Last night, GoThinkBig witnessed what has to be an industry first – representatives from rival networks Channel 4, ITV and BBC sharing the same stage. No, we hadn’t accidentally stumbled across a wrestling match between the Strictly, X Factor and Come Dine With Me hosts – we were at the The Unusual Suspects, a Channel 4 hosted event designed to give young people advice on getting a job in television.
Incidentally, who do you think would win in a fight to the death between Dermot O’Leary, Tess Daly and Come Dine’s Dave Lamb? Obviously Tess has got the height advantage, but I reckon Dermot’s pretty scrappy once he gets going?
Anyhoo, the location was Channel 4 HQ and we were treated – along with a huge crowd of young people looking for a route into a career in TV – to a careers discussion from people directly involved in recruiting young people for the major networks. The idea was to show that there’s a huge variety of opportunities out there if you want a career in TV – not just in production and writing – and that most corporations are dying to employ a diverse group of young people to fill these roles.
And the key speakers weren’t shy in sharing the worst mistakes people make when applying for a job in TV. Here’s what Channel 4’s Colin Campbell-Austin, ITV’s Marsha Witter and BBC's Simon Wright said were the typical mistakes candidates make when they apply for a job in TV:
Colin Campbell-Austin - People Development Manager at Channel 4:
"Whatever you do, don’t copy and paste your application or cover letter to lots of different employers – that’s the way mistakes are made. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen applications that say ‘I want to work at the BBC’ or ‘ITV’ when they ought to say ‘Channel 4’. It’s far safer and more effective to re-write and cater your application for every individual job – you might think you’ve proof-read it a million times, but it’s so easy to miss something if it’s the same application you’ve used over and over again. And don’t underestimate the importance of putting your personality into your application, we want to know more about you, your interests and what you’ve done, not managerial buzzwords that don’t really tell us anything."
Marsha Witter - Talent Scheme Manager at ITV:
"One of the major things that put me off an application is when the candidate obviously hasn’t done enough research into our organisation and doesn’t have a proper understanding of the role. For example, we get a lot of people who write in because they want to get production experience on the X Factor – which is great – apart from the fact that X Factor isn’t made by ITV, it’s produced externally. If they want to work in production of the X Factor they’re talking to the wrong company! It doesn’t take much work, but even a little bit of research will show potential employers that you are taking your application seriously."
Simon Wright - Talent Executive at the BBC:
"I think a lot of candidates forget to answer the question when they are applying for a role in TV and get bogged down with generic information. It’s useless saying anything like ‘I’m a good listener’ – that’s the very least we’d expect – we want to know more about what you’ve actually done to prove you’re right for the role. And be specific with lots of details about tasks you completed, not just your role title. I also wouldn’t recommend adding a photo unless specifically asked – I once received what looked like a glamour shoot photograph with a CV, which was just totally random.”