Get Your First Hollywood Job: How to Answer Tough Questions

first hollywood job, interviewing

FasctCo featured a list of the weirdest interview questions in 2013, compiled by Glassdoor.com.

Glassdoor’s new list came out for 2014. Here are a few highlights:

“If you could throw a parade of any caliber through the Zappos office what type of parade would it be?” – Zappos

“How lucky are you and why?” – AirBnB

“If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?”– Red Frog Events

Unfortunately, knowing these oddball questions won’t help you when you’re interviewing for your first Hollywood job.

For many industries (tech, marketing, hospitality, etc.) Glassdoor is awesome resource for salaries, company reviews, and yes, interview questions.

But the entertainment business is still very insular. Glassdoor doesn’t shed a whole lot of light on this industry.

So when it’s time to prepare for your interview, it’s difficult to cull any useful advice. You’ll find the perfunctory tips: “Do your research.” “Wear a tie.”

Below I’m going to share my three favorite interview questions I’ve been asked. I’ll give examples of bad and good responses. More importantly, I’ll dig into an analysis of the question: What information are interviewers really looking for?

Remember: beyond 20 seconds of “research” on Google, very few people know how to put in the work to prepare for a job opportunity or interview. Preparing responses to these questions automatically puts you in the top 10 percentile.

Some Favorite Interview Questions + Analysis

1. “Tell me about yourself”

WHAT THEY’RE ASKING: Everyone asks this question. At the Hollywood assistant level, employers are just putting feelers out there to gauge your personality:

  • Are you actually interested in the position or just looking for any job?
  • Are you completely green or do you have some knowledge of the industry?
  • Are you a rambler? (No one wants to work with a rambler)

Keep the focus on the employer and how you can help, and you’ll answer the question better than 90 percent of the interviewees in the market today.

BAD: “Well, I knew I wanted to go into movies ever since I was 7-years old. That’s when I watched E.T. for the first time. I’ve spent hours pouring over everything Spielberg directed and this job brings me one step closer to working with him one day.” *

GOOD: “I currently work for Management Company X, where I assist for John Smith and Jane Doe. Day-to-day, I focus on X, but recently I’ve also taken on responsibility Y and Z. This has given me skills which would apply perfectly to this position because [Reason 1, 2 and 3].”

2. “The compensation is $12.95 an hour. Is that okay?”

WHAT THEY’RE ASKING: I was asked this question by the hiring manager of an agency.

He slipped it in between two innocuous questions about halfway through the interview. The change in direction caught me off guard.

It was such a sneaky tactic — I can’t wait to try it for myself.

Two things going on here:

  • On one hand, they want you to agree. They’d love to get you for cheap.
  • On the other hand, when you’re interviewing at this level, they’re kind of hoping for some push back.

Remember, you’re going to be working with them in a variety of high pressure situations. You’ll be going to war against plenty of Hollywood assholes.

What kind of person would you want on your side? Someone with a backbone? Or someone who rolls over the moment they’re pressed?

BAD: “Um, yeah sure that sounds fair.”

You’re basically admitting you have no other options and while you’d like to negotiate, you’re just so grateful for a job you’d take any salary.

GOOD: “You know, let’s come back to salary a little later. I’d like to make sure the fit is right for both of us, first.”

Whoa, now you’re a candidate with options AND enough savvy to parry a skilled hiring manager. Nicely done, you BAMF.

3. “What’s the best compliment your boss ever gave you? If I called her right now, what would she say you need to work on?”

WHAT THEY’RE ASKING: This is a disguised “greatest strength/greatest weakness” question. By mentioning your employer, the interviewer uses misdirection to get a more honest response.

BAD: “My boss would say that I work too hard and I’m too focused on work. He would tell me I need to lighten up!”

This reeks of dishonesty and insincerity. Stop using this “strength-disguised-as-weakness” shit. Yes — they know you’re full of shit.

GOOD: “You know, one thing she mentioned I could improve is getting in front of problems. For example, [situation where you didn’t anticipate a problem]. Afterwards, I scrambled and we got the pitch together in time, but I should have done X, Y, Z. They way I’m improving this is [two things you’re doing].”

Notice with this example, it’s a TRUE weakness, with a specific example to back it up. However, you “scrambled and we got the pitch together in time.” Then, demonstrate self-awareness by identifying what you should have done and how you’ll implement that in the future.

(Click here if you’re interested in reading more quick interview tips, and the TAPA blog also features some good interview advice.)

Do you have any favorite interview questions? Please email me or leave a comment. It’d be awesome to create our own database of entertainment interview questions. If we get enough questions, I’ll turn it into a resource available for download.

*Bonus point to anyone who recognized Dawson’s character arc of DAWSON’S CREEK

3 comments… add one

  • Carlos

    Another great read as always

  • I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog! It’s full of great insight, and I have been looking FOREVER for financial advice that fits with my industry (every time someone tells me to stop eating out and never buy new shirts, I just roll my eyes and go back to scouring the internet for virgins to cast in my company’s latest reality TV show). I wish you still updated this, but I suppose the fact that you don’t means that you have tons of better things to do with your time, and your career is really going places. Congrats!

    • Chris Ming

      Hi Audrey, thanks so much I really appreciate it 🙂

      This is still alive, just dramatically slowed for the moment. It’ll be back.

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