Imagine you’re a hiring manager interviewing for an open role on your development team. You ask the candidate, “What are some of your biggest strengths?” and they reply, “Well, I’m very creative and have a good eye for story, and I’m really good at giving notes and collaborating with writers.” Not a terrible answer – certainly, those are qualities you’d want in a development executive – but it’s not convincing. Anyone can claim they’re really good at shaping story. But in an interview, you want to dig a little deeper and prove it.
Instead, imagine the candidate had said, “I’m really creative and love helping writers shape their scripts, and I’m able to communicate with writers in a way that brings out their best work. For instance, in my previous role, I was working with a writer to adapt a historical fiction novel. It was an amazing story, but the book was too dense for everything to fit into a feature. We wanted to preserve the themes and overall conflict, but we knew we needed to sacrifice some of the details. The writer was having a really hard time letting some of the scenes from the book go, and the second act was really suffering. I sat down with the writer to understand why they were feeling stuck, and once I understood their block, I suggested some ways we could show the character development they were adamant about including earlier on. By moving that to the first act, we kept the pace moving later in the script and had a better pay-off. Once we tightened the script up, we were able to secure financing and attach Actor X, and the film just wrapped.” Much more convincing, right?
With an anecdote like that, the interviewer gets a better sense of the candidate’s approach and style and can picture how they’d fit in on their team. As you prepare for an interview, think of examples of accomplishments or challenges from different points in your career, and use them in your responses.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan