The idea of filling in an application form can fill you with dread.. how do you sell your skills and secure that interview with only 200 words per question? What can you do to stand out? How do you make yourself interesting? What are the company really looking for? You can send yourself into a whirl of panic and anxiety by over thinking the form. Often at this stage of dread, we talk ourselves out of this and say “Oh i would never have got it anyway” or the old faithful “there are going to be people with much more experience”. You grab a cup of tea and a bourbon biscuit and feel secure that you wouldn’t have got the job anyway. When you feel that way.. ask yourself what if i do get the job and apply for it anyway. I’ve seen thousands of applications over the years and here are some of my thoughts and tips about what not to do.
Use fancy verbose language that doesn’t make sense
Often we think we sound smarter and more professional if we use long words and business language. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but does what you are saying actually make any sense? People throw adjectives into a sentence without really giving them any context.. its great that you have business acumen and are proactive in managing complex scenarios related to precarious negotiations but what are you trying to say? You may want to appear intelligent but actually writing in plain English makes life so much easier. You need to think that someone has to read this and you need to be able to explain things clearly. We want to hear about what you’ve done and how you’ve done it rather than your theoretical strategic ideas. You may sound fancy and intelligent but also you might just be talking nonsense. Don’t fill your application with a series of big words that have no context.
Bad mouth the company
This sounds like super obvious who would slag off their previous company or the company that they are applying to in a job application? You would however be surprised. I know that you might want to just be honest and explain how much you hate your current job and everything in your life led you to working in TV, that’s fine but all i read is how much you hate your job. It can sound a little brattish and a little ungrateful. We’ve all done jobs that are not what we ultimately want to do but what have you learnt from them, what skills have you developed, what is transferable from that particular job.
You almost might think you are being ironic and clever by criticising the company that you are applying for but ask yourself, have they asked for your critique. On a recent application i saw someone wrote “I don’t watch your channel and i would love to come in and explain to you in an interview as to why i don’t”. Challenging, perhaps controversial maybe, but also why are you planning to work on a channel you don’t like. It just looks arrogant and rude. A little bit of humility goes a long way sometimes.
Not bothering to spell check
This is one of my personal favourites when people talk about their great attention to detail and then half of their words are spelt wrong. We can all be guilty of this but double and triple check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. It just looks lazy and sloppy when you don’t. A lot of people in TV are pedantic about this so don’t give them reason to judge you. Also don’t use slang as well as that really doesn’t go down well.
Writing too little
This is very common and something that i presume people just panic about and don’t write very much so as to just got the application done and sent. Take your time with the application and if it says you have 200 words then use that. Someone recently when asked to suggest a programme idea on an application form wrote “n/a”.. i mean b***h please.. you are just shooting yourself in the foot with that. Some people write short glib answers to questions, saying things like ” i think i have the necessary skills for the role”.. Great i am sure you do, but i am asking for examples, i want to know what you’ve done.. please sell yourself! I often find myself screaming that in the computer.. well screaming that inside my head so i don’t disturb my colleagues. We will be assessing you on your answers so if there is nothing there then we can’t really, it’s as simple as that.
Writing too much that doesn’t make sense
Sometimes we fill the space with a whole lot of words desperately trying to pad out the prose so you reach the 200 words. Try and be succinct though rather than saying something with a multitude of unnecessary words. This can also be confusing to the reader as they have to search through to find out what you are really trying to say. Sometimes you have to re-read and are no clearer as to what you really mean.
Not answering the questions
We can be so desperate to sell our ability, demonstrate our skills and try and be liked that we avoid the question being asked. We have a script in our head about what we want to say and sometimes we just say it rather than answering the question. The reader is looking for a direct answer to the question and they will be assessing you on that basis. It makes it difficult for them to assess you positively if you haven’t answered the question. Sometimes people like to list achievements or talk about the type of person they are in this situations. It’s great that you are “hard working”, “personable”, can speak to “people at all levels” (how noble of you) but that is not telling me what you’ve done or answering the question. So write your answer, re-read it and re-read it again. Until it makes perfect sense.
Over selling yourself
It’s great to be confident and to know yourself and you can be so eager and ambitious to climb up the ladder of success. There is nothing wrong with that but right now you are not a Series Producer, you are not a TV expert and you are not “only looking for researcher roles”. Be a bit humble and talk about what you’ve done and what you want to do but be mindful that you still have lots to learn. You are applying for a traineeship, an apprenticeship, be open to learning and developing. People aren’t expecting the finished product. Also don’t over exagerate or use your TV experience to say things that you haven’t done or to see you worked as an Assistant Producer when you were really a runner. People see through that. It is also a small world and i’ve interviewed with many people who’ve said things like “she never did that on that programme” or “that wasn’t his idea that was mine”. So be proud, be truthful but be careful not to spiral into a sea of over exageration and falsehood.
I’ve often talked to and interviewed people who have been so unaware of their achievements and all the great things that they have done. They are over apologetic and wrapped in false modesty. It is only after talking that someone let’s slip out “oh i made a film”, or ” I won an award”. I’m generally like “Oh my God that’s amazing!” You need to shout about that, people need to know. I’m then confronted with, “I don’t want to sound boastful”. I get that, i really do, but if you keep all your achievements to yourself how are you going to sell yourself and get that job? This might be weird but imagine that you are talking about someone else and be really factual about what you’ve done. You’d happily sing the praises of a best mate or sibling so treat yourself in that way too. It’s really frustrating when you find out later what someone has done and they haven’t put it on the form.
No contact details or not responding to contact details
This is a real pain in the neck. You want to invite someone to an interview and there are no contact details (yes that happens). You have no choice but to not invite them and that feels such a waste. Also if you put an email on your form then please respond to that email. I’ve contacted people recently for assessment centres where i have clearly asked them to get back to me and i have had to chase two or three times to get an answer.. now that’s just rude. I’ve also emailed people and had no response. Just say if you can’t make it or you’ve got another job or you aren’t interested anymore. Particularly as then we can invite someone else to take your place. It really is selfish not to do that. I am aware as well that sometimes emails can go into people’s junk folders so regularly check them. If you’ve applied for a job then check your email and respond quickly.. it really looks like you can’t be arsed if someone has to chase you up.
Not be available to start work when stated.
Often for schemes and apprenticeships it will clearly say that you need to be able to start on a specific day. It’s really frustrating when people can’t. I sometimes here after a big long process “can i defer for a year as i want to go travelling” Well didn’t you think about that before you went through the whole process. Or people booking holidays when they are due to start, i know some things can’t be helped but if you want a job and know when it starts then do try and start then!