You finally get an interview at your dream company, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel -- a way out of a job that’s run its course. And then the interviewer asks you the one question you’ve been dreading: “What do you love most about your current job?”
How can you answer this? If you loved your job, you probably wouldn’t want to leave, right? Even in the best case scenario, where you like your job and are just ready for your next step, it’s hard to explain why you love your current job while communicating that you’re even more excited about the potential opportunity.
The trick is to pick an aspect of your current job that will serve you well in the new role. Think about what drew you to apply for the job at hand and which of your skills will make you an asset to the team. For example, if you’re an assistant at an agency applying for a coordinator job at a production company, instead of thinking about how much you hate your type A boss and the bro culture of the agency, describe how much you love reading clients’ materials, writing coverage, and tracking the industry. That will demonstrate you’re able to do the job and will enjoy coming to work every day.
Remember that the purpose of the interviewer asking this question is to see whether you’d be happy on the team -- and it’s an opportunity for you to suss out the same thing. In the above example, let’s say the interviewer responds by saying that the coordinator role is less about development and more about supporting current shows and securing resources for physical production. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, you can express that you’re excited about the opportunity to learn more about that part of the process and see if you can thread in an additional related skill you acquired at the agency that will help you succeed.
But if you learn that a role isn't want you'd hoped for during an interview, it’s okay to express how you feel about it. Continue making a good impression during the rest of the interview. You may decide that the position isn't for you (and the hiring manager might agree), but when the right position pops up at the company, the interviewer might give you a recommendation. After all, you should be looking for a job that you love, one you can easily talk passionately about once you’re in the role.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
You’re settling into your summer internship...ah! The glorious life of working for free or minimum wage so you can learn the ropes of the industry, build your resume, and eventually land a full-time job. Whether you’re currently in school and want to line something up for when you graduate or you’ve just graduated and are seeking more experience while you look for your big break, the not-so-hidden goal for your internship should be to secure a full-time, paid opportunity when you’re ready. The thing is, it’s not a guarantee. No one’s going to hand you an employment contract on your last day just for being you!
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to up your chances. First and foremost, you have to excel at your job. Most internships are kind of boring, and you might think it’s not actually a big deal if you’re slow getting coffee, if you staple papers a little off-kilter, or if the expense reports you file are a little bit out of order. But it is a big deal -- not because the company will go under if the boss gets pricked by a rogue staple prong, but because your internship is all about proving yourself and your ability to take direction. If you can handle the little tasks, maybe your supervisor will trust you with a bigger task -- but if you drop the ball on something simple, no one will trust you with higher level responsibilities.
The other key is to make it clear you’re excited to be at your internship. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the company, its culture, and the different roles you might grow into either there or somewhere similar. Offer to help out on extra projects when you have some down time to showcase your investment in the company's success. The more you’re proactive about engaging with your team, the more credibility you’ll gain as someone they want to work with or help. Just keep in mind that there’s a fine line between being enthusiastic and being a pest -- don’t bother your supervisor with non-task related questions when she’s hunkered down trying to meet a deadline.
Toward the end of your internship, make your goals clear to your supervisors. If you’re really passionate about the company and you’ve developed a good relationship with your supervisor, it’s okay to ask if there’s an entry-level position opening up any time soon -- and they might even bring the opportunity up! If you don’t necessarily see yourself at that specific company (or in the industry at all), communicate your ultimate career goals to your supervisor and see if she can introduce you to contacts at other companies for an informational interview.
You probably won’t get a job offer on the last day -- and you may not even get one at the same company you interned for. But there's still hope for a full-time job! If you've put in your time wisely and built relationships with the people around you, all you need to do is stay in touch. Reach out every so often to touch base, whether or not you need anything specific. If you start getting lukewarm responses, you can ease up, but usually, if you developed a good relationship, your supervisors will be happy to hear from you. When you see a job posting you’re interested in, let your contacts know you’re applying -- they might be able to put in a good word, and at the very least, they’ll be grateful for the heads up about a reference check.
The biggest thing to remember is that you’re not entitled to anything at your internship except an opportunity. It’s up to you to make the most of that opportunity, and if you do, you’ll be set up for something bigger, no matter what it turns out to be.
In any industry -- and especially one as competitive as Hollywood -- one of the worst mistakes a job applicant can make in an interview is coming in unprepared. If you haven’t done any research beforehand, it’s usually quite obvious, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get tripped up at some point. The most impressive candidates come in clearly having done their research, and they’re ready to have informed conversations with their interviewer. Not only will the hiring manager appreciate that they took time to familiarize themselves with the company and its projects, but this extra step also shows that the candidate is motivated and detail-oriented -- key qualities any employer looks for. Plus, the best way to tackle nerves in any situation is to be 100% prepared and confidentin what you’re going to say. So what exactly should you research? Here are six questions you should consider before any job interview.
1. What are the company’s main projects?
One of the simplest ways Hollywood hiring managers weed out the truly passionate candidates from the ones who just want any old job in the industry is by assessing how much the interviewee knows about the company and what it does. When you're asked which of the company's shows you've watched or why you want to work there, you'll be expected to give an intelligent answer referencing the company's projects to prove you've done your homework and to make it clear that your taste aligns with the work they are doing. If you're interviewing for a network, show, production company, or studio, watch the content they produce. If you're interviewing for a job in representation, study the company's clients and their biggest work. To make an even stronger impression, formulate some relevant questions to show you’re genuinely invested in the company. Doing this research will convince the hiring manager that you're passionate and enthusiastic and will also help you decide if the company is the right fit.
2. Has there been any recent news about the company?
Take a moment to find out if the company has been in the news lately. Maybe a buzzworthy project has been announced, or perhaps the company has recently completed an exciting merger or acquisition. The information you learn from a quick news search may help you develop some thoughtful questions to ask at the end of your interview (and any negative press may alert you to some areas of discussion you may want to avoid). In fact, depending on the company, you may even be quizzed on your knowledge of current events -- one of the classic Netflix interview questions is whether you’ve heard any recent news about the company. As an added bonus, preparing for this type of question will also show your future employer that you keep up with the trades and current events, which will help make you an asset to the team.
3. Who will you be meeting with?
If possible, figure out the names and titles of the people you will be meeting with, and do a little online search to find out more about each of them. If the person setting up the interview doesn’t immediately offer up the names of the interviewers, it’s okay to politely ask who you’ll be meeting with. Use LinkedIn to get a better sense of your interviewers’ professional histories and job functions, and Google them to see if you can find any interesting personal facts. In an ideal world, you might discover some type of common ground that you can bring up during the interview to develop a more personal connection -- maybe you and one of the interviewers share the same alma mater or are from the same hometown. Think this sounds creepy? It isn't if you keep the references to your personal connections tame, like mentioning your hometown when answering the "tell me about yourself" question. But there is a line -- if the person you’re meeting with has a personal blog about her online dating escapades, you shouldn’t bring up your latest Tinder disaster. Take advantage of opportunities for small talk, but keep it professional -- remember, you’re not gabbing with your best friend.
4. How does the department function within the company?
If you can, try to get an idea of how the department you’re applying for fits into the larger structure of the company. The original job posting may provide a few clues. Sometimes the answer is very obvious, but in some cases, it can be a bit elusive. For instance, at a start-up, the company may not even be divided into distinct departments, so you’ll have to rely on job titles. Try searching LinkedIn to identify the various roles within the company and read any job descriptions you can find. You should also try to figure out exactly what projects the department (or individual) is directly responsible for. Even when you can’t find specifics, if you have a general sense of what the department’s function is, especially in relation to others, you’ll be able to highlight relevant skills that prove you’ll be an excellent addition to the team.
5. What specific qualities is the hiring manager looking for when filling this role?
The job posting should have given you a pretty good overview of the responsibilities and expectations of the role, and if it’s in line with your current career path, you probably know what you’re getting yourself into. However, your potential supervisor may prioritize certain qualities over others, so it’s ideal if you can get some insight into his or her personality before your meeting. This won’t always be possible, but if you can find a way to snag some inside information, do it. Did a friend pass along your resume to her contact in the department? If you feel comfortable, ask her to do a little extra digging to find out what they’re really looking for, beyond what’s on the job posting. Or maybe your former internship supervisor has recommended you for a position in a different department. He may be able to describe what the open position looks like day-to-day and what the hiring manager or department’s reputation is like within the company. Use all of this information to formulate interview answers that will showcase the primary skills the team is looking for. And, if there are any red flags you learn during this process, take them into consideration before accepting an offer.
6. What are some common interview questions you might encounter?
There are tons of online resources that list common interview questions and suggestions for how to answer them (including our very own resource page!). You’ll always get the famous “tell me about yourself” question, and you’re likely to be asked about your career goals and why you’re leaving your current company. Additionally, many companies have a few set interview questions that are unique to them, and you may be able to predict them with a tiny bit of extra work. Glassdoor can be a great resource -- not only does it list company reviews and salaries, but people often post about their interview experiences and what questions they were asked. You’ll also get the added benefit of seeing some unfiltered opinions about the company, which may influence your ultimate decision to accept or decline a job offer.
Does this sound like a daunting amount of research? Maybe. But if you’re serious about the job, you’ll spend an hour or two at minimum trying to get a better grasp of the company. Hiring managers assume that your effort at work will match (or be less than!) your effort in the job application, and they can tell when you haven’t spent any time studying. Not only will you ace your interview if you’re prepared, but you’ll be demonstrating your strong work ethic to the hiring manager who spends as much time gauging your hireability from subtextual clues as she does listening to your actual interview answers.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Ah, summer reading. Whether it’s your high school’s cadre of classics like The Scarlet Letter or Invisible Man, or an editorial’s best beach reads replete with Sophie Kinsella and Jennifer Weiner’s latests, something about the summer makes us want to read, read, and read some more.
And if you work or want to work in the entertainment industry, there are certain books you must read. We have a full list of our favorites on the resources page of our website, but we wanted to highlight a few top picks for you to add to your bookshelves this summer!
FOR INTERNS AND ASSISTANTS: The Hollywood Assistants Handbook is a quick and easy guide to becoming a kick-ass assistant in Hollywood. It’s funny, accessible, and co-written by Peter Nowalk (creator of How to Get Away With Murder) -- so you know his tips work!
FOR TV HISTORY BUFFS: Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield takes you back to Thursdays on NBC, before there were a zillion streaming platforms and 500 shows in “peak TV.” This insider history of the broadcast network at its height will not only take you down memory lane, but educate you on how the TV business works. Another interesting read that will give you a better sense of how theHollywood studio system operates is DisneyWar by James B. Stewart.
FOR LA NEWBIES & RECENT GRADS: For good measure, you should probably read The Mailroom by David Rensin, the book every person employed in the industry read when they were first starting out. For something a little broader and more fun, check out Adult Stuff: Things You Need to Know to Win at Real Life by Matt Moore and Robert Boesel. It’s cheeky but helpful -- full of hard truths about what it’s like to have student loans, a low-paying job, and live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Adulting is hard! Cuddle up with it when you need that fun friend who just gets you.
FOR ANYONE WORKING IN TELEVISION: What the heck is a rating? No, seriously...for something that makes or breaks a TV show and is responsible for the livelihood of hundreds of people, you’d think we’d all have a better understanding of it! The TV business is complicated, but Chad Gervich breaks it down in layman’s terms in Small Screen, Big Picture.
FOR STORYTELLERS: Save. The. Cat. Seriously, if you’re a writer, development executive, producer, agent, manager -- or aspiring to be any of the above -- you need to understand storytelling and specifically, storytelling within a screenplay. There are a ton of books that do this, but none more tried, true, and easy-to-read as Blake Snyder's Save The Cat. This is the screenwriting book you’ll pull off your shelf on a regular basis throughout your career for quick dose of inspiration and sanity.
FOR INSPIRATION: Speaking of inspiration and sanity, sometimes you need a book that’s a little less “How To…” and a little more “Someday, that’ll be me!” We have a tie here, and it was hard to narrow this down to two. But there’s no limit to how much you can read!Created By is a great anthology of interviews with TV creators. It’s an inside look into how different writers mastered their craft and some behind the scenes stories from some of your favorite shows. Our other favorite is Sit, Ubu, Sit. You may remember that as the vanity card from Family Ties -- but it’s also the title of writer/showrunner Gary David Goldberg’s memoir. When you’re pondering how you’ll ever make it in the industry, just think about a man who lived in his van, struggling beyond struggle, but went on to create beloved TV shows and movies. Plus, there’s a dog in the story! And if you follow us on Facebook, you know we’re big dog fans here at Hollywood Resumes!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan