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May 23, 2005
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April 11th, 2005
Weekly Features
Agent of Change
Scott Orr is entering his third decade in TV news. Starting from his first job as a studio cameraman back in the very early 1980's, Scott worked his way up through the ranks, and managed to do every job in the newsroom (for at least a short time), and eventually made it all the way to small-market News Director. Now, he's President of a talent management company, The Scott Orr Agency, Inc., based in Denver, Colorado. His goal is to help clients learn, grow, and advance their careers. Scott is originally from Phoenix and attended the University of Arizona--which is where he got his start in TV, at the University-operated PBS station. Visit his web site by clicking here.

August 21, 2005

When last we met here, I was talking about do's and don'ts for resumes, tapes and cover letters. Now, assuming all those did their jobs, it's time to prepare for the in-person interview.

There are a few stations that say they don't bring people in for interviews. This is, in my view, a bad idea. First of all, it's not expensive: Your airfare and hotel room will cost the station about what they'll make by selling two or three spots in prime time, so if they claim they can't afford to bring you in, that sends up a warning flag right away. Unless you know the station from previous experience, you need to see the place and get a feel for what the staff is like. It's true, when you need a job you feel like you'll take anything, but keep in mind that they'll want you to sign a contract. You don't want to be obligated to work somewhere you don't like just because you were in a hurry to accept a job.

Assuming you arrive the day or night before the interview, make sure you watch your prospective employer's newscast and, if you can, at least flip around to other ones as well. Find some part of the prospective's show that you liked in particular and can mention the next day. It might be a specific story, a reporter's live shot, an anchor's toss--anything you can point to as a positive. Keep mental notes of things about the newscast you might improve as well, and if asked...ONLY if asked...give them one or, at a maximum, two, of those. Be positive and suggest that the element you mention is not a huge deal.

Dress is important. You should dress the way you would for work, which means a suit with a tie for men and a professional dress or suit for women. Not matter how informal you may have heard the station or newsroom is, you cannot go wrong by dressing up. You can, however, go very wrong by showing up in khaki pants and a short-sleeve Dockers shirt...or worse.

Once you arrive, you may go to to lunch or dinner with the News Director, and maybe a few other staffers. Here's a tip: order a salad of some kind instead of a full meal. You'll be doing a lot of talking, and a "real" meal just becomes a hinderance when people are asking you questions. You don't want something that will spill or dribble onto your clothes, either. A salad lets you give the impression you're eating while allowing you to concentrate on the conversation. Make no mistake, you're on stage the whole time. The people who go out with you will compare mental notes later, so pay attention to what you say and do.

Never, ever drink alcohol during an interview meal, even if your host does. It's a bad idea for several reasons, not the least of which is that you may loosen up enough to become sloppy in your conversation.

Many News Directors use a technique where they take their interviewees and, after some Q & A, essentially dump them into the newsroom to fend for themselves. (If they have windows overlooking the newsroom, they always seem to do this.) If it happens to you, you must remember that this is part of the process. The ND will ask various staffers what they thought of you; what kinds of things you said or questions you asked; and whether you seemed bored. So make sure you use the time wisely. In fact, you can use it to your advantage by getting a feel for how the place works--or doesn't--instead of relying on other peoples' descriptions.

No matter how comfortable you become with your hosts, avoid bad-mouthing your current or last station or its management. This always looks bad, and the ND will end up wondering what you'll say about him or her down the road: will you say the same nasty things about them? Remember, you don't have to be looking to move up just to escape a bad station; there are lots of other reasons to move on.

Be honest in your answers to the questions. If you exaggerate or lie, it will catch up with you, and for the first 90 days of your employment, that's all it takes to be fired.

Or, as Mark Twain said, "It's easier to tell the truth--you don't have to remember what you said."

When you get home, send a notecard or an e-mail thanking the ND for having you. It may or may not help you get the job, but it is the polite thing to do.

See you next time!