What You Can Learn From Reality TV About Nailing a Job Interview

The Job InterviewIf you’re interviewing for a job, you’ll learn a lot about how to prepare by watching The Job, the new reality TV show on CBS. Each week a panel of corporate executives interviews five candidates and selects one for a position with their company.

To create some tension and competition, members of a second panel of judges from three other companies are allowed to steal a candidate they might like. A recent episode featured a panel of top editors from Cosmopolitan, the world’s most-read women’s magazine. Contestants were interviewing for a position as Editorial Assistant.

The editors tested the candidates to learn if they had done their homework and how much they knew about the magazine. Under such stressful conditions for the candidates, the Cosmo judges were frank but also kind in their assessments. They recognized it’s not easy to be unemployed in a tough job market.

Advance Preparation

The most valuable lesson learned from the episode is the critical importance of being prepared for a job interview. If you’re called for an interview:

  • Learn about the company. The candidates were peppered with questions to assess their knowledge of the magazine. The judges eliminated one candidate because she confessed that she no longer read the publication. That’s not going to impress an interviewer. If it’s a public company you’re interviewing with, read the annual report and search the web for the latest news.
  • Know the industry. Joanna Coles, the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, told contestants, “We’re the West Point of magazines because we receive so many resumes. An editorial position is a dream job…we look for candidates who are on top of celebrity news and engaged in popular culture.” One young woman candidate didn’t know that a chignon is a classic hairstyle, a popular topic for the magazine.
  • Show confidence. The three Cosmo judges – including Executive Editor Joyce Chang and Senior Editor Jessica Knoll  — all agreed they look for the “brightest and best team players and candidates with great creative energy and a great eye.” Take note, and when you’re in an interview, speak with confidence and authority to show that you have all the qualities required for the position.
  • Use Spell Check. Have you used spell-check to ensure there are no errors in your resume? If you’re given a writing assignment as part of the process, have you corrected any mistakes in spelling and grammar? Several of the candidates spelled words wrong in captions they were writing for photos. As Joanna Coles said, it would have been terribly embarrassing if the misspellings had appeared in print, prompting hundreds of letters from readers.
  • Prepare an opener. The candidates were asked why they wanted the job. It was apparent that the eventual winner had prepared her “grabber” in advance. She came across as poised and polished. In fact, one of the companies lurking in the background offered her a job, too.

Job Tips

During the course of the program, Cosmo editors offered job tips for people going through a job hunt:

  • Don’t brag. No one likes a braggart in the office so go easy on self-promotion. You need colleagues for support. Once you’re hired, do your work and don’t get caught in the black hole of office politics.
  • Take a risk. The career ladder is more like a Jungle Jim, according to Joanna. She recommended not being afraid to take a cut in salary if the job offers excellent career prospects. She did so twice and it paid off in the long run.
  • Act and look professional. Do not walk into an interview with a latte in your hand. This is not a chat with a peer over coffee. The same goes for a water bottle and loud jangly bracelets. Remove the sunglasses from the top of your head and avoid strong perfume.

Make Yourself Memorable

One candidate had worked briefly at Marie Clare magazine, where Joanna was the editor before assuming the Editor-in-Chief position at Cosmo. Joanna did not remember the young woman, who said she was too intimidated to speak up and introduce herself.

It’s important to make yourself memorable. If you find yourself in an elevator with your boss’s boss, introduce yourself. He may have the final say over a promotion or a salary increase. He’ll be more amenable if he’s met you.

How much of a risk are you taking? You’ll probably find that he’s glad that you spoke up. It’s his job to know as many of the staff as he can. That’s what a manager does.

Just before the Cosmo editors chose Diandra Barnwell to fill the position of Editorial Assistant, they asked her why she was holding out for the job with Cosmo, instead of accepting the job offered by one of the competing companies.

She replied by quoting Neale Donald Walsh: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” It was worth the risk of losing a guaranteed job for a shot at the dream job she really wanted.

The judges agreed. She was the winner. Joanna Coles found the choice so difficult that she almost broke into tears and quipped, “I haven’t cried since 1983!”

After this blog first appeared CBS pulled The Job from its schedule after just two episodes aired. But you can still use the Shark Tank to hone your presentation skills:
Swimming With the Sharks on Reality Shows
What You Really Can Learn From Reality TV

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