produces and distributes the content you love is imperative to succeeding in this business, and not knowing is a major red flag in an interview where you want to seem well-prepared. Often, this mistake happens when you speak faster than you think and not because you’re a numbskull, so just pause for a second before answering the question and organize your thoughts. When in doubt, don’t mention a network; just say the titles, and you’ll be in the clear.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
How to answer tough interview questions: What's the biggest challenge you face in your current position?
It's our third week of interview month here at Hollywood Resumes! Don't forget, you can put these strategies into practice by taking advantage of our mock interview service.
Question: Whats the biggest challenge you face in your current position?
We’ve discussed how to answer the “What’s your biggest weakness?” interview question, but another similar question -- and arguably, more popular and trickier -- is “What’s the biggest challenge you face in your current position?” Be careful as you answer this one – there are several slip-ups that are easy to make.
First, let’s think about why you’re being asked this question. There are three main qualities that your interviewer is trying to assess here:
a) How well do you handle difficult or high-pressure situations?
b) Will the responsibilities of the position you’re applying for be too far out of your comfort zone?
c) Can you speak about your current position with poise and professionalism?
With these three questions in mind, you can begin to prepare a “biggest challenge” story that will assure the interviewer you won’t get overwhelmed by difficult situations, you have the primary skills the employer is looking for, and you’ll represent your new company in a positive light.
For starters, you'll want to offer an answer that sounds legitimately challenging and doesn't give away personal information about your current employer (Read: Don't say “my boss changes his lunch order at the last minute every day.”). More importantly, your answer should show you know how to work through any type of problem that arises. Think of something that will allow you to highlight one of your best qualities while you describe the challenge and how you typically deal with it. For example, let’s say you’re an assistant to an incredibly busy boss – multiple phone lines ringing all day long and a schedule that shifts constantly. This is obviously a challenge that forces you to be on your A-game every time you come to work. Communicate this to your interviewer and explain what type of organizational system you’ve created that allows you to manage the situation. This will demonstrate that you can remain level-headed under difficult circumstances and that you’re a problem-solver.
However, choose wisely when deciding on a challenge to describe – if your actual biggest challenge is something you’re still struggling with, and you have yet to come up with a solution to your problem, find a different challenge. You don’t want to disqualify yourself from a position because you have a hard time at your current job with something that you’ll be facing in the new position as well. You wouldn’t want to say, “Well, I assist three different executives, and it’s really hard to manage all their personalities” when you’re applying for a job where you’ll be covering multiple desks (or even the desk of one difficult boss).
Speaking of difficult bosses, you should NEVER bash your current boss during a job interview. Maybe dealing with a boss who regularly screams and throws things at you is your biggest challenge at your current position, but you should not reveal this during your interview – think of a different answer to the question. If the job posting asks for a “thick-skinned” individual, you can get this across in a way that doesn’t necessitate speaking negatively of your current employer – you could simply say that it’s a demanding position in a fast-paced environment. And be aware that sometimes your current boss will have a reputation, and the interviewer might try to coax a negative answer out of you (he might even know your current boss). Just remember – it’s a trap! If the hiring manager hears you complain about your current company or reveal confidential information, he’s going to assume that you’re untrustworthy and will probably be similarly loose-lipped if you’re not 100% happy in your new position. As tempting as it may be to share your most ridiculous assistant horror story, keep it to yourself. Again, you can acknowledge that it’s a demanding desk (and describe how you deal with these demands!), but always remain professional.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Interview month continues! This is week two of our four-week series covering strategies for answering tough interview questions. If you'd like help with your interview skills, be sure to take advantage of our mock interview service.
Question: What's your biggest weakness?
Arguably, the most hated interview question of all time is, “What’s your biggest weakness?” After all, why would you want to tell your future employer what’s wrong with you? Answering this question can be tricky -- it's not just what you say, but how you say it that matters. If you've researched common interview tips, you've probably seen the suggestion of putting a negative spin on one of your strengths (like saying you're "too much of a perfectionist"). But that’s what every other candidate is doing too, and more often than not, it comes across as a lie. So, what should you say instead? As strange as it may seem, we recommend sharing a version of the truth. Take a page out of the cable news pundit handbook, and structure your answer as follows:
ADDRESS: Address the question. “My biggest weakness is X (something true but not too terrible, like asking too many questions, or being green, or reading scripts slowly). Offer an example of how it has challenged you.
REFRAME: Explain how you've worked to overcome your weakness, and use this opportunity to highlight a different strength. You should share an example that illustrates why your weakness won’t hold you back. For instance, if you're too green, you can describe your habit of reading the trades, proving you're eager to learn and work hard. If you ask too many questions, explain how you created an organizational system during your last job that ensured you never asked the same question twice, and how implementing that system helped everyone in your office increase efficiency.
MESSAGE: End with a strong message that reiterates why you’re a good candidate and interested in the position. Something like “I’m a really hard worker and always take advantage of opportunities for improvement, so I don’t let [whatever your weakness is] hold me back. In this position, I would make sure I meet all demands and am open to feedback from my supervisors. My goal is to support the company, and I won’t let anything get in the way of that."
Using this technique will help you end on a strong note and steer the interviewer away from the original weakness. Plus, since it’s all true, it will resonate more than a stock answer. Just be sure that whatever your weakness is isn’t something that’s a “must” in the job description. You should never say you're a poor multi-tasker, nervous on phones, disorganized, or unable to meet deadlines. Find a less drastic weakness that won't be a dealbreaker. You can even ask coworkers that you trust -- or your boss, if you have a good relationship -- what you can improve on, and if you don't foresee it being a huge problem for a future employer, use that.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
October is "interview month" here at Hollywood Resumes! For the next four weeks, we will cover strategies for answering the tough questions you'll inevitably be asked in a job interview. If you'd like to put these tips into practice, be sure to take advantage of our mock interview service.
Question: Tell me about yourself.
In most interviews, the first thing an interviewer will say is simply, “Tell me about yourself.” This is probably the most important part of the interview, because it gives you the opportunity to set the tone of the meeting and make a great first impression. It's crucial that you have a clear and concise answer ready to go. You’re not about to dive into your whole life story, but there are some relevant personal and professional facts you should cover when asked this question. Take some time to prepare and rehearse your answer (although be sure to avoid sounding like a robot!).
The most obvious part of your answer should be an overview of your general career trajectory. The interviewers may or may not have read your resume in depth, so don’t assume they know everything about you. You can summarize portions of your career history that are less relevant or jobs that are similar (i.e. saying you did three reality TV internships instead of listing out each one), but be sure you spend a little more time talking about your current or most recent position and your duties there. Also, you’ll want to cover any positions where the responsibilities were similar to what you’ll be expected to do at the new company, even if it isn’t your most recent job. You can set yourself up for success during the rest of the interview by demonstrating that it makes sense for them to hire you because your work experience aligns so well with what they’re looking for.
While your career history important, don’t forget that this initial question is also your chance to show that there's more to you than what's on a piece of paper. Based on yourresume, your interviewers know that you’re most likely qualified, so they really want to get a sense of your personality and how well you’ll get along with the department. We recommend starting your answer by stating where you’re from and briefly describing when and how you made the decision to move to LA (or New York) if you weren’t already there after college. These two topics often will spark some kind of more casual conversation and facilitate a personal connection with your interviewers. If you’re lucky, maybe one of them will be from your hometown or will have attended your alma mater. You always want to create opportunities to break the flow of a formal and rehearsed interview answer and engage the interviewers -- it will help them get to know the fun parts of your personality and backstory and will make all of you feel at ease. And even if these moments don’t naturally come up, you can still mention what you’re passionate about in the context of your decision to pursue this career. Show your enthusiasm, and make sure your personality comes across during the interview!
One last note: Be sure not to ramble. Keep your answer to a few well-constructed, confident, informative sentences that flow logically. Think of it as an elevator pitch -- the short bio you'd use at a networking event, on a first date, or when your mom's best friend asks what you're up to these days. A brief but substantial answer will give your interviewers the opportunity to pursue a conversation or continue on with their questions without getting lost or bored.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan